Xian was the capital of the Chinese Empire at various times for 1,100
years and a symbol of China's ancient history and past glories. It is
situated in the fertile valleys of the Wei and Yellow Rivers,
traditionally known as the "cradle of Chinese civilization." The
earliest evidence of human habitation dates back more than 6,000 years to
the villages of primitive Chinese tribes.
Xian was China's capital during several dynasties. Over 2,000 years ago, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first ruler to unify China, built his capital of Xianyang just east of modern day Xian. The Han Dynasty that followed also established its capital near Xian, calling it Chang'an or "Eternal Peace". During this period, Chang'an was the starting point for the great trade caravans of the Silk Road. In the 5th century, the Sui Dynasty rebuilt Chang'an on the plain where modern Xian now stands. By the 7th century, the Tang Dynasty reigned over the Golden Age of China, and Chang'an had become the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the world, attracting foreigners from all parts of Asia and beyond. In 1368, the ruler of the Ming Dynasty renamed the city Xian, meaning "Western Peace."
A number of important landmarks remain from Xian's rich history. The city wall is one of the few in China that has survived from ancient times. Other reminders of Xian's past include the Big Goose and Little Goose Pagodas, built as Buddhist temples in the 7th century, and Qing Zhen Si, a mosque founded in 742 that still serves as the place of worship for 30,000 Chinese Muslims.
The most famous attraction in Xian is the Terra-cotta Soldiers. Peasants digging a well first discovered these pottery soldiers in 1974. They are regarded as one of the most spectacular archaeological finds of the 20th century. The soldiers, representing Emperor Qin Shi Huang's imperial guards, are located 1500 meters from the emperor's Imperial Tomb. The warriors have unique facial features and an array of weapons, poses, and heights. Over three thousand soldiers, 96 horses, and 11 chariots have been unearthed so far. Experts believe thousands more will be discovered.
The current population of Xian and the surrounding area is 6.5 million. Xian has been a site of intensive industrialization in recent decades; manufactures include machinery, textiles and light industrial products.