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Xian is the capital of the Shaanxi province in the People's republic of China and a sub-provincial city. As one of the most important cities in Chinese history, Xi'an is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China because it has been the capital (under various names) of 13 dynasties, including the Zhou, Qin, Han, the Sui dynasty, and the Tang. Xi'an is also renowned for being the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and for the location of the Terracotta Army, made during the Qin Dynasty. The city has more than 3,100 years of history. The ancient city of Chang'an is within Xi'an's borders, but is offset from the existing walled city of Xi'an.

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 center of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China's space exploration program.

Xi'an became a major cultural and industrial centre of China in 11th century BCE, with the founding of the Zhou Dynasty. The capital of Zhou was established in Fēng and Hào , both located just west of contemporary Xi'an. Following the several century long Warring States Period, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) unified China for the first time and the capital became Xianyang , just northwest from modern Xi'an. Before his death, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army and his mausoleum which is located in the modern city's suburb.

In 202 BCE, the founding emperor Liu Bang of the Han Dynasty established Chang'an County as the 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, or Xi'an. Two years later, Liu Bang would build Weiyang Palace north of modern Xi'an. The original Xi'an city wall was started in 194 BCE, the construction took 4 years to finish and the wall measured 25.7 km in length, 12-16 m in thickness at the base. The area within the wall was ca. 36 km². In year 190, amidst uprisings and rebellions just prior to the Three Kingdoms Period, a powerful warlord named Dong Zhuo moves the court from Luoyang to Chang'an in a bid to avoid a coalition of other powerful warlords against him.

The Han Dynasty saw the rise of the Silk Road, a great transcontinental route linking the Roman Empire in the West with the imperial court of China in the East. The ancient route started at Chang’an , the capital of the Han Dynasty, reached the Yellow River at Lanzhou, then skirted westward along deserts and mountains before dividing into three routes at the oasis of Dunhuang. Walking through Xinjiang, brave ancient merchants traveled westward all the way to Rome.

After a period of disunion, Sui Dynasty united the country again in 582 and the emperor ordered a new capital to be built southeast of the Han capital, called Daxing . It consisted of three sections: the Xi'an Palace, the Imperial City, and the civilian section. The total area within the wall was 84 km², The main street Zhuque Avenue measured 155 m in width. It was the largest city in the world.

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July 2006

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