"After five years of thorough research, we found no evidence of the legendary Epang Palace," said Li Yufang, head of the Epang Palace research team and staff researcher at the Institute of Archeology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), at an international archeological workshop held recently in central China's Hunan Province, according to a report by Beijing Morning Post on October 21.
In the latest archeological excavation, the research team drilled in an area of 135 square kilometers, extending from the Zao River to the east, the Pei River to the west, the Wei River to the north, and the ruins of the Kunming Lake of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) to the south. A total of 14 historical sites were discovered, but none of them turned out to be the magnificent Epang Palace belonging to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC). Li Yufang told the workshop that all of the ruins belonged to Shanglinyuan, another imperial palace belonging to the Qin and Han periods.
In the past five years, Li Yufang has conducted several excavations in places that were suspected to be the site of the Epang Palace. Up to now, however, researchers have only found a rammed earth terrace of the front hall of the palace. With a height of 12 meters, the terrace was 1,270 meters from east to west and 423 meters from north to south. Ruins of walls remained to the east, west and north of the terrace. In the area enclosed by the three walls, no Qin relics were discovered and there was also no trace of the famous fire that burnt the palace to ashes.
"Archeological finds suggested that the front hall of the Epang Palace had partially constructed, but the rest of the palace might have never been built. The famous fire set by Xiang Yu didn't exist too," said Li Yufang at the workshop.
Legend has it that the Epang Palace was built by 700,000 conscripts from all over the country at the command of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. In Chinese literature, the palace has long been a metaphor for the extravagance of state administrators. Most people believed that the magnificent palace burnt to the ground during a peasant uprising that overthrew the Qin Dynasty.
Li Yufang's sensational discovery made a splash in archeological circles. Some archeologists argue that although current excavations have not found evidence of the Epang Palace, it doesn't necessarily mean that the palace didn't exist. They insist that further excavations should be conducted in a wider range of area in the future.