Before the middle of the 10th century, the city of Luoyang was already a bustling metropolis — for half of its then 3,000-year-old history it had been the capital of 13 dynasties.
However, despite being home to six UNESCO World Heritage sites, the city in central China’s Henan Province is not as well-known as its Western peers like Athens and Rome. The modern city landscape gives few clues of its historic past.
The often forgotten capital has been overshadowed by Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province, known for its terracotta army. But Luoyang is planning to step out of the shadows and reclaim its former glory.
Construction began in June 2017 on a massive museum at the site of ruins from the Xia Dynasty (2070-1600 BC), with the aim of recreating scenes from more than 3,000 years ago.
It will be called the Erlitou Relic Museum and is expected to be completed in October 2019. The museum will cover about 14 hectares and cost a total of 630 million yuan (US$96 million) to build.
The Erlitou ruins were discovered in 1959 and have been identified by archeologists as one of the capital cities during the Xia Dynasty.
China’s earliest palace complex, bronzeware workshop and road network were all found there, says Zhao Haitao from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Erlitou archeological team.
The museum will include technology such as 3D and virtual reality to reproduce ancient scenes, Zhao says.
The exhibits must be entertaining with impressive visual effects to capture the attention of young visitors, he adds.
As one of the “Four Great Ancient Capitals of China,” along with Xi’an, Beijing and Nanjing, Luoyang has ambitions to attract more local and international recognition. The city was at its peak during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), when China’s only empress, Wu Zetian, moved the capital there from Chang’an, as Xi’an was then known, during her reign (AD 690-705).
Most of Luoyang’s ancient architecture has been destroyed by wars and modern construction.
The local government is investing billions to restore the grandeur of what is believed to have been one of the world’s most populous cities in the Tang Dynasty.
The city government has allocated about 47 square kilometers of land in the city center, where cultural relics have been detected underground, in a plan to restore the architecture of the Sui (AD 581-618) and Tang dynasties, according to Li Ya, Party secretary of Luoyang.
A national-level cultural relics park, including a lavish reconstructed palace and pagoda built on the ancient foundations, opened to the public in 2015.
The imperial garden known as Jiuzhouchi is being recreated in one corner of the park.