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What is Xanadu?

Xanadu is a mythical place rooted in an area of Inner Mongolia.
In a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kublai Khan was said to have built a "pleasure-dome" in Xanadu.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Gringos, A. Omer Karamollaoglu
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2014
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Xanadu, also known as Zanadu or Shengdu, is a mythical place that is rooted in an actual area of Inner Mongolia. Xanadu became popular as the legendary place mentioned in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem as the place where Kublai Khan built a giant dome to indulge his every fantasy. The place was believed to be mythical until the ruins were discovered 270 km (168 miles) north of Beijing and near Dolonnuur city, at the end of the 20th Century. Xanadu is now believed to have been the capital of Kublai Khan's Empire, which was founded sometime in the 13th century.

Xanadu is now little more than a vast green field extending for hundreds of kilometers. From the air, the outlines of former buildings can still be seen, but once on the ground, only the sketch of the outer wall that protected the city is now visible, and only if you are truly looking for it. The outline of the wall is covered in grass and soil for most of its length, and it can be easily confused with a small hill. There is now a low wall of stone that marks the area where Kublai Khan's palace was situated. The low wall is actually a reconstruction. Archeologists used stones and bricks scattered in the area to put together a replica of the palace foundations, which where were destroyed over 600 years ago. The original palace was about 550 square meters and occupied the center of the city.

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Aside from the wall, little has remained of the magical place historians believe Xanadu to have been. Local museums hold an iron kettle, and drawings and photographs which show the remains of tombs and small marble sculptures. Historians also believe they have identified a primitive irrigation system that was used in the area, and believe a sacrificial altar was also in place in Xanadu.

Xanadu is now a tourist area, although the truth is that very few visitors reach the area every year. The government has plan for rebuilding a replica of the original Xanadu, but it will probably not stand in the place of the original city.

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