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Sure enough, soon thereafter business boomed.
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A traditional Chinese city, busy and thriving as it may well have been,
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was a carefully designed symbol of the Chinese view of the universe.
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There is a key to understanding the Chinese concept of a city,
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and it can be found on this 12th century scroll depicting the bustling
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capital city of Kaifeng.
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Going back to the yellow river valley, Archaeologists have found ancient
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wells shaped like a square.
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These wells are quite literally the roots of Chinese civilization.
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Ancient officials concluded that eight families
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should settle around these wells,
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with the land surrounding the well being common ground.
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The distance along the edge of one settlement became one 'li' -
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the Chinese unit of distance.
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From the records of the Zhou dynasty - about 2,000 BC -
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we find a city was meant to be nine 'li' square,
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with the central well being occupied by the emperor's palace -
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the spiritual well, of the people.
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And if we look at a traditional courtyard house, we can find the
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courtyard, the 'heavenly well' as it's called, at the heart of the complex.
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The city was a symbol of the cosmos,
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the residence a symbol of the city.
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In this traditional Chinese city, there was no public square for
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people to gather -
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public gatherings in fact were strongly discouraged during the
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period of the imperial system.
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In fact, Tianamen square in Beijing is a very western idea
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created by the founders of the People's Republic for mass rallies
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and military reviews.
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The Tang dynasty capital of Chang'an, today called Xian,
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was built following many of these ancient concepts.
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This fabulous city was destroyed,
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but from surviving rammed-earth foundations and literary records,
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Dr. Heng Chye Kiang and his team at the National University of Singapore
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have been able to reconstruct what, in the early 8th century was the largest
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and most cosmopolitan city in the world.
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"Over the last 5 years, we at the National University of Singapore,
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together with the students here,
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we have been working on the re-construction of Tang period
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Chang'an, that is Chang'an,
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the capital of China between 618 and 907 AD."
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"Very little of the city exists today, except for a couple of pagodas.
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The rest of it is basically one to three meters below the current city. "
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"We depended on stone rubbings from the period
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translated into line drawings,
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we also looked at paintings and murals from the Dunhuang caves,
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and depended on archaeological reports
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such as this and this.
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And we also consulted texts, early texts from the period. "
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During the Tang dynasty, Chang'an's careful planning clearly reflected
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the gridiron layouts of earlier Chinese imperial cities.
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Its plan was widely copied for many other capital cities in East Asia,
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including Nara in Japan.
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Measuring 84 square kilometers,
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the city was large even by modern standards.
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About the size of New York City.
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At its peak, over a million people lived within its massive walls.
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The city was strictly divided into separate districts containing palaces,
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government bureaus, markets, and residential wards
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Urban life and activities were strictly limited.
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Citizens lived in walled compounds,
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and they were subject to strict supervision.
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They were forbidden to leave the wards after curfew.
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Guards stationed in police posts located at junctions of the avenues
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enforced compliance.
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"There are two ways to read this.
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One is for the protection of the citizens from external incursions,
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whatever they may be,
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and the other way of course is to read it as protecting the emperor from
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social unrest, from the people themselves. "
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Trade was severely controlled and residents
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were allowed to use the main streets only during the day.
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The main gate to the city, the 'Ming De' gate, with five passageways,
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was an imposing structure - more than 50 meters long.
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And for the visitor to the city, once he crosses that gate, a bigger
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surprise awaits him,
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because he will be confronted with a very wide avenue,
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about 155 meters wide.
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Tanjie, or the heavenly street.
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Today just a normal thoroughfare
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In Tang times, it measured 155 meters wide -
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the equivalent of a 45-lane highway!
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In the year 841, the emperor Wuzong proceeded down this avenue
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to the altar of heaven
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accompanied by ' two hundred thousand guards and soldiers'!
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The imperial city was the administrative heart of the empire.
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Within its large walled enclosure were government offices of both civil
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and military functions, headquarters of imperial guards and the spectacular
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palaces of the imperial family.
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It was also here that the emperor came to conduct ritual sacrifices
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at the imperial ancestral temple and at the imperial heav
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Its streets were full of foreigners from India, Central Asia and Japan -
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travelers, merchants and missionaries lured by tales
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of China's fabulous wealth.
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It was a time of openness to new ideas, and of religious tolerance.
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And so in the year 742
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the emperor allowed a great mosque to be erected in the Muslim quarter
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of the city of Chang'an,
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where it still caters to the faithful today.
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This mosque is built like a Chinese courtyard temple
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but with an east-west, rather than the customary north-south axis,
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so the temple can face Mecca.
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The type of building the West most identifies with China is the pagoda.
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But it is not originally a Chinese building at all.
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Chinese historians have traced how the pagoda made its way to China
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from India.
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During the first century AD, the emperor at the capital of Luoyang
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opened the silk road,
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exporting silks and ceramics from China and importing spices and
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medicines.
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With these imports came something that would change China forever:
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rumors of a new immortal called Sakyamuni: the Buddha.
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In 67 AD the emperor had a dream about a golden flying holy man.
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So he sent officials to India to find out more about this new immortal.
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These officials met two Indian monks
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who brought back Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures to Luoyang on a white horse.
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The emperor was pleased
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and so the two Indian monks founded the first Buddhist temple in China -
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the white horse temple right here in Luoyang.
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In this building the two Indian monks carefully translated the Buddhist
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scriptures into Chinese; scriptures which would have profound impact
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not just on China,
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but on the cultures of Korea and Japan.
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And on the grounds of this temple the monks supervised the construction
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of a new type of building never seen before in China -
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a pagoda.
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But what exactly is a pagoda?
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In Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Buddhist sutras,
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the word "Stupa" or "Dagoba" means a heap,
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as in putting dirt or stone in a pile on top of a tomb
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to mark the place of burial of a holy man
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or of some part of his bodily remains,
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a lock of hair, a fingernail or a bone.
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So the pagoda began as a shrine which held a holy relic.
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That original pagoda at the white horse temple is gone,
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but just a few miles away nestled against one of China's five holy
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mountains,
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lies the oldest surviving pagoda in China.
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The Songyue pagoda was built in 523 AD,
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and retains the original Indian shape of a stupa.
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Close by is the Shaolin temple - birthplace of Zen Buddhism and
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more famously, Kung Fu.
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Successive Abbots of the order were buried here behind the temple -
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at the famous forest of pagodas.
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The oldest one here is 1400 years old,
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with the newest one erected just a few years ago.
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This Indian form of stupa eventually mixed with the native Chinese watchtower
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to form the distinctive Chinese style pagoda
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that is so symbolic of China's landscapes.
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Soon pagodas incorporated many classic Chinese architectural elements
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like post and beam construction, and duo gong brackets.