X i' an was one of the most important cradles of Chinese civilization. Th e famous Silk Road that linked China with central Asia and the Roman Empire starts in Xi'an in the east . The city served as the first capital of a unified China and capital of 11 dynasties periodically from the 11th century BC to the early 10th century AD.
Located between rivers and mountains in the center of the fertile Guanzhong Plain in Shaanxi province, Xi'an --the provincial capital--is the natural place to nurture the nation's civilization. Back in the Neolithic Age, about 6,000 years ago, as excavations show, a matriarchal clan was formed at Banpo village in the region.
Thousands of years later, the Zhou kings established their capital in settlements only a few miles from the present-day city. In 331 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China , set about expanding the settlement of Xianyang, about 15 miles northwest of the city. This town, established under earlier Qin rulers as the capital, became heavily populated, so that in 313 BC, Emperor Qin decided to move his court to the south bank of the Wei River . A vast palace was begun. However, the work was never completed in his lifetime, and some years later when the Qin fell to the Han (306 BC), this and most of the other palaces were set ablaze and destroyed.
The conqueror, Liu Bang, first emperor of the Han Dynasty, established his capital only a few miles north of modern day Xi'an .
From about 35 AD, the town went into a decline that lasted about five and a half centuries, until, in 583 AD, the Sui emperor, Wen Di, established his capital southeast of Changan. The area flourished and developed so quickly under the Tang Dynasty that in time it became the most prominent city in Asia , with a population of about a million people living in a vast, well-planned area protected by large walls with ramparts.
For over a millennium from the Second Century BC, China 's silk was transported from Xi'an to central Asia and Europe . Although damaged by several wars, sXi'an , covering 880 square miles and with a population of 3,915,000 still contains a host of historical sites.