Xanadu Overview

Xanadu, or more accurately Shàngdū ( |p=Shàngdū}}), was the summer capital of Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty in China, after he decided to move the capital of the Yuan Dynasty to Dadu, present-day Beijing. The city was located in what is now called Inner Mongolia, north of Beijing, about northwest of the modern town of Duolun. The layout of the capital is roughly square shaped with sides of about 2,200m, it consists of an "Outer City", and an "Inner City" in the southeast of the capital which has also roughly a square layout with sides about 1,400m, and the palace, where Kublai Khan stayed in summer. The palace has sides of roughly 550m, covering an area of around 40% the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The most visible modern-day remnants are the earthen walls though there is also a ground-level, circular brick platform in the centre of the inner enclosure.

It was designed by Chinese architect Liu Bingzhong and built in the town of Kāipíng ( |t= |p=Kāi Píng}} in from 1252 to 1256 during the Mongol invasion. In 1264 it was renamed Shàngdū, the "Upper Capital". At its zenith, over 100,000 people lived within its walls. In 1369 Shàngdū fell under the Ming's army occupation, destroyed by arson, and the last reigning Khan, Toghun Temür, fled the city.

Today, only ruins remain, surrounded by a grassy mound that was once the city walls. Since 2002 a reconstruction effort has begun. In March 2008, China submitted a proposal to UNESCO to make the ruin a World Heritage Site under the title "Sites of the Yuan Dynasty Upper Capital (Xanadu) and Middle Capital".


Xanadu was visited by Venetian explorer Marco Polo in 1275, who wrote the following, one of the most complete descriptions of the city as it existed:

It became fabled as a metaphor for opulence, most famously in the English Romantic Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan. Another example of this is Charles Foster Kane's estate in Citizen Kane (see Xanadu (Citizen Kane)). The title name of the film Xanadu Xanadu (film) (1980) is a reference to Coleridge's poem.


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