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Ancient City of Chang'an China : History & Sports

Chang'an China

Chang'an, located in the Wei River valley in the central west region of China, was one of the most important cities in the world and reached its peak between the 7th and the 9th centuries AD. For three centuries, the ancient city of Chang'an was the emblem of peace and prosperity, a true model for the Orient that remained alive only in memories and in rare archaeological evidence. Indeed, in 904, the city was assaulted by a usurper, Zhu Quanzhong (Zhu Wen), who destroyed its palaces and dispersed the population.

Thus, for several centuries, Chang'an languished between the vestiges and the echoes of his glorious lost past: it would be necessary to wait until the assertion of the Ming dynasty to see the city flourish again, which, from a certain point of view, represented a model of urban and administrative perfection.

From the second half of the 14th century to the middle of the 17th century, the city of Chang'an acquired a new physiognomy, with characteristics which, for the Western observer, still have something mysterious: we can cite, for example, its urban plan which reproduced, on a scale, the dimensions of planet Earth, which at that time we imagined square and therefore easy to represent. The entire complex was defended by imposing clay walls, sometimes 1.5 km wide, with a height reaching 18 meters at certain points.

The inhabitants were about 200,000 but, during its period of splendor, the city counted up to two million. When we observe Chang'an today, we can only be amazed at the high level reached by the town planners: they created a city characterized by a structure that is both very complex and symbolic, which leaves contemporary architects perplexed. One of the jewels of the city was the imperial palace, made up of around thirty buildings whose sacred heart was the throne room, or Hanyuandian: in this space, religious ceremonies took place whose winter solstice represented the climax because it was considered a magic moment when the universe addressed its salvation to the emperor.

A sports metropolis

Among the many attractions that Chang'an offered to its inhabitants, there was the cockfighting - the oldest historical evidence of this cruel practice prevalent in many countries. Chang'an was a kind of official fighting center that attracted enthusiasts and bettors. The origin of cockfighting dates back to the 5th century BC, as evidenced by the presence of many breeding sites: it seems that the emperor owned thousands, entrusted to five hundred keepers and breeders.

Archaeologists have also discovered that in this city, another sport was also practiced and still is today in remote regions of China: polo. Experts say that this game, originating in Persia, arrived in China by ways difficult to reconstruct: what is certain is that polo was in Chang'an a kind of popular sport, with teams and supporters.

Rethinking this great ancient metropolis, rich and evolved, with palaces and all types of entertainment of which there are only a few traces today, undoubtedly makes one think about the obsolescence of earthly things. The immense walls of clay and the grand palaces are lost, defeated by time. Like the arrogance of men.