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The Guest Houses and Their Locations during the Period of Northern and Southern Dynasties

Cai Zongxian(Institute of History and Philology,Taibei,115)  
The guest houses(客馆) built by the host countries during the Period of Northern and Southern Dynasties(420-589) were an important institution in traditional Chinese diplomacy.They served to receive a variety of foreigners,such as envoys,hostages,feudal lords who came to pay homage to the court,monks,students,and those who surrendered from unfriendly states.This institution served to realize the goal of bringing distant countries into the tributary system. During the Period of Northern and Southern Dynasties,the number and organization of the guest houses underwent obvious developments.The guest houses not only provided accommodation and food to the foreigners,but also was an important place for celebrating diplomatic ceremonies.A guest house was unlikely a building standing on its own.It should be an area with more structures in it.Structural changes in the cities influenced the locations where guest houses were built.During the Period of Northern and Southern Dynasties,they were often established in the southern part of the capital city.Moreover,they gradually moved closer to the palace from the outskirt of the city,particularly alone the north-south thoroughfare.
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