The Image of Changan in the Odes to the Capitals of Han Dynasty



The odes (Fu, a literary style in Han dynasty) to the capitals of Han dynasty, represented by Ban Gu’s Ode to the Two Capitals and Zhang Heng’s Ode to Two Capitals, depicted the image of Changan as the luxurious and magnificent capital city of Han dynasty. In such depictions, which excluded tangential details of  Changan of the Western Han dynasty as well as other elements not consistent with the broad theme of luxury (such as the efforts at reconstruction of Changan during the reforms of Emperor Yuan and Wang Mang), the dynamics of historical transformation were molded into a static sample of a capital city, labeled with desire. On an emotional level, the authors of these odes were deeply attracted to this capital city of luxury and magnificence; on the other hand, however, their ideal capital city was not the charming and tempting Changan. The more they devoted their heart and soul to depicting those grandiose architectural works and the heavenly imperial gardens, the more skeptical they became of the domineering powers’ attempt at cultivating infinite desires; the harder they tried to glorify the awe of hunting, the more obvious their disapproval of the emperors’ pursuit of pleasure exemplified by hunting. Yet the intricate interplay of emotional attraction and rational criticism made the image of Changan even more vivid and colorful.


Changan; Odes (Fu) of Han; Time; Space

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Cao, S. (2009). Odes and culture in Han dynasty: A comparative study of the odes of Han and the historical records of the two Han dynasties. China: Northeast Normal University press.

Gong, K., & Su, R., et al. (2011). Commentary on odes of the two Han dynasties. China: Shandong University Press.

Liu, Q., & Li, Y. (2003). Changan of Han dynasty. China: Cultural Relics Press.



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