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City Guide -- Xian

Travel Guide of Xian
Xian, the home of the Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horse, is the capital of Shaanxi Province and also the political, economic and cultural center of the Northwest China. With the development of travel industry and the implementation of the open policy, it has become one of the nation's key tourist cities and tourism has become the mainstay in Shaanxi's economy.
General Features.
Xian lies at longitude 103 east by latitude 34 north, and 412 meters above sea level. It has an average annual temperature of 13, and an average annual precipitation of 604 mm. The rainy season comes in July, August and September. The city now has under its jurisdiction nine districts -- Xincheng, Beilin, Lianhu, Yanta, Weiyang, Baqiao, Lintong, Yanliang and Chang’an, and four counties -- Lantian, Huxian, Zhouzhi and Gaoling. As a whole, Xi'an covers an area of 10108 square kilometers and is with a population of 8,305,400. The city proper occupies an area 1066 square kilometers, and reaches a population of 5,489,900. (Update in Nov. 2008)
Geographic Location.
With an elevation of around 500 meters, the Wei River Plain (also called Guan Zhong Basin Plain) extends between Baoji City in the west and Tongguan Pass in the east and borders the Qinling Mountains in the south and the Loess Plateau in the north. Lying in the warm zone, the plain has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Chequered with rivers, the Wei, Jing, Luoe, and Ba Rivers as well as with irrigation canals, the Jinghui, Weihui and Luohui canals, the fertile land on the plain has easy access to irrigation facilities and an abundant yield of farm produce. Xi'an lies in the centre to the south of this plain, a favorable geographical location surrounded by water and hills. 
Xi’an is located in the middle of a valley, a flooded Plain by The Wei River, surrounded by Qin Ling Mountains on three sides. Qin Ling Mountains is the watershed of the Yangtze River & Yellow River, and the dividing line of the two different climates in China, semi tropics area in the south and the north temperate zone in the north. Many variety of the plants & animals are available, ’cause the two different climates and the special environment. Qin Ling Mountains is the paradise for hikers, cliff climbers, horticultural funs, animal lovers. Here you could find Kingdonia uniflora, lacquer trees, mulberry fields and pandas, Crested Ibis, golden haired monkeys, The Qin Ling Mountains is named after the dynasty Qin, which was spelled as “Chin” instead of “Qin “before. Qin is also the nick name of Shaanxi Pro. Actually the English expression of “China “was given to this country by Indians, because of the first unified empire “Qin “.
Culture Heritage.
If Beijing is the political heart of China, then Xi'an is its historical center. An ancient philosopher once mused that all those seeking the truth should go to China. A contemporary philosopher added that you can’t tell you have been to China, if you do not have a journey to Xi'an. This reflects the important position Xi'an holds as a famed historical and cultural city and one of China's seven major ancient capitals.
The area around Xi'an was inhabited by the progenitors of the Chinese nation as far back to homo erectus of paleolith age. In the 1960s, archaeologists discovered human fossils and cultural relics dating back to 1.15 million years ago in Lantian County in the southeast of downtown of Xi'an. 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 town of Xi'an. These archaeological discoveries indicate that the area around Xi'an is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization.
Xi'an was called Chang'an in Han & Tang Dynasties. The connotation of "Chang'an" is "a place of permanent peace". It was not until the prosperous Han Dynasty that Chang'an became famous both at home and abroad as the largest and busiest international metropolis of that age in the world. Xi'an obtained its present name in 1369. It stands first on the seven largest ancient capitals in China. From the 11 century B.C. onwards, Xi'an or its vicinity was established as the capital city by 11 dynasties successively, including the Western Zhou, the Qin, the Han, the Sui and the Tang, and it also served as the capital of two peasant regimes respectively under the rule of Huang Chao and Li Zicheng. 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.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Xi'an was one of the two 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. 

As one of the seven ancient capitals in China, Xi'an served as the capitals of 11 dynasties for 1,120 years after Chinese society had entered the civilized stage. It’s the city which had been served as political center for a longest period among the seven ancient capitals in China.  

Xian is also a world-famous tourist city, the home of the Qin Terra Cotta Army,a treasure house of cultural relics. The remains of past civilizations furnish evidence of every major epoch in China's half a million history, making for a particularly illustrative textbook of Chinese culture. The history apparent in Xi'an is so ancient and continuous that the city has no parallel anywhere as a cultural site. Here one can visit the sites once inhabited by its primitive people; admire the bronze wares manufactured in the Bronze Age; wander through the city ruins of the Qin, Han, Sui and Tang Dynasties; imagine for oneself the clamour of the old Oriental metropolis; explore the imperial tombs of the Qin, Han and Tang Dynasties, testimony to the pervasive power of the feudal ruling class; ramble in temples and pagoda courtyards, tracing vestiges of the Silk Road; and study stone inscriptions to appreciate Chinese calligraphy. Not least, Xi'an is the site of excavation of the vast army of terracotta warriors and horses from the tomb of China's First Emperor, Qin Shihuang, from whom the country derives its name.
An episode in the history of Sino-Western exchanges runs as follows: One day when Julius Caesar went to attend a theatre performance, he found himself the object of the surprised stares of the whole audience. His glamorous gown made of Chinese silk had triggered their interest. From that time onwards, Chinese silk was high fashion in Rome and people competed with each other, dressing up in it to display their wealth. As a result, the price of silk went up so sharply that it equaled the gold price. The home of this Chinese silk so popular with the ancient Romans was Xi'an, called Chang'an over 2,000 years ago and then the capital of the Han Dynasty. 

Xian, the eternal city, records the great changes of the Chinese nation just like a living history book. It says: “Every piece of stone here tells a vivid story.” Or “if you start to dig in Xi’an, no matter in or out the town, you would find something underground.” Xi'an was the starting point of the world-famous Silk Road. It can be well likened to a history museum. Moving around this old city is like going through thousands of years back in time. In this vast museum you will see the Banpo Village Remains of a matriarchal community; the Huaqing Hot Springs which was noted as early as the Zhou Dynasty more than 3,000 years back; Qin Shihuang's terra-cotta warriors and horses, known as the eighth wonder of the world; the imperial cemetery grounds of the Han and Tang dynasties; the Great Mosque with unique features; the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda built in the Tang Dynasty; the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower of the Ming Dynasty; and the Forest of Steles with a rich collection of age-old stone steles.
The Achievements of Xi'an
Xi'an is the largest commercial and trade-hub, as well as the largest material distribution center in the Mid-Western Region of northern China. As shown in a report in 1998, there are more than 100,000 commercial service networks, 435 consumption markets, and 485 various types of wholesale markets, and nearly 1,000 wholesale agencies.
Through fifty years development, Xi'an has already set up sordid industry basement in certain areas. Aviation, aerospace, electronics, machinery, communications, instruments and meters, and electric power are typical industry in Xi'an. In some of these areas, the industries in Xi'an has not only reached the top level in China, but also has equaled to the world advance level.
Xi'an has formed a transportation network of air routes, railways and highways. Xi'an Civil Airline Service has opened 95 domestic airlines to 44 cities, two international airlines to Nagoya and Hiroshima in Japan and regional airlines to Hong Hong and Marco. It also has opened direct lines to Okinawa and Fukuoka in Japan and Jidda in Saudi Arabia. Highways, first and second grade highways, as well as the under-construction first-grade highways and express ways continually increase the transportation capability of Xi'an. Post and Telecommunication also grow rapidly in Xi'an. Xi'an has opened direct dialing services to more than 190 foreign countries and regions and 900 Chinese cities and country towns. EMS has expanded to 94 countries and near 2,000 Chinese cities.
Xi'an is powerful in terms of its scientific and technological strength, the comprehensive strength ranks second in China. Xi'an boasts 727 scientific research institutions; technical personnel constitute 26.4% of the total working staff in Xi'an. The proportion of technical personnel in Xi'an is the highest in China. There are 48 institutions of higher learning. A batch of advanced experimental bases and testing centers has the capability of assimilate, digest and transfer state-level and world-level technologies. The applied technologies in the fields of aeronautics, aerospace, mechanics, electronics, meter and instrument, optics, textile and power equipment are in the leading position in China. Xi'an is one of the important scientific research and higher education bases in China.
The Sightseeing in Xi'an
The cultural and historical significance of Xi'an, as well as the abundant relics and sites, help Shaanxi Provence enjoy the laudatory title of ‘Natural History Museum‘. The Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses is praised as ‘the eighth wonders of the world‘, Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang is listed on the World Heritage List in 1987 by UNESCO, and the City Wall of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) is the largest and most intact Ming Dynasty castle in the world. In the city, there is the 6,000 years old Banpo Matriarchal Village Remains from the Neolithic Age (approximately from 8000 BC to 5000 BC), and the Forest of Stone Steles that holds about 3,000 stone steles of different periods,  ranges from the Han Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. Around Xi'an, the Famen Temple enjoys the reputation of being the “forefather of pagodas and temples in Central Shaanxi,” because it holds the relics of finger bones of Sakyamuni -- the founder of Buddhism. The natural landscape around Xi'an is also marvelous Mt.Huashan one of the five sacred  mountains of Chinese Taoism, is famous for its breath-taking cliffs and its unique characteristics. 
(By Chris Ning & Angela Zhangyue)
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