Xi’an or Sian, city in northern China, capital of Shaanxi (Shen-hsi) Province, the cultural and industrial center of the historic and agriculturally rich Wei River valley. Manufactures include cotton textiles, electrical equipment, machinery, and fertilizers. Xi’an Jiaotong University (1896) is here. Landmarks of special interest are the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi (Ch’in Shih-huang-ti), archaeological excavations of which began in 1977; Shaanxi Provincial Museum, repository of some of the region's rich archaeological discoveries; the Big and Little Goose Pagodas, remnants of a once-famous 7th-century Buddhist retreat; the Great Mosque, which has served the city's large Muslim population since the 8th century; and a city wall dating from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Nearby landmarks include the partly explored tombs of the Tang (T’ang) emperors (618-907); four tumuli (burial mounds), said to be tombs of the Zhou (Chou) (1045?-256 bc) kings; Xi’an Hot Springs; and Banpo, a neolithic village (6000?bc).
Xi’an, one of China's oldest cities, was the capital of the Zhou, Qin (Ch’in) (221-206 bc), and Western (earlier) Han (206 bc-ad 8) dynasties. It was again the capital under the Sui (589-618) emperors, and, known as Chang’an (also Ch’ang-an), was the capital and prosperous eastern terminus of Central Asian trade routes under the Tang emperors. Abandoned as the capital after the fall of the Tang, it began a long period of decline that lasted until Ming times. In 1936 the Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek was kidnapped here; he was held captive until he agreed to join the Communists in a united front against the Japanese. Rapid industrialization of the city began in the 1950s. Population (2000 estimate) 3,123,000.
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