Xi'an (Chinese: 西安; pinyin: Xī'ān; Wade–Giles: Hsi-An, also spelled Hsi-an, Hsian, or Sian) is the capital of the Shaanxi province, and a sub-provincial city in the People's Republic of China. One of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, the city was known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty. Xi'an is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, and Tang. Xi'an is the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army.
Since the 1990s, as part of the economic revival of interior China especially for the central and northwest regions, the city of Xi'an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China's space exploration program. It's now one the most populous metropolitan areas in inland China with more than 8 million inhabitants, including urban parts of Xianyang (Weicheng and Qindu districts).
Xi'an has a rich and culturally significant history. The Lantian Man was discovered in 1963 in Lantian County, 50 km southeast of Xi'an, and dates back at least 500,000 years before present. A 6,500 year old Banpo Neolithic village in was discovered in 1954 on the outskirts of the city proper.
Xi'an became a cultural and political centre of China in the 11th century BCE with the founding of the Zhou Dynasty. The capital of Zhou was established in the twin settlements of Fengjing (灃京) and Haojing, together known as Fenghao, located south west of contemporary Xi'an. Following the Warring States Period, China was unified under the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) for the first time, with the capital located at Xianyang, just northwest of modern Xi'an. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army and his mausoleum just to the east of Xi'an almost immediately after his ascension to the throne.
In 202 BCE, the founding emperor Liu Bang of the Han Dynasty established his capital in Chang'an County; his first palace Changle Palace (長樂宮, perpetual happiness) was built across the river from the ruin of the Qin capital. This is traditionally regarded as the founding date of Chang'an, or Xi'an. Two years later, Liu Bang built Weiyang Palace north of modern Xi'an. The original Xi'an city wall was started in 194 BCE and took 4 years to finish. Upon completion, the wall measured 25.7 km (15.97 mi) in length and 12–16 m (39.37–52.49 ft) in thickness at the base, enclosing an area of 36 km2 (13.90 sq mi). In the year 190, amidst uprisings and rebellions just prior to the Three Kingdoms Period, a powerful warlord named Dong Zhuo moved the court from Luoyang to Chang'an in a bid to avoid a coalition of other powerful warlords against him.
Following several hundred years of unrest, Sui Dynasty united China again in 582. The emperor of Sui ordered a new capital to be built southeast of the Han capital, called Daxing (大興, great prosperity). It consisted of three sections: the Xi'an Palace, the Imperial City, and the civilian section, with a total area of 84 km² within the city walls. At the time, it was the largest city in the world. The city was renamed Chang'an in the Tang Dynasty. In the mid-7th century, after returning from his pilgrimage to India, Buddhist monk Xuan Zang (popularly known as Tang Sanzang) established a translation centre for Sanskrit scriptures.
Construction of the Great Wild Goose Pagoda began in 652. This pagoda was 64 m (209.97 ft) in height, and was built to store the translations of Buddhist sutras obtained from India by the Xuan Zang. In 707, construction of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda began, and measured 45 m (147.64 ft) tall at the time of completion. The massive 1556 Shaanxi earthquake eventually damaged the tower and reduced its height to 43.4 m (142.39 ft).
Chang'an was devastated at the end of the Tang Dynasty in 904. Residents were forced to move to the new capital city in Luoyang. Only a small area in the city continued to be occupied thereafter. During the Ming Dynasty, a new wall was constructed in 1370 and remains intact to this day. The wall measures 11.9 km in circumference, 12 m (39.37 ft) in height, and 15–18 m (49.21–59.06 ft) in thickness at the base; a moat was also built outside the walls. The new wall and moat would protect a much smaller city of 12 km².
In October 1911, during the revolution in which the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, the Manchus living in the north-eastern zone within the city walls were massacred. In 1936, the Xi'an Incident took place inside the city during the Chinese Civil War. The incident brought the Kuomintang (KMT) and Communist Party of China to a truce to in order to concentrate on fighting against the Japanese Invasion.
On May 4, 2010, a new metro tunnel started in Xi’an, which will ease the move for commuter travel from surface streets to below ground