The Chinese rulers believed that they were represented by stars in
the sky. To maintain harmony with the heavens, they also built their communities
in relation to the sky.
One example is the city of Louyang, which was built with careful
attention to the four cardinal directions, north, south, east
and west. This information was necessary because Chinese cities
were always square, with the town's highest ruler living in a
palace in the exact center of the city. According to one report,
the builder began the palace after observing the constellation
Pegasus (which is found in the northern hemisphere) directly overhead,
at its zenith.
If he observed this constellation at sunrise, the date would
correspond to the June solstice (one of the two days of the year
when the Sun is farthest from the equator). The shadow of a gnomon,
or sundial, cast by the sun as it rose would lie to the extreme
south. By recoding the location of the shadow at both sunrise
and sunset and then diving that distance in half, builders could
determine the true north-south direction.
Similar methods were used to build the emperor's palace in Beijing.
The palace is also directly aligned with the four directions.
In fact, the palace was divided into quarters that represented
the four seasons. During each season, the Emperor would perform
duties in that quarter of the house. For example, at every spring
equinox the emperor would go to the eastern quarter of his palace
to start the new year. The next season, he would travel to a different
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