Where Is Chang'an - A History of Xi'an
Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi province in central China and is steeped in history as it not only was the cultural and political capital of China for hundreds of years, but also the beginning point of the Silk Road leading west. A crossroads for trade, Xi'an has seen dynasties come and go.
Fertile and tillable, the land in southern Shaanxi province has been settled for thousands of years. The first inhabitants lived 7,000 years ago in late Neolithic times and settled the area near the Wei He, a branch of the Yellow River, in present day Xi'an. A matriarchal farming society, the Banpo people's settlement has been unearthed and can be visited on a tour of Xi'an today.
The Western Zhou Dynasty (1027-771 BC) ruled China from Xianyang (then called Hao), just outside present-day Xi'an. After the Zhous moved their capital to Luoyang in Henan province, Xianyang remained a large and influential city.
Qin Dynasty & the Terracotta Warriors:
From 221-206 BC, Qin Shi Huang Di unified China into a centralized feudal state. He used Xianyang, near Xi'an, as his base and the city became the capital of his empire. To protect his newly established state, Qin decided a large defense barricade was required and began work on what is today the Great Wall.
Despite his empire not seeing 2 decades, Qin is credited with founding the imperial system that saw China through the next 2,000 years. Qin bequested China with another tangible treasure: the Terracotta Army. It is estimated that 700,000 men worked on the tomb that took 38 years to build. Qin died in 210 BC.
Han and Eastern Han Dynasties & Chang'an:
The Han, (206BC-220AD) who conquered the Qin, built their new capital at Chang'an, just north of present-day Xi'an. The town thrived and trade began with the Middle East and the Roman Empire, becoming the portal to the Silk Road, the trade route that led west. The Hans later also moved their capital to Luoyang in Henan province, but Chang'an remained a prosperous city due to its economic importance but declined in political influence.
Tang Dynasty - China's Golden Age:
After the Hans, wars broke the country apart until the Sui Dynasty (581-618) was established. The Sui emperor began reviving Chang'an but it was the Tangs (618-907) who moved their capital back and established peace throughout China. The Silk Road trade flourished and Chang'an became a city of world-wide importance. Academics, students, traders and merchants from around the world visited Chang'an making it a cosmopolitan metropolis of its time.
After the Tang Dynasty fell in 907, Chang'an fell into decline. It remained a regional capital.
Xi'an is now a place of industry and commerce. The provincial capital of Shaanxi which is rich in natural resources like coal and oil, Xi,an produces much of China's energy. It is also a large tourist destination due to the draw of the astounding tomb of Emperor Qin and the Army of the Terracotta Warriors.