The palace is a complex of buildings, in the center of which is the Wen Temple, which was built with precious materials, including yellow glazed tile was from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province. It is a total of 70,000 square meters, consisting of three lines.
The site of the palace is located on Ye Mountain, once a place for metal casting in the ancient time of State of Wu in Zhou Dynasty, named Ye Cheng, literally the city of metallurgy, the first name of the city of Nanjing. The Imperial Central University, at the time called Zongmingguan, was located there in Former Song dynasty. Chaotian Palace, or called Mingtian Palace, as a Taoist temple was originally named Ziji Palace built on the site of Zongmingguan in the era of Southern Wu, the Kingdom of Wu in the ending of Tang dynasty. It was rebuilt as Chaotian Palace by the Hongwu Emperor during the early Ming dynasty (in late 14th century). In Ming dynasty it was used primarily by members of the royalty for "veneration of ancestors".
The complex was burnt down during the Taiping Rebellion in Qing dynasty, and the present buildings were built from 1866 to 1870 when Nanking Academy (Jiangning Fuxue) moved to the site. During ROC the place became Examination Yuan, Capital High Court, Ministry of Education (once named Tahsueh Yuan), as well as Palace Museum Nanjing Branch. In PRC it became Nanjing Municipal Museum.
The palace is accessible within walking distance west of Zhangfuyuan Station of Nanjing Metro Line 1. Chaotian Palace is located about 1000 meters southwest to Xinjiekou, the center of Nanjing, and about 800 meters east to Mochou Lake, hedged off by Qinhuai River and linked by Jianye Road Bridge.