History of Xian

Xian city has more than 3,100 years of history. Xian is one of the most important cities in Chinese history, Xian was one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China because it has been the capital of 13 dynasties, such as Western Zhou (11th century BC - 771 BC), Qin (221 BC - 206 BC), Western Han (206 BC - 24 AD) and Tang (618 - 907). Xian was the start point of the Silk Road. It was called Chang'an, meaning "Forever Peace" in those old days. The city's capital status lasted for 1,608 years. As regards the number of dynasties and span of time, Xi'an served as an ancient capital beyond compare.

xian old city wallThe area around Xi'an was inhabited by the progenitors of the Chinese nation as far back as 500,000-600,000 years ago. In the 1960s, archaeologists discovered in Lantian County to the southeast of Xi'an human fossils and cultural relics belonging to the Paleolithic Period. In the 1950s, the remains from the Neolithic Period were discovered at Banpo Village to the east of Xi'an City. In the 70s, the Jiangzhai Ruins from a later part of the Neolithic period were discovered at Lintong County to the northeast of Xi'an City. These archaeological discoveries indicate that the area around Xi'an is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization.

Zhou Dynasty established its capital in Feng and Hao between the late 11th century BC and 770 BC, both located west of contemporary Xian.

Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC) constructed its capital in the north shore of Wei River, which was burned by Xiang Yu at the end of the dynasty.

202 BC: Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty, established Chang'an County as his capital; his first palace Changle Palace was built across the river from the ruin of the Qin capital. This is traditionally regarded as the founding date of Chang'an and Xian.

200 BC: Emperor Liu Bang built Weiyang Palace in Chang'an.

194 BC: Construction of the first city wall of Chang'an began, which did not finished until 190 BC. The wall measured 25.7 km in length, 12-16 m in thickness at the base. The area within the wall was ca. 36 square km.
AD 582: Emperor of Sui Dynasty ordered a new capital to be built southeast of the Han capital, called Daxing (great excitement). It consisted of three sections: the Palace, the Imperial City, and the civilian section. The total area within the wall was 84 square km, The main street Zhuque Avenue measured 155 m in width. It was the largest city in the world. The city was renamed Chang'an (everlasting peace) in Tang Dynasty.

7th century: Buddhist monk Xuan Zang, well-known as Tang Sanzang in China, established a sizeable translation centre after returning from India with Sanskrit scriptures.

AD 701: Construction of Da Yan Pagoda (Great Wild Goose Pagoda) began. It measured 64 m in height. This pagoda was constructed for the storage of the translation of the Buddha Sutra obtained from India by the monk Xuan Zang.

Bell TowerAD 707: Construction of Xiao Yan Pagoda (Little Wild Goose Pagoda) began. It measured 45 m in height. After the earthquake of 1556 AD, its height was reduced to 43.4 m. city wall xian

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Xi'an was the largest city in the world. Chang'an, was linked to many central Asian regions and Europe via the Silk Road, with thousands of foreign traders living the city.

AD 904: The end of Tang Dynasty brought destruction to Chang'an. Residences were forced to move to Luoyang, the new capital. Only a small area continued to be occupied after the destruction.

AD 1370: Ming Dynasty built a new wall to protect a much smaller city of 12 square km. The wall measures 11.9 km in circumference, 12 m in height, and 15-18 m in thickness at the base.

This city was the site of the Xian Incident in 1936 during World War II. The Xian Incident brought the Communist Party of China and Kuomintang to a truce so the two forces could concentrate on fighting against Japan.