Xian is the modern capital of Shaanxi Province. Its fame today is based on its glorious past when Xian was known as Chang'an and was the imperial capital of China for 11 dynasties. A location along the drainage area of the Wei River, a branch of the Yellow River, surrounded by mountains with strategic passes gave the city natural defenses. Xian was first made a capital during the Zhou dynasty over 3,000 years ago.
For more than 1,100 years Xian was one of the most sophisticated cities in the ancient world. During the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD) it became the starting point for the Silk Road. Before the rise of maritime trade, merchants used the Silk Road to take Chinese products west to Central Asia and beyond while traders from afar brought new goods and influences to China. Xianís success led to developments in culture and architecture and it still has a wealth of historical treasures today.
After the decline of the Tang dynasty in 907AD, Xian ceased to be Chinaís capital and through the centuries that followed its importance declined. However, a series of remarkable archaeological finds in the last 50 years have once again raised Xianís profile worldwide.
Emperor Qin Shihuangís awesome army of terracotta warriors is the highlight of any trip to Xian. Over 6,000 individually carved soldiers equipped with horses and weapons have been ready for battle for more than 2,000 years. At Banpo, an archaeological site reveals the history of an agricultural community who lived in the Wei river basin over 6,000 years ago. The newly built Shaanxi museum is highly informative and adds perspective to the history of Xian.
A walk along the city walls of Xian gives a clear view of how the ancient city was laid out. Drop down into the old city and explore the Drum Tower, Bell Tower and the Great Mosque in the Muslim quarter. Temples such as the beautiful Great Wild Goose Pagoda reveal the role that Xian played in the development of Buddhism in China.
In China, Xian is sometimes referred to as a "Natural Historical Museum" and for the visitor, Xian offers a crash course in Chinese history within a developed modern city. Xianís Xianying airport was completed in 1991 providing efficient air links and there are a good selection of hotels to suit all budgets.