Capital Cities of Imperial China

Suppose you are GMing a Celestial Empire game. The players want to know what city is the capital city of the Empire. I believe most of you would automatically think "Běijīng". Well, depending on the dynasty in which your campaign is set, you may or may not be right. Here's a brief primer:

Under the Táng
Cháng'ān (長安) [present-day Xī'ān], from 618 to 904
Luòyáng (洛陽), from 904 to 907

Under the Sòng
Dōngjīng (東京) [present-day Kāifēng], from 960 to 1127
Lín'ān (臨安) [present-day Hángzhōu], from 1127 to 1279

Under the Yuán
Dàdū (大都) [present-day Běijīng]

Under the Míng
Nánjīng (南京), from 1368 to 1421
Běijīng (北京), from 1421 to 1644

Under the Qīng
Běijīng (北京)


  1. If I recall correctly, during Tang Dynasty, the court regularly moved between Chang'an and Luoyang because there were insufficient resources to support the hungry band of bureaucrats. I've seen Luoyang referred to as a "second capital," which I think is a role it played in earlier dynasties as well. I've not look at that specific issue in a while, so I recommend further research.

  2. Interesting. I had no records of this, but I do have records of Cháng'ān being called the western capital whereas Luòyáng is called the eastern capital. I'll have to dig deeper into this.

  3. OK, I've checked my encyclopaedia (Encyclopædia Universalis). It does mention moveable capital cities under the Zhōu and the Hàn, but nothing under the Táng.

  4. Interesting. Sounds like something GM's should know.

  5. I am currently doing research for a blog entry about the Ān Lùshān Rebellion, and I can confirm that Luòyáng played the role of a second capital under the Táng.