Xian Located in central China in Shaanxi Province is the cultural city of XiĄŻan .it has been the capital of the Chinese Empire at various times in history for a total of some 1,100 years. It was the starting point for the great trade caravans of the Silk Road. Fabulous archaeological discoveries in and around the city tell of Xi'an's past glories,The development of the region began long ago; the fertile valleys of the Wei and Yellow rivers that run through Shaanxi Province are known as the 'cradle of Chinese civilization'. In 1963, the skull and jaw bone of Paleolithic Lanlian Man were discovered 27 kilometres southeast of Xi'an.
Caravans of traders from the Western Regions began arriving soon after the discovery of the Silk Road. The official market places, crowded with goods and merchants, were also used for public executions and divination. Imperial gardens were stocked with rare plants and animals, tribute gifts from the distant Western kingdoms. Palaces and the multi-storeyed houses of the rich and noble, although mostly of plastered wattle and clay, were brightly decorated and hung with lavish embroideries. Silks were widely worn, carriages were embossed with gold, silver or lacquer, and horses were caparisoned with semi-precious stones. Funerary clay models unearthed from tombs show the high level of sophistication the society had reached. Chang'an had a population of 46,000 at that lime.
The capital was moved back to Luoyang in AD 25, after the fall of the Western Han dynasty and the destruction of Chang'an. It was not until AD 589 that the Sui-dynasty Emperor Wendi reunified China and established a magnificent new capital, southeast of the former Han capital, called Da Xing Cheng (Great Prosperity). Sui Wendi's ambitious son, Sui Yangdi, developed and organized the empire;
With the ascendancy of the Tang dynasty in 618, Chang'an regained its promi-nence. The Tang created and reigned over the Golden Age of China, considered the most sophisticated period in Chinese civilization. Chang'an was the biggest and mostcosmopolitan city in the world; its grid layout was copied'in miniature by the Silla kings of Korea for their capital Kyongju, and by the Japanese, who built Nara and Kyoto along the same lines.
The great Tang capital attracted foreigners from all parts of Asia and beyond. Merchants, envoys, soldiers, pilgrims, entertainers and sages thronged the great metropolis.
In the latter half of the seventh century, imperial power lay in the hands of the viciously ambitious Empress Wu Zetian (627-705), who had been a concubine of the Emperor Taizong. After Taizong's death she married his son, Gaozong, and gradually gained power and control, becoming the first and only female ruler of China in 690. She favoured the capital at Luoyang, and Chang'an was once again neglected.
Upon Empress Wu's death her grandson Xuanzong, also known as Minghuang, 'the Brilliant Emperor', returned the capital to Chang'an and raised the city to an unprecedented level of sophistication. He reigned for 40 years over what was to prove the artistic and cultural apex of Tang China, known as the High Tang. Two of China's most famous poets, Li Bai and Du Fu, lived during this period. By the mid-eighth century, China had a population of over 53 million, with two million in Chang'an. Emperor Xuanzong is best known for his love for the beautiful concubine
' From 775, provincial warlords along with Tibetan and Turkish invaders plagued the empire, and the government eventually lost control of transportation networks and the tax collection system, their primary source of power and revenue. The increasing wealth and power of Buddhist monasteries contributed to the govern-ment's xenophobia between 841 and 845, when Buddhist temples, Christian church-es, Jewish synagogues and all non-Chinese religious communities were destroyed.
Xi'an came to world attention in 1936, when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was kidnapped at the Huaqing Hot Springs, an event that came to be called the Xi'an Incident. Today, metropolitan Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, has a popula-tion of 4 million. It has been quite intensively industrialized in recent decades, with the emphasis on machinery, textiles and light industrial products, and is the site of many institutes of higher education. The discovery of the terracotta warriors in 1974 and the ensuing migration of tourists have contributed significantly to Xi'an's economic development.
XiĄŻan most famous sight is the Terraccotta Army and Horses of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The Emperor spent most of his life until his death in 210BC in constructing his burial place, conscripting thousands of people to build his tomb and the terracotta army that would guard him in the afterlife. This archaeological discovery only came to light in 1974. The underground battle formations of life-sized pottery warriors, archers, horses and chariots have been left in situ in 3 large excavated pits. Pit number one contains over 6000 soldiers, each with its own individual facial features and pit number 2 contains almost a thousand warriors and half the number of horses (also life size). Excavation work is ongoing and new figures are continually being brought to light and restored. You can see this fascinating and painstaking work in progress at the site.
Other places of interest also include the historic site of Banpo Village, a primitive tribal village dating back more than 6,000 years. Unearthed by chance, the Stone Age village consisted of round and square houses, barns and kilns, painted pottery pot and ceramic bowls.
Within the city itself, you can see the Great Wild Goose Pagoda. Built in 632 AD, it was once used by the Tang monk Xuan Zang to house precious Buddhist scriptures. You can stroll along the top of the Old City Walls built more than 600 years ago which completely enclose central XiĄŻan and are ChinaĄŻs best preserved ancient city walls.