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Xi'an, the Historical Center of China
2006-01-26 09:15:02

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One day, when Julius Caesar attended a theatre performance, he found himself the object of the surprised stares from the whole audience. His glamorous gown made of Chinese silk had triggered their interest. From that time on, Chinese silk was the height of fashion in Rome and people dressed up in it to display their wealth. As a result, the price of silk went up so sharply that, at one stage, it equaled the price of gold. This Chinese silk that was so popular with the ancient Romans came from Xi'an, called Chang'an over 2,000 years ago and now the capital city of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi Province, is located in the central area of northwest China. It sits on an ancient site and there are layers of cities of different names beneath and around the city. The land is fertile, renewed yearly by the silt from the Yellow River. Since the age of the nomads, people have settled in this rich land to take advantage of the relatively flat landscape, plentiful water, and ease of travel.

As one of the ancient capitals of China, it served 12 imperial dynasties for over a thousand years. Today, Xi'an is a treasure house of historical relics and cultural heritage.

Xian was called Chang'an in the Han Dynasty, which literally means a place of permanent peace. The city was renamed Xi'an in 1369. From the 11 century B.C. onwards, Xi'an was the capital city of 11 successive dynasties, including the Western Zhou, the Qin, the Han, the Sui and the Tang dynasties; in addition Xi'an had also served as the capital of two peasant regimes, under the rule of Huang Chao and Li Zicheng. The city's capital status lasted for 1,608 years.

Indeed, Xi'an has made an unparalleled contribution to the history and culture of China. For more than a millennium, it was the stage on which the histories of more than a dozen Chinese dynasties unfolded. Every move and every action originating from Xi'an had a far-reaching influence on the course of China's social development.

It is where, three thousand years ago, the aristocrats of the Zhou dynasty instituted rites and composed music, while offering libations to gods and ancestors and feasting themselves out of bronze utensils. It is where, two thousand years ago, the Qin army eliminated six rival states and initiated the first centralized autocracy, which started off a 20 century-long imperial history in China and exerted a far-reaching influence on subsequent dynasties.

Xi'an was the starting point of the famous Silk Road when the path to wealth emerged during the Han dynasty; and reached its historical apex during the flourishing and prosperous Tang Dynasty 1300 years ago. Many historians believe that the Chang'an of the Tang Dynasty was one of the largest cities in the world; and for thousands of international traders and merchants, Chang'an was a promising land full of fortune.

The English word "China" is a transliteration of the Chinese ideogram meaning "Qin". Those who live in and around Xi'an are direct descendents of the Qin people. Emperors chose Xi'an as their capital partly because of its fertile land and sufficient water supply and partly because it was militarily formidable, because of the mountains that skirted it. It is precisely because of its somewhat isolated location that Xi'an was able to preserve so much of its history and culture to this day.

The local dialect of Xi'an and the Guanzhong Plain is reflective of the rhythm and timbre of archaic Chinese. Weddings, funerals, celebrations, diet, and social etiquette are all evocative of the social mores and traditions of the dynasties of the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang.

So it's no wonder that some say Xi'an is the historical center of China today. An ancient philosopher once mused that all those seeking the truth should go to China; and a contemporary philosopher consolidated it with that no visit to China is complete without a journey to Xi'an.

Today, the rich historical and cultural heritage of Xi'an is visible through a wealth of cultural relics, museums, and historical sites including the world-famous terracotta warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The flat plane on the city's outskirts is strewn with the tomb mounds of emperors, empresses, aristocrats, ranking officials and scholars from ancient times. The remains of past civilizations are evidence of every major epoch in China's half a million year history. The history apparent in Xian is so ancient and continuous that the city has no parallel anywhere as a cultural site.

In Xi'an you will find yourself in a world of amazing artifacts. You can visit the sites once inhabited by China's primitive people; admire the bronze wares manufactured in the Bronze Age; wander through the city ruins of the Qin, Han, Sui and Tang Dynasties; imagine the hustle and bustle of the old Oriental metropolis; you can go to explore the imperial tombs of the Qin, Han and Tang Dynasties, testimony to the pervasive power of the feudal ruling class; you can also wander through temples and pagoda courtyards, tracing vestiges of the Silk Road; and study stone inscriptions to appreciate Chinese calligraphy. Not least, the site of the spectacular army of terracotta warriors and horses from the tomb of China's First Emperor, Qin Shihuang, is a must-see in your trip in Xi'an.


More about the City of Xi'an on CRIENGLISH Travel ---
[Travel Express Vol.76] Xi'an     [Photo Gallery] Xi'an     [Easy Travel] Discover a Real Xi'an
[Travel Story] China's Eternal City     [Hot Events] Red Tourism in Shaanxi Province


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