The Old Ming Palace - History and Facts | History Hit

The Old Ming Palace

Nanjing City, Jiangsu, China

The ruins of the Old Ming Palace in Nanjing were once part of a magnificent fourteenth century palace complex.

About The Old Ming Palace

The Old Ming Palace (Ming Gugong) in Nanjing is a ruin of the remains of what was once a magnificent palatial complex built by the first Ming Emperor Hongwu in the fourteenth century. At that time, Nanjing was the capital.

The site was also known as the ‘Forbidden City of Nanjing‘, because nobody was allowed to enter or leave without the emperor’s express permission.

History of The Old Ming Palace

The founder and first Emperor of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, began building a palace in what was then known as Jiankang in 1367. The palace was built outside the city, and upon its completion in 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed the Ming Dynasty.

The palace was significantly expanded and refurbished until 1375, and then in 1392.

Up until the mid 15th century, the palace was damaged by a series of fires. In 1449, the three main halls of the outer court were permanently destroyed by fire.

After 1645, the palace became the yamen (administrative office) of two military commands. Throughout the Qing dynasty, much of the palace was slowly destroyed, with stone and other material being taken away for other projects.

By the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ming palace was already in ruin, and even upon the Taiping Revolution leaders declaring Nanjing to be the capital of their Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, a new palace was built elsewhere rather than the Ming Palace being restored.

The Republic of China (1912-49) established Nanjing as its capital in 1928. Plans were made to build a Presidential Palace on the former Ming Palace grounds, but this plan was never completed.

In the 1930s, a number of neo-classical buildings were built in around around the northern part of the palace, while The National Central Museum, where the present day Nanjing Museum is located, was also built in the northern section. An airstrip being built in the southern section necessitated the partial demolition of the Meridian Gate, the magnificent front gate of the palace complex.

The Old Ming Palace Today

Much of the Old Ming Palace has been destroyed, first by a series of fires and then by the attacks of Manchu and Taiping forces. However, the ruins of the Old Ming Palace in Nanjing are still worth seeing. They include numerous pillars, gateways (most notably the remains of the Meridian Gate), and ten bridges, which allow visitors to comprehend the original layout of the palace.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Old Ming Palace is the range of ornate detailing in its remaining ruins, which offer a glimpse into the splendour of the original palace.

Getting to The Old Ming Palace

From the centre of Nanjing, take Subway Line 2 to ‘Ming Palace’ (Exit 2.) By bus, take Bus No. 17 to the ‘Houzaimen South’ Stop, or take Bus No. 118, 115 to the ‘Ming Palace South’ Stop. By car, drive 15-20 minutes via the Zhujiang Road.

Featured In

China Historic Sites

Discover China's rich history at these 10 sites across the country, from the ancient Terracotta Army to the birthplace of Mao Zedong.