One of the oldest cities in China, Xi’an is the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history,including Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui, and Tang. Xi’an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Because of the city’s many historical monuments and a plethora of ancient ruins and tombs in the vicinity, tourism has been an important component of the local economy, and the Xi’an region is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.
The city has many important historical sites, and some are ongoing archaeological projects, such as the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army. There are several burial mounds, tombs of the Zhou dynasty kings located in the city. Xi’an also contains some 800 royal mausoleums and tombs from the Han dynasty, with some of them yielding hundreds of sculpted clay soldiers, and remains of sacrificial temples from the Han era. The city has numerous Tang dynasty pagodas and is noted for its history museum and its stele forest, which is housed in an 11th-century Confucian temple containing large stone tablets from various dynasties.
Some of the most well-known sites in Xi’an are:
- The city is surrounded by a well-preserved city wall which was re-constructed in the 14th century during the early Ming dynasty and was based on the inner imperial palace of Tang dynasty.
- The Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army are located 40 km (25 mi) to the east of the city centre, in the city’s suburbs.
- The Bell Tower and Drum Tower, both are located at the city’s central axis.
- The city’s Muslim quarter, which is home to the Great Mosque of Xi’an.
- The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and Small Wild Goose Pagoda are both spectacular towers and both are well over 1,000 years old and have survived great earthquakes. The former is next to a large square with the largest fountain in Asia which projects water high into the air, rising and falling in time to music during one of the daily performances (usually at noon and soon after sunset). They protected Buddhist writings in the past.
- The Stele Forest is famous for its numerous historic inscriptions and stoneworks
- The Famen Temple and its towering pagoda located 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Xi’an
- Xi Ming Temple
- Wolong Temple at Kaitong lane
- Xingjiao Temple at Shaolin Yuan (where Xuanzang’s Tomb lies)
- Jianfu Temple
- Blue Dragon Temple
- Wangji Temple
- The Banpo Neolithic village is located on the outskirt of the city proper
- The Shaanxi History Museum has a large collection of artifacts both modern and ancient.
- Mount Zhongnan (终南山)
- Mount Li
- Huaqing Hot Springs, at the foot of Mt. Li, have a history of 6,000 years, the adjacent Huaqing Palace has a history of 3,000 years. Ranked among the Hundred Famous Gardens in China, it also has the status as a National Cultural Relic Protection Unit and a National Key Scenic Area.
- Daming Palace National Heritage Park, site of the former royal residence of the Tang dynasty emperors