Legend of the Demon Cat, Chen Kaige’s historical fantasy film based on Yoneyama Mineo’s Samana Kukai, transports viewers to the luxurious Tang capital of Chang’an, modern Xi’an. The story is narrated through the eyes of a Japanese monk who crosses the sea in search of “ultimate truth.” What impresses him first is a performance of Huxuan dance,where prostitutes and military officers are drinking at opposite ends of the table.

Soon after, tens of thousands flood the streets for a glimpse of Imperial Consort Yang Yuhan, the era’s most beautiful woman and the emperor’s favorite concubine. History recalls Tang Dynasty as an age of unprecedented openness.

Chang’an was the world’s most populous city in the 8th century, and its cosmopolitan appeal drew more foreigners than anywhere. It was the epicenter of China’s most powerful and prosperous period, during which literature, art and technological innovation flourished.

As with the Renaissance in the West, such advances were made possible by economic strength, political stability and an open foreign policy. To understand a city, one must first understand its history.

That search begins in the museum, and at the Shaanxi History Museum every cultural relic is accompanied by a story. “The imperial consort’s flesh is decayed, but her perfume box remains,” the chief eunuch wrote when he was tasked with finding the body of Yang Yufei, who was strangled and buried in the Village of Mawei during a military coup. Read more from pandaily.com…

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