Xi'an served as the imperial capital for ten ancient imperial dynasties and a number of regional kingdoms. The ten dynasties when Xi’an (Western Peace), then called Chang’an (Perpetual Peace), was the capital of China are as follows: Qin (221–206 BC at Xianyang just northwest of Xi’an), Western Han (200–8 BC), Xin (8–23 AD), Eastern Han (191–195), Western Jin (313–316), Wei (535–557), Zhou (556–581), Tang (618–690), Zhou (690–705) and Tang (705–904).
Xi'an has a great number of precious relics and historical sites, some dating back to its times as capital. More than 4,000 historical sites and tombs have been excavated.
Xian’s history began in the Stone Age, 3,000 years ago, when the Western Zhou Dynasty founded its capital at Haojing, today’s Xi'an. The Western Zhou Dynasty was famous for its bronze, some of which is now displayed in Shaanxi Provincial Museum.
Barbarian invaders caused the collapse of the Western Zhou Dynasty in 771 BC. The Eastern Zhou Dynasty began and made its capital at Luoyang. In 221 BC, Emperor Qin Shihuang unified the country and built a strong feudal society, with its capital at Xianyang, just north of Xi'an.
The Qin Dynasty was soon sacked and the Han Dynasty took power. The Han rulers based their goverment in Xi'an. The Han Dynasty ruled in Xi'an from 206 BC to 220 AD, during which time the city began to flourish. Xi'an was the starting point of the world's longest overland ancient trading route, the Silk Road. It was a highly significant trade route linking ancient China with Central Asia and European countries.
However it wasn't until the Tang Dynasty (618–907) that Chang’an (today’s Xi'an) came into its own. Chang’an was one of the biggest international cities at that time, a great metropolis of equal importance with Rome in its heyday. The Tang Dynasty witnessed advances in many fields and the capital city boomed. It was built with grand, symmetrical layouts and became a model for city design at that time.
After the fall of the Tang Dynasty, Xi'an went into decline and its tenure as capital of China came to an end. Although Xi'an still played an important role as a commercial center on the Silk Road in the later dynasties, it never regained its political or cultural importance.
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I updated this article on February 27, 2014
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