Archaeological Site of the Palace of Nanyue Kingdom

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch
Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Nanyue was a short-lived kingdom founded in southeast China by a military commander upon the collapse of the Qin Dynasty at the end of the third century B.C. Nanyue coexisted with the stronger Han state to the north during the century that followed, but antagonisms were frequent between the two kingdoms and the Nanyue was subdued in 111 B.C. when the Han captured its capital. Nanyue served as the capital of the sovereign Southern Han kingdom in A.D. 917-71. Now modern Guangzhou, the city has remained the seat of provincial governments to this day. The remains of the Nanyue Kingdom’s palace, lying under the commercial center of the growing contemporary city and layers of civilization from the last 2,000 years, have been studied since the late 1990s. While only an estimated one-tenth of the site has been uncovered, the ruins have shed new light on ancient city planning, urban development, and imperial history.

A study helps protect site for future excavations and learning

Relics from 13 dynasties and the remains of the earliest known royal garden in China have been discovered, but preservation of Nanyue proves difficult in the humid subtropical climate. Despite its importance, the remains are like many urban archaeological sites throughout the world in that their conservation and interpretation are challenged by their dense city surroundings and other land use interests. The Palace of the Nanyue Kingdom was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch in order to encourage a balance between these concerns and the integration of this rediscovered cultural resource into the fabric and life of the Guangzhou community.

In December 2012, we supported the development of a report providing preliminary recommendations for managing the site’s groundwater and surface water issues. This assessment reviewed collected data on Nanyue and drew upon information gained through workshops and meetings with Chinese experts.

Last updated: June 2016.

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