English Name: Xi'an, Hsian, Sian
Chinese Name: 西安 (xī ān)
Location: Guanzhong Plain, Shaanxi Province, Northwest China (34°16′N, 108°54′E)
Postal Code: 710000 - 710090
Area Code: 029
Were China a tree, Beijing would be the crown while Xian would be its deep roots. As a saying goes: "Go to Shanghai and you will find a 100-year-old China; go to Beijing and you will find a 1000-year-old China; go to Xian and then you will find a 3000-year-old China." Xian, the cradle of China, is, by any means, on your China travel list.
Historically known as Chang'an, it was home to the ruling house of 13 dynasties, notably, the Qin (221 BC – 207 BC), Han (206 BC – 220 AD), Sui (581 AD – 618 AD) and Tang (618AD – 908AD) Dynasties. The Emperor Qin Shihuang united China for the first time and left Xi'an and the world one of the most extraordinary archeological finds in history - the Terracotta Warriors, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. The city reached its peak in the Tang dynasty, boasting 2 million taxable inhabitants and the largest, most cosmopolitan, settlement in the world during the reign of Xuanzong (712 AD – 756 AD).
Together with Athens, Cairo and Rome, Xian is among the four major ancient civilization capitals of the world. It is on the natural westward land route out of China into Central Asia, the starting point and terminus of the Silk Road, which brought the city material wealth as well as religious and cultural melting for over a thousand years.
|Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses|
Today, despite the searing summer heat and freezing winters, Xian is a joy to visit. The central city is pleasantly compact and its grid layout within the city wall makes it easy to navigate. The Bell Tower is the geographical center of the city, from which four main business streets radiating, North Avenue, South Avenue, West Avenue and East Avenue. With many universities around, Xiao Zhai is popular with youth and students and thus is one of the busiest commercial areas. The ancient streets of Shuyuanmen and Luomashi commercial area are two must-visit places. Actually, sightseeing in and around the city can keep even the most energetic visitors busy for a week or two.
Feel like shopping? Just go for traditional arts and crafts, folk handicrafts or replicas of antiquities. Xian is famous for good imitations of arts and crafts of the Qin and Tang dynasties, such as tri-colored glazed pottery and imitations of ancient bronze ware. Beyond that, visitors can also find replica Qin Dynasty embroidery, artistic porcelain ware, jade, carvings, paper cuttings, and paintings by the farmers of Huxian County which features strong Chinese traditions and local characteristics.
Locals are easygoing, yet shake their heads in regret that their ancestors "fell behind" their richer cousins in Beijing. However, tens of thousands of worldwide visitors, together with plenty of upscale new malls full of well-dressed shoppers, tell you that Xian is not that far behind.
Further Reading: Xian History
Heritages of Ancient City: 2 Days to Provincial History Museum, City Wall, Terracotta Warriors...
Historical Xian: 3 Days Luxury visit of the city
Golden Triangle: 8 Days of Beijing and Shanghai
More Xian Tours