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Xi‘an Facts

Name: Xi'an (西安; Xī'ān (/she-ahn/)
Meaning: "Western Peace"
Previous names: Fenghao, Chengdu, Daxing, Fengyuan, Anxi, Jingzhao, Xijing


  • xianthe terra-cotta warriors and horsesTerracotta Warriors and Horses Museum
  • Called the birthplace of China's civilization
  • The capital city of 13 imperial dynasties
  • Many ancient ruins
  • The main eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road
  • One of the must-visit cities in China
  • Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum

Main Attractions

Most Popular Food

Roujia Mo, Xi'an Kabobs, Guan Tang Baozi, Biang Biang Noodles, Yang Rou Pao Mo

Most Popular Souvenirs and Local Products

Antiques, Cultural Artworks, Reproductions of Terracotta Army Figures, Peasant Paintings, Paper Cuttings


Capital city of 13 empires and 73 emperors

  • 1066 BC The first Zhou emperor made Fenghao the capital of the Zhou Empire
  • 771 BC Much of Fenghao was destroyed, and the capital was moved eastwards
  • 221 BC Emperor Qin Shihuang made Xianyang the capital of his large empire
  • 202 BC Liu Bang emerged as emperor of the Han Dynasty and made Chang'an his capital city
  • 582 AD Sui Empire emerged with Daxing as its capital
  • 618 Tang Empire begins with Chang'an as its capital city. It became of the world's largest cities at that time
  • 904 Chang'an was destroyed. After this, Chang'an is never again an imperial capital city


  • Significance of city: Many dynasties from about 3,000 to 1,000 years ago had their capital city here, so it can be called the fountainhead of civilization for China. The city influenced the west via the Silk Road.
  • Nearby cities: Xianyang (21 km/13 mi), Luoyang (374 km/232 mi), Lanzhou (647 km/402 mi)
  • Municipality terrain: Wei River and Qingling Mountains; mostly alluvial plain
  • Average altitude: 405 (1,329 feet)
  • Main rivers: Wei River

Location Information

  • Main urban city location: 34.6N to 34.1N, 108.78E to 109.0E, north central China.
  • Municipality Population: 8,500,000
  • Municipality Area: 9,983 sq km (3,854 sq mi)
  • Urban population: 3,340,000
  • City proper population density: 4,044/sq km (10,503/sq mi)
  • North to south distance of main urban area: 30 km (17 mi)
  • East to west distance of main urban area: 28 km (18 mi)
  • City center: Bell Tower (23.259 N, 108.946 E), between East Main Street and West Main Street


  • Highest temperature: 42.9 °C (109 °F)
  • Lowest temperature: -20.6 °C (-5 °F)
  • Annual precipitation: 554 mm (21.8 in)
  • The climate is temperate, semi-arid; known for dust storms in the spring and early summer


  • Average annual income: (2008) 26,259 RMB (3,861 USD)
  • Development: developing; known for software and space and defense R&D
  • Shopping Areas: Muslim Street, Xi'an Antique Market


Facts of major cities and attractions in China

The Meaning of Place Names Around Xi'an

Xi’an is pronounced sshe-an (ignoring tones). The unusual apostrophe in the middle divides two Chinese words xi (west) and an (peace). Without the apostrophe it would be indistinguishable from the Chinese word xian, pronounced sshyen, which could have any number of meanings, including salty.

Salty is the meaning of xian in Xianyang, Xi'an's northwest suburb, which now holds Xi'an's international airport. When Emperor Qin Shihuang united China for the first time in 221 BC, he chose Xianyang as the capital of his empire. The yang in Xianyang is the Chinese word meaning sun, bright, positive, or male. This yang is widely known as one of the two components of yin and yang, the opposite and coexisting forces in Taoist philosophy.

Xi’an was called Chang’an until the Ming Dynasty began in 1368. The apostrophe separates two Chinese words: chang (long or perpetual) and an (peace). Without the apostrophe (Changan) it could be misconstrued as the two Chinese words chan and gan.

Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province. If the tones of the Chinese language are ignored Shaanxi is pronounced shan-sshe, exactly the same as Shanxi province on its eastern border. Shaanxi is written with an extra a (although this does not conform to the rules for standard Chinese romanization, called pinyin) to distinguish it from neighboring Shanxi province where tonal markers are not used.

Shaanxi is made up of two Chinese words: Shan (a falling-rising tone word that has no meaning apart from as a province name) and xi (west). The Shan in neighboring Shanxi is a high tone character and means mountain, and xi once again represents the character for west. The Shaan in Shaanxi has a repeated a probably because the falling-rising tone, sounds a little like a repetition of the vowel. The Chinese tones make the language difficult to learn, and on occasions such as explained above, easy to misconstrue.