Why isn't Xian or Luoyang the capital of China?

Nov 2014
511
ph
Why isn't Xian or Luoyang the capital of China instead of Beijing? Compared to Beijing those 2 cities have a longer history of being the capitals of previous Chinese dynasties like the Han, the Tang, and the Jin, and those 2 cities also have a longer historic pedigree than Beijing, which only became the capital in the 15th century during the Ming dynasty, and previous to the Yuan was really a city of limited historical importance, being located at the very edge of China's northern border with the barbarians.
 
Aug 2017
263
USA
Didn't the Yuan dynasty have its capital at Dadu, on the modern site of Beijing?

The Chinese history experts in this forum will undoubtedly have more concrete and better reasons to pitch in, but I suspect the reason might be broadly analogous to why Delhi became the capital of India or why any other relatively recent capital city became the capital of their respective nation state in the modern world.

Simply put, its probably more convenient to establish your modern capital at a site which was already the center of authority for several centuries and which already sported the political institutions necessary for effective governance. The central authority was already entrenched there, as were leading officials and bureaucrats. It might be more practical to maintain this arrangement than to relocate and recreate these structures at another site.

One might also cite the recognition, legitimacy, and respect a recent capital commands as opposed to a more ancient site. To an average citizen at the time, their general historical awareness and the emotional significance correlated therewith probably wouldn't stretch back more than a few centuries. Elites and governing officials will naturally be more aware and might find it convenient to emphasize another site to bolster nationalism, but in general, it may be better to maintain the current capital city to highlight cultural and political continuity.

I don't know the specific reasons the CPC chose the capital as Beijing in the aftermath of the civil war and I'm broadly aware of the numerous provincial capitals established by different groups in different conditions in the volatile first few decades of 20th century China, but I thought it would be useful to highlight general considerations for how such sites are chosen.
 

kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,423
It mainly has to do with the centers of power.

The capital of the Ming under Emperor Jianwen and his predecessor was Nanjing. In the case of Hongwu - it was obvious choice for a capital, Nanjing was close to where his power-base was.

Yongle's center of support and power was in the north - what would become Beijing, a good part of his military was drawn up from that region. The usurper sacked and burned Nanjing nearly to the ground as well as the imperial palace within the city. Rebuilding Nanjing and the imperial palace there at the time was seen as too costly and it would remove Yongle from his power base. The funds were acquired and re-diverted to a place where Yongle felt he was safe from any pretender, revolt, and restrain the palace eunuchs that put him into power. In due time, Yongle's son grew up in Beijing and his son and so on until the fall of the Ming. By that time Beijing was seen as the only capital of any importance, so when the Qing swept in - it was next door to their power-base in Manchuria, and the capital remained in Beijing and afterwards as well.
 
Aug 2017
263
USA
It mainly has to do with the centers of power.

The capital of the Ming under Emperor Jianwen and his predecessor was Nanjing. In the case of Hongwu - it was obvious choice for a capital, Nanjing was close to where his power-base was.

Yongle's center of support and power was in the north - what would become Beijing, a good part of his military was drawn up from that region. The usurper sacked and burned Nanjing nearly to the ground as well as the imperial palace within the city. Rebuilding Nanjing and the imperial palace there at the time was seen as too costly and it would remove Yongle from his power base. The funds were acquired and re-diverted to a place where Yongle felt he was safe from any pretender, revolt, and restrain the palace eunuchs that put him into power. In due time, Yongle's son grew up in Beijing and his son and so on until the fall of the Ming. By that time Beijing was seen as the only capital of any importance, so when the Qing swept in - it was next door to their power-base in Manchuria, and the capital remained in Beijing and afterwards as well.
Well said.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,889
Florania
It mainly has to do with the centers of power.

The capital of the Ming under Emperor Jianwen and his predecessor was Nanjing. In the case of Hongwu - it was obvious choice for a capital, Nanjing was close to where his power-base was.

Yongle's center of support and power was in the north - what would become Beijing, a good part of his military was drawn up from that region. The usurper sacked and burned Nanjing nearly to the ground as well as the imperial palace within the city. Rebuilding Nanjing and the imperial palace there at the time was seen as too costly and it would remove Yongle from his power base. The funds were acquired and re-diverted to a place where Yongle felt he was safe from any pretender, revolt, and restrain the palace eunuchs that put him into power. In due time, Yongle's son grew up in Beijing and his son and so on until the fall of the Ming. By that time Beijing was seen as the only capital of any importance, so when the Qing swept in - it was next door to their power-base in Manchuria, and the capital remained in Beijing and afterwards as well.
Then, it came with two famous quote: "天子守国门,君王死社稷。”
(The one with the heavenly mandate guards the border, and the sovereign dies for the commune.)

Unfortunately, most of the succeeding emperors did not have any military training or talent.
 

heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,627
China
It mainly has to do with the centers of power.

The capital of the Ming under Emperor Jianwen and his predecessor was Nanjing. In the case of Hongwu - it was obvious choice for a capital, Nanjing was close to where his power-base was.

Yongle's center of support and power was in the north - what would become Beijing, a good part of his military was drawn up from that region. The usurper sacked and burned Nanjing nearly to the ground as well as the imperial palace within the city. Rebuilding Nanjing and the imperial palace there at the time was seen as too costly and it would remove Yongle from his power base. The funds were acquired and re-diverted to a place where Yongle felt he was safe from any pretender, revolt, and restrain the palace eunuchs that put him into power. In due time, Yongle's son grew up in Beijing and his son and so on until the fall of the Ming. By that time Beijing was seen as the only capital of any importance, so when the Qing swept in - it was next door to their power-base in Manchuria, and the capital remained in Beijing and afterwards as well.
not really.

xian and luoyang had low rate of development for centuries.

both water supply and transport, are big problems, as well as the size of existing city sphere.
they cannot serve as capital anymore.
 
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Jan 2016
612
United States, MO
Large cities benefit from being connected to trade. The silk road trading routes are no longer where the money is. Instead, large modern cities usually rely on ports. Look at Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing has Tianjin. Xi'an is too far inland and without any large enough rivers to serve as a huge modern capital.
 
Mar 2015
949
Europe
Of the Five Dynasties:
Zhu Wen built up his powerbase as a warlord in Kaifeng. He captured the capitals Luoyang and Changan in 904. After his usurpation, he ruled from Luoyang.
In 913, Zhu Youzhen ruled as a Liang emperor but from Kaifeng.
Later Tang returned the capital to Luoyang in 923.
Later Jin returned the capital to Kaifeng in 937.
Thereafter, the capital of Later Tang, Later Han, Later Zhou and Northern Song stayed in Kaifeng till 1127.
Why?
What were the reasons given by later Jin to move capital to Kaifeng?
Between 937 and 1127, was returning capital from Kaifeng to Luoyang or Changan ever discussed?
 

Wenge

Ad Honoris
Apr 2011
10,429
Virginia
It mainly has to do with the centers of power.

The capital of the Ming under Emperor Jianwen and his predecessor was Nanjing. In the case of Hongwu - it was obvious choice for a capital, Nanjing was close to where his power-base was.

Yongle's center of support and power was in the north - what would become Beijing, a good part of his military was drawn u p from that region. The usurper sacked and burned Nanjing nearly to the ground as well as the imperial palace within the city. Rebuilding Nanjing and the imperial palace there at the time was seen as too costly and it would remove Yongle from his power base. The funds were acquired and re-diverted to a place where Yongle felt he was safe from any pretender, revolt, and restrain the palace eunuchs that put him into power. In due time, Yongle's son grew up in Beijing and his son and so on until the fall of the Ming. By that time Beijing was seen as the only capital of any importance, so when the Qing swept in - it was next door to their power-base in Manchuria, and the capital remained in Beijing and afterwards as well.
However, the capital was moved to Nanjing briefly in 1912 and it was the capital from 1927 until 1949.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanjing#Imperial_China
 

mariusj

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,057
Los Angeles
Of the Five Dynasties:
Zhu Wen built up his powerbase as a warlord in Kaifeng. He captured the capitals Luoyang and Changan in 904. After his usurpation, he ruled from Luoyang.
In 913, Zhu Youzhen ruled as a Liang emperor but from Kaifeng.
Later Tang returned the capital to Luoyang in 923.
Later Jin returned the capital to Kaifeng in 937.
Thereafter, the capital of Later Tang, Later Han, Later Zhou and Northern Song stayed in Kaifeng till 1127.
Why?
What were the reasons given by later Jin to move capital to Kaifeng?
Between 937 and 1127, was returning capital from Kaifeng to Luoyang or Changan ever discussed?
There were no serious discussion to move to Changan or Luoyang after during and after Song.

The issue Song faces was a series of wars between the Khitans and later Jurchens. In order to maintain a strong military presence to defend the realm, Song took the approach of 'strong core weak branches' so they station massive armies near and around the capital in order to avoid the military power delegation previous dynasties faced and the fragmentation that came with it, but that means they need a place where they can be resupplied constantly. More than 100,000 troops were stationed around, and their resupply is one of the most important issue especially when their families were stationed with them.

Kaifeng satisfy that strategic calculation.

There are a few discussions, but none serious as they were shot down immediately. The founder had from time to time muse about moving to Luoyang.

He said, 'I would like to move west, to held the strategically important places so that I don't have to station that much troops, to follow suit the Zhou & Han's old events, and pacify the world.' His brother who was king of Jin at that time, said '[our fate lies at] the power of virtue and not the power of strategic importance.' The Emperor waited until his brother left and said 'the king of Jin is wise, we will follow it for now. But in a hundred years, the world will be tired for this.'

This was recorded by someone in the Song and while Li Tao used it in his Xu Zhizhi Tongjian Changbian (around 1150) we don't know if that actually took place.


Another issue was Changan has been a pile of ruins for quite a while, so it was probably never under consideration, but Luoyang was a different story.

If we were to allow our imagination to just leave the grounded reality for a moment, we see that Taizong was at some point mayor of Kaifeng, so he has lot's of support around Kaifeng. The Taizu's second son Defang, on the other hand, has great support in the mayor of Luoyang, who is his father-in-law Jiao Xuxun. No one will ever know the actual events between Taizu & Taizong, but this is an interesting note. (Dezhao is his eldest, and the presumed heir.)
 
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