Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2022/2023: Dates, Tickets, Tips & Tours Learn more
 Place Names Around Xi'an - History and a Chinese Lesson

Place Names Around Xi'an - History and a Chinese Lesson

Written by GavinUpdated Nov. 10, 2021

The place names around Xi'an have some interesting pronunciations and spellings, which are a window into learning the Chinese language. Their etymologies give a window into the areas history and characteristics.

Xi'an 西安

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.

Recommended Tours:
Xi'an trip
All things you need to know view more

Xianyang 咸阳

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.

Chang'an 长安

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.

Recommended Tours:
Things to Do in Xi'an
All things you need to know view more

Shaanxi (陕西) or Shanxi (山西)

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.

China Highlights' wechat
We are here to help you...
start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

The China Highlights Experience

1-to-1 Expert Planning

1-to-1 Expert Planning

Your tour will be tailor-made by your personal travel advisor — a destination expert. Every reply will be within 24 hours.

Personal Journeys

Personal Journeys

Enjoy your personal local guide and ride. Explore destinations at your own pace. Have unparalleled flexibility, which is impossible on a group tour.

Authentic Experiences

Authentic Experiences

Discover the hidden gems. Experience local culture by practicing it. Try new and exciting activities, and unveil the stories behind the sights and people.

Well-Selected Local Guides

Well-Selected Local Guides

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and attentive — your personal local guides will share interesting stories, insider information, and even create unexpected highlights!

China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
China Highlights International Travel Service Co., LTD
Corporate Number: 914503003486045699
Featured on