This talk was based on a chapter in a volume on Daily Life in Early China (Cambridge forthcoming). Much as we like to portray the life of the farmers, the physical remains of village settlement from the Han period (202 BCE -220 CE) are extremely rare. Some glimpses could be gained in certain paintings, reliefs and even funerary objects found in tombs, though hardly sufficient to build a whole picture. On the other hand, with the cities, archaeologists have been able to locate and reconstruct the most important ones, Changan, and Loyang, the capitals of Western and Eastern Han respectively. With a basic understanding of the different neighborhoods and sections of the capital, we are able to portray the life of the city dwellers in more realistic terms: how far did they have to go from one section of the city to another, what kind of different neighborhoods the city had, how the city functioned as a ritual center, a bureaucratic center, a military garrison, a commercial center, a place of recreation, a center for education, and ultimately a symbol of luxury and prosperity and the power of the empire.
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