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Xi’an History: Facts, Historic Sites, and Travel Tips

Xi’an’s history is a live and vivid book that has recorded the great historic changes of China. As a Roman philosopher named Augustus said, “the history of a city is the history of a nation”. Over 3,000 years of Chinese history have accumulated in Xi’an, so you can experience the authentic look of Chinese civilization as well as the national Chinese spirit in Xi’an.

It is one of the four oldest cities in the world, with Rome being in the west while Xi’an is in the east. From the 2,000-year-old Terracotta Army to the well-known Silk Road recorded in The Travels of Marco Polo, Xi’an is a historic treasure that offers endless surprises to the world. You can’t miss this charming city if you are going to visit China in the future.

It can be difficult to understand Xi’an’s history well just by reading an article so we have introduced the most famous facts about Xi’an and given you some useful travel tips in this article.

Historic Facts: the Essential Information about Xi’an’s History

What Does Xi’an Mean?

Historic Xi'an City Wall
Historic Xi’an City Wall

Xi’an’s ancient name during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) was Chang’an, meaning “lasting political stability”. In 1369, the Ming government changed Fengyuan to Xi’an, meaning “the lasting northwest political stability”.

What is Xi’an Famous For?

Xi’an is famous for its glorious history, rich Chinese civilization, delicious local floury food, and well-known historic sites, such as the Terracotta Army and Xi’an City Wall.

When Was Xi’an Founded?

Xi’an was established as the capital city in 202 BC by the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty. However, cities have existed around Xi’an since the 11th century BC.

When Did Xi’an First Become the Capital of China?

Xi’an first became a Chinese capital in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1057 BC).

During What Periods Was Xi’an the Capital of China?

Xi'an historic site
Xi’an historic site
  • The Western Zhou Dynasty (1045–771 BC)
  • The Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC)
  • The Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD)
  • The Xin Dynasty (9–23)
  • The Eastern Han Dynasty (190–195)
  • The Western Jin Dynasty (312–316 BC)
  • The Former Zhao Dynasty (318–329)
  • The Former Qin Dynasty (351–384)
  • The Later Qin Dynasty (384–417)
  • The Western Wei Dynasty (535–557)
  • The Northern Zhou Dynasty (557–581)
  • The Sui Dynasty (581–605)
  • The Tang Dynasty (618–684 and then 705–904)

Which Famous Dynasties Were Founded in Xi’an?

The most famous dynasties included the Western Zhou Dynasty, the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the Qin Dynasty, and the Tang Dynasty.

Who Were the Famous Emperors in Xi’an?

Money for different dynasties
Money for different dynasties
  • King Wu of Zhou (1046–1043 BC)
  • The First Emperor of Qin (221–210 BC)
  • Emperor Wu of Han (157–87 BC)
  • Emperor Wen of Sui (541–604)
  • Emperor Taizong of Tang (598–649)
  • Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty (624–705)

Which Important Dynasty Was Based in Xi’an?

Xi’an was home to the Tang Dynasty — the most flourishing dynasty in Chinese history.

What’s the Relationship Between the Silk Road and Xi’an?

The Silk Road was established during the Han Dynasty when Xi’an was its capital. Xi’an, therefore, was the east terminal of the famous Silk Road.

What’s the Relationship Between the Terracotta Army and Xi’an?

The Terracotta Army was built in Xi’an during the Qin Dynasty.

Xi’an Historic Sites and Travel Tips

Do you want to learn more interesting facts about Xi’an? You will find these top 10 facts about Xi’an very helpful. Thousands of years passed and Xi’an was a cultural center for emperors and historic sites. As a capital of 13 dynasties, you can’t miss the following attractions in Xi’an:

1.  The Terracotta Army — the Eighth Wonder of the World

The Terracotta Warriors
The Terracotta Warriors
  • Historic facts: built in the Qin Dynasty for Emperor Qin Shi Huang
  • Location: 30 kilometers east of Xi’an
  • Admission ticket: 150 yuan (March 1 – November 30); 120 yuan (December 1 to February 28)

So that he could continue to rule in the afterlife, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the creation of over 8,000 soldiers, 520 horses, and 130 chariots. The Terracotta Army remained hidden underground for more than 2,000 years so it was a great archaeological find when these terracotta statues were first unearthed by accident. Today, the Terracotta Army is a must-see historic attraction in China. You’ll be shocked by the strong atmosphere when you see thousands of these lifelike terracotta soldiers.

2.  Xi’an City Wall — the Most Complete and Largest City Wall in China

  • Historic facts: Xi’an City Wall was erected in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty.
  • Address: 2 South Street, Beilin District
  • Admission ticket: 45 yuan

Xi’an’s ancient city wall stretches for a length of about 14 kilometers and is one of the largest and best-preserved city walls in China. Surrounded by a moat, watchtowers, and ancient gates, Xi’an City Wall lets you feel the authentic breath of Chinese history. As the largest city wall, cycling along it is a very popular activity in Xi’an. You will also enjoy the beautiful nighttime view when it is lit up.

3.  The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi — a Hidden Highlight in Xi’an

The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi
The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi
  • Historic facts: The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi was the burial place for the Western Han Dynasty’s Emperor Jingdi (188–141 BC) and his empress.
  • Location: 20 kilometers away from Xi’an city center
  • Admission ticket: 90 yuan

Many tourists only visit the site of the Terracotta Army when they are in Xi’an. However, the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi is also a highlight that you may be unaware of. Compared with the grand and magnificent Terracotta Army, Emperor Jingdi didn’t like to waste too much money or use too many laborers to construct his tomb. Therefore, you can see smaller terracotta warriors and details of his achievements in Chinese history in this museum. Walk through an underground glass corridor to see these vivid terracotta warriors closely.

4.  The Muslim Quarter — the Hub of the Muslim Community

  • Historic facts: As trade on the Silk Road flourished following the Han Dynasty, more and more foreign merchants arrived in China, especially Muslims from Arabia.
  • Location: west of Bell and Drum Tower Square, Beilin District
  • Admission ticket: free

Just from the name alone, you can deduce that the Muslim Quarter is a hub of the Muslim community in Xi’an. A number of Arabian Muslim merchants emigrated to China and settled along the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty. Nowadays, the Muslim Quarter is a popular tourist place to taste local food and hunt for interesting souvenirs. You can also experience multiple cultures there if you are interested in that experience.

5.  Shaanxi History Museum — Have an Overview of Xi’an’s History

Shanxi History Museum
Shanxi History Museum
  • Historic facts: There are 370,000 exhibits in the museum, which vividly display Xi’an’s history from 1,150,000 years ago to the 21st
  • Address: 91 Xiaozhai East Road, XiaoZhai Business Street, Yanta District
  • Admission ticket: free but don’t forget to take your passport to get a free admission ticket

Shaanxi History Museum is a useful way to help you learn about Xi’an’s history and the local culture. Built in 1983, Shaanxi History Museum houses 370,000 exhibits. The exhibition areas consist of four main sections: the permanent exhibition halls, the temporary exhibition halls, the virtual exhibition halls, and the topical exhibition halls, which include mural paintings and other treasures from the Tang Dynasty. Visiting this museum will help you gain a deeper insight into many local sites, such as the Terracotta Army and the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi.

6.  TangBo Art Museum — an Interesting Chinese Cultural Museum

Tangbo Art Museum
Tangbo Art Museum
  • Historic facts: With a professional guide service provided by TangBo Art Museum, you can learn about and experience ancient Chinese paintings, calligraphy, and a tea ceremony.
  • Address: 26 South Gong Yuan Road, Yanta District
  • Admission ticket: 50 yuan

Founded in 2000, TangBo Art Museum is a museum displaying Shaanxi folk artworks, ancient Chinese paintings, and Chinese calligraphies. Farmers’ paintings, shadow play puppets from Hua County, papercuttings from the north of Shaanxi Province, and wooden pictures show you the most authentic local art and lifestyles.

The most attractive activity for tourists is practicing some Chinese painting or calligraphy with the help of a professional teacher. A tea ceremony, learning how to make papercuttings, and understanding how to appreciate the art of Chinese painting are also interesting activities offered to tourists.

7.  Tang Paradise — the Biggest Tang Dynasty Cultural Park

  • Historic facts: a vivid exhibit to demonstrate the Tang Dynasty’s culture
  • Address: Furong South Road, Yanta District
  • Admission ticket: 108 yuan

As the largest cultural theme park, Tang Paradise boasts the largest-scale Tang-style architectures. Divided into twelve themes ranging from emperors to poems to folk stories to dance, the splendid civilization of the Tang Dynasty seems to have reappeared there. The night scene is very resplendent, and the cultural corridor, Fanglin Garden, and Ziyun Tower are dotted with colorful lights everywhere. Abundant performances will make your night more joyful and fun.

8.  Big Wild Goose Pagoda — the Symbol of Ancient Xi’an

Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  • Historic facts: Built under the supervision of the eminent monk Xuanzang thousands of years ago, Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in China.
  • Address: Yanta West Road, XiaoZhai Business Street, Yanta District
  • Admission ticket: 80 yuan for a discounted ticket

Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built under Master Xuanzang’s supervision in the Tang Dynasty. Despite having experienced thousands of years of vicissitudes, Big Wild Goose Pagoda has managed to retain its original appearance.

Now, it’s the landmark of Xi’an and you can get an overview of the urban city from the top of the tower. Inside the building, you can find evidence of the long history of this architectural structure when you see the delicate paintwork from the Tang Dynasty.

9.  The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower — an Ancient Way to Record Time

  • Historic facts: Bell and Drum Tower Square was the official location for the Department of State Affairs during the Tang Dynasty. It was also used as a way to tell local people the time in ancient times.
  • Address: Beiyuanmen, Lianhu District
  • Admission ticket: free

Bell and drum towers are common to see in China’s cities because, since the Ming Dynasty, each city constructed them as a way to tell the time in ancient times. At dawn, people would hear the sound from the bell tower while it would be dusk when sound emitted from the drum tower. Xi’an’s Bell Tower and Drum Tower are close to the Muslim Quarter. At night, this area offers many nice activities: you can enjoy the music fountain in Bell and Drum Tower Square, see the golden nighttime view of these ancient towers, and taste delicious local food in the Muslim Quarter.

10.        The Stele Forest — a Museum Collection of Various Ancient Stone Steles

  • Historic facts: Originally opened in 962, the Stele Forest became Shaanxi’s principal museum in 1944 and is now a cultural center for collecting and researching ancient stone steles.
  • Address: 15 Sanxue Street, Beilin District
  • Admission ticket: 50 yuan from December 1 to February 28; 75 yuan from March 1 to November 30

The Stele Forest was formerly known as Shaanxi’s provincial museum. It is an art museum that houses collections of stone steles from many dynasties. There are three sections in this museum including the Confucius Temple, the forest of stone steles, and the Stone Carving Art Room. The most famous stone steles were made by Yan Zhenqing, Liu Gongquan, and Huai Su.

Recommended Tours With Trippest

Whether your time is limited or you just want to experience the most authentic history and culture, Trippest has prepared some boutique tours (mini group tours with no more than 6 travelers) for you:

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