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Xian History & Culture


Xian enjoys equal fame with Athens, Cairo, and Rome as one of the four major ancient civilization capitals. From the 11th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D., there are 13 dynasties established governments in the city.

Prehistoric Times

In ancient times, Lantian Man left the footprints of primitive human beings here and in Neolithic times, Banpo ancestors established village in the place.

In 1963, the Lantian Man site dating back to at least 500,000 years was discovered at Lantian County, about 50 km southeast of Xian. Banpo Neolithic Village was found in 1953 on the eastern outskirts of the city, which is the miniature of primitive society.

  • Lantian Man Site
  • Banpo Museum
  • Banpo Village Site

West Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 771 BC)

In this period, Emperor Wen (Ji Chang) established Fengjing (located at the present southwest of Xian) and Emperor Wu (Ji Fa) established Haojing (situated at the present northwest of Changan District in Xian), which were actually the two divisions of the capital city.

With the religious and cultural center of Fengjing, political center of Haojing, the capital was titled Zhongzhou which was the beginning that Xian was taken as a city. After Emperor Wu (Ji Fa) established Zhou Dynasty with the capital of Fenghao (the combination of Fengjing and Haojing), Xian started to write the history of a capital city.

Qin (221 - 207 BC) and West Han (202 BC - 9 AD) Dynasties

The capital city of Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC) is Xianyang (about 23 km from Xian) while the royal palace was mostly located within Xian City. In the year 202 BC, Emperor Liu Bang founded West Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD) and started to construct the capital Changan (present Xian). The imperial palace was built on the basis of Qin palace and now the site sits at the northwestern suburbs of Xian City. After the opening of Silk Road, Changan became the center of oriental culture.

Qin (221 - 207 BC) and West Han (202 BC - 9 AD) Dynasties

Xian was respectively named as Daxing City in Sui Dynasty (581 - 618 AD) and again Changan in Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD). Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) is the most splendid period in Chinese history, enjoying world reputation for its prosperity in politics, economic, culture, social activities and arts, etc.

From Five Dynasties (907 - 960 AD) to Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD), Xian was set as a provincial city.

Yuan (1271 - 1368 AD), Ming (1368 - 1644 AD) and Qing (1644 - 1911 AD) Dynasties

From Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368 AD), the city was no longer a capital, but served as an administrative city with very booming business. Marco Polo arrived in Xian in 1275 and described the thriving atmosphere as grand and busy, which was owned to silk, brocade and all the necessities of life with reasonable prices.

It developed to be today’s Xian in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and gained the current name in the year of 1369. The city kept almost all the settlements in Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).

Oct 22, 1911, an armed uprising broke out in Xian and about a quarter of the city area was destroyed.

  • Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  • Terracotta Warriors and Horses
  • Ancient City Wall
Starting Point of the Silk Road

At around the 2nd century B.C., Emperor Wudi of West Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD) expanded the national territory and initiated the Silk Road from Xian connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. Then Zhang Qian served as an envoy and went abroad to the today’s middle and western Asia, which is the first economic and cultural exchange with western region in Chinese history. From then on, the Silk Road became world renowned.

The Silk Road is starting from the ancient Changan, through Hexi Corridor to Dunhuang, then falling into northern and southern parts across Xinjiang Province to reach Europe. It was the vital artery for cultural communication between China and the western area during the following thousand years.

Tourist Sites

With such a long and brilliant history, Xian travel is much focusing on historical sites. It boasts various sites from different times.

Banpo Museum unveiled the typical Neolithic village dating back to about 6,000 years, through the social organization, production, living condition, customs and arts, etc.

Terracotta Warriors and Horses shows the glory and military success during Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC).

Hanyangling Museum is the mausoleum of Emperor Jingdi and his Empress of West Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD).

Big Wild Goose Pagoda expresses the gloriousness of Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) and the flourishing Buddhism of that time.

The present City Wall preserved the appearance after renovations during Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD).

Shaanxi History Museum has a large collection of artifacts both modern and ancient.

If time permits, the holy Mt. Hua should be included into your list, for its challenging steepness.


With the glorious history and a long developing process, the diverse and assorted Xian food influenced the Chinese cuisines but had its own take on genre. Today Xian food is famed for the various local snacks, like Yangrou Paomo (cruded pancake in mutton soup), Rougamo (Chinese hamburger), Liang Pi (cold rice noodles), etc. and all kinds of noodles. Taste the food and experience the local culture cause every kind of snack has its own story with history. Please click here for the recommended restaurants to try.

  • Great Mosque
  • Local Snack
  • Qin Opera

The most influential religions in Xian are the Chinese traditional religion and Taoist schools. Besides, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have been developed greatly from 1980s.

Xian Great Mosque is the only one opened to public in China and a must-see for Xian travel.


Originated from West Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 771 BC), matured in Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC) and blossomed until Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD), Qin (short for Shaanxi Province) Opera is one of the oldest Chinese opera and the main type of drama in Shaanxi Province. Also called Luan Tan (random pluck), Qin Opera has developed its own system of unique vocal music, spoken parts, facial makeup, posture, role, category and acting, with direct influences on many branches of Chinese Opera.

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