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What You Need To Know

Xi’an , formerly romanized as Sian, and also known as Chang’an  before the Ming dynasty, is the capital of Shaanxi Province, People’s Republic of China. It is a sub-provincial city located in the center of the Guanzhong Plain in Northwest China. 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. Since the 1990s, as part of the economic revival of inland China especially for the central and northwest regions, the city of Xi’an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China’s space exploration program. Xi’an currently holds sub-provincial status, administering 9 districts and 4 counties. As of 2015 Xi’an has a population of 8,705,600 and the Xi’an-Xianyang metropolitan area has a population of 13,569,700. It is the most populous city in Northwest China, as well as one of the three most populous cities in Western China. According to a July 2012 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, it was recently named as one of the 13 emerging megacities, or megalopolises, in China. The report pinpoints and highlights the demographic and income trends that are shaping these cities’ development.

Area: 9,983 km²

Population: Estimate 8.921

Currency

  • Hangzhou Currency Exchange. Chinese Yuan (also known as Renminbi, rmb for short) is the official and legal currency in circulation. Use of foreign currencies is generally not allowed.

Culture

The culture of Xi’an descends from one of the world’s earliest civilizations. The Guanzhong Ren (simplified Chinese: 关中人; traditional Chinese: 關中人; pinyin: Guānzhōng rén) culture is considered the cultural antecedent of Xi’anese; their features are satirized as the “Ten Strangenesses of Guanzhong Ren” (simplified Chinese: 关中十大怪; traditional Chinese: 關中十大怪; pinyin: Guānzhōng shí dà guài). Xi’an is also known for the “Eight Great Sights of Chang’an” (simplified Chinese: 长安八景; traditional Chinese: 長安八景; pinyin: Cháng’ān bājǐng), a collection of scenic areas in the region. Much like Beijing 798 and Shanghai 1933, Xi’an has an art district called Textile Town (Chinese: 纺织城; pinyin: Fǎngzhī chéng). The district is not an actual town but derives its name from the many textile factories built there since the 1950s. Today it is no longer a centre for the textile industry but a new art factory with 4 workshops in total. Since March 2007, more than 40 artists have taken a part in these workshops. Xi’an is home to contemporary Chinese stars such as Xu Wei, Zhang Chu and Zheng Jun. The ancient folk genre Xi’an guyue is named for Xi’an. Paomo yangrou (flat bread soaked in lamb soup; simplified Chinese: 羊肉泡馍; traditional Chinese: 羊肉泡饃; pinyin: Yángròu pàomó) is well known Xi’anese dish.

Economy

As part of the China Western Development policy, Xi’an became a major target for accelerated attention. From 1997 to 2006, the industrial output value of Xi’an’s service industry increased at an annual average rate of 13.74 percent, compared to traditional service industries of 0.74 percent, representing a growth from US$8.113 billion to US$25.85 billion. Xi’an is the largest economy of the Shaanxi province, with a GDP of 324.1 billion Yuan in 2010. On average this value increases by 14.5 percent annually, and accounts for approximately 41.8 percent of Shaanxi’s total GDP. At least fifty-eight countries have established over 2,560 enterprises in Xian, including nineteen of the Fortune 500 enterprises. These include ABB Group, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Coca-Cola, and Boeing. Important industries include equipment manufacturing, tourism, and service outsourcing. The manufacturing industry had an annual output of RMB 36.5 billion, accounting for 44.5 percent of the city’s total. Furthermore, as one of China’s four ancient capitals, Xi’an’s many cultural sites, including the Terracotta Army, the City Wall of Xi’an, and the Famen Temple, make tourism an important industry as well. In 2010, 52 million domestic tourists visited Xi’an, earning a total income of RMB 40.52 billion. On average, revenue increases by 36.4 percent per year, and foreign-exchange earnings (530 million in 2009) increase by around 35.8 percent. Xi’an is also one of the first service outsourcing cities in China, with over 800 corporations in the industry. The city’s output value from this sector exceeded RMB 23 billion in 2008. Employment in the sector doubled from 1997–2006, from a base of 60,000, and computer consulting also doubled from 16,000 to 32,000. As a result of the importance of the software-outsourcing industry, the city planned construction of a Software New Town, which is scheduled to be completed in 2015 with 30 billion RMB investment. Other major export goods include lighting equipment and automobile parts, while its major import goods are mechanical and electrical products. Internationally, Xi’an’s largest trade partner is the United States. Xi’an is part of the West Triangle Economic Zone, along with Chengdu and Chongqing.

Health systems

Healthcare in China consists of both public and private medical institutions and insurance programs. About 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. Despite this, public health insurance generally only covers about half of medical costs, with the proportion lower for serious or chronic illnesses. Under the “Healthy China 2020” initiative, China is currently undertaking an effort to cut healthcare costs, and the government requires that insurance will cover 70% of costs by 2017. The Chinese government is working on providing affordable basic healthcare to all residents by 2020. China has also become a major market for health-related multinational companies. Companies such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, and Merck entered the Chinese market and have experienced explosive growth. China has also become a growing hub for health care research and development. The above applies to Mainland China. Taiwan and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau maintain their own separate universal healthcare systems.

Language

Guanzhong dialect. Guanzhong dialect (Chinese: 关中话/關中話; pinyin: Guānzhōng huà), is a dialect of Zhongyuan Mandarin spoken in Shaanxi’s Guanzhong region, including the prefecture-level city of Xi’an.

Religion

Chinese traditional religion and Taoism

A pavilion of the City God Temple of Xian. The most influential religions in Xi’an are the Chinese traditional religion and Taoist schools, represented by many major and minor temples. Among these there are a City God Temple, completely reconstructed in the 2010s, and a Temple of Confucius.

Buddhism

Chinese Buddhist nuns and laywomen at a temple in Xi’an. Buddhism has a large presence in the city, with temples of the Chinese and Tibetan schools.

Christianity

The first recorded Christian missionary in China was Alopen, a Syriac-speaker, who arrived in Xi’an (then known as Chang’an) in 635 along the Silk Road. The Nestorian Stele, now located in Xi’an’s Beilin Museum, is a Tang Chinese stele erected in 781 that documents the 150 years of early Christianity in China following Alopen.[64] It is a 279-centimetre-tall (110-inch) limestone block with text in both Chinese and Syriac describing the existence of Christian communities in several cities in northern China. The Daqin Pagoda, a Buddhist pagoda in Zhouzhi County of Xi’an, has been suggested to have originally been a Nestorian Christian church from the Tang Dynasty. In Xi’an there was formerly a Baptist mission from England. The Baptist missionaries ran a hospital. In 1892, Arthur Gostick Shorrock and Moir Duncan founded the Sianfu Mission, in present-day Xi’an.

Islam

Xi’an was the first city in China to be introduced to Islam. Emperor Gaozong of the Tang dynasty officially allowed the practice of Islam in 651 AD. Xi’an has a large Muslim community, the significant majority are from the Hui group, there are an estimated 50,000 Hui Muslims in Xi’an. There are seven mosques in Xi’an, the best known being the Great Mosque.

Transport

Xi’an has many areas that are easily accessible on foot. In many commercial, residential, educations zones in the city, especially in the shopping and entertainment districts around the Bell Tower, underpasses and overpasses have been built for the safety and convenience of pedestrians. Electric bikes are popular among students and offer easy transportation in and around the city for many residents. Taxi services are numerous but many citizens of Xi’an still commute to work on one of about 280 bus routes. There are more than 2 million registered automobiles in Xi’an, so cars play a very important role in people’s daily life, which also means frequent traffic jams.

Tourism

 The number of travelers is often greater during Summer (May–August), although the most pleasant season for visiting Xi’an is Autumn.

Sites

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.

Toponymy

The two Chinese characters “西安” in the name Xi’an mean “Western Peace”. During the Zhou dynasty, the area was the site of the national capital, which is a twin-city named Fenghao (豐鎬) on the two banks of the Feng River near the confluence with the Wei River, with the part on the west bank of the Feng River called Fengjing (豐京; “Feng capital”) and the portion on the east called Haojing (鎬京; “Hao capital”). It was renamed Chang’an (meaning “perpetual peace”) during the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), although it was sometimes referred to as Xijing (西京; “western capital”) during the Eastern Han dynasty after the capital was relocated to Luoyang in the east . It changed to Daxing (大興; “great prosperity”) in 581 AD during the Sui dynasty, then again became Chang’an from 618 during the Tang dynasty. During the Yuan dynasty (1270–1368), the city was first given the name Fengyuan (奉元), followed by Anxi (安西) then Jingzhao (京兆). It finally became Xi’an in 1369 at the time of the Ming dynasty. This name remained until 1928, then in 1930 it was renamed Xijing (西京), or “western capital”. The city’s name once again reverted to its Ming-era designation of Xi’an in 1943. Xi’an currently does not have a widely accepted one-character abbreviation as many other Chinese cities do, possibly due to fact that it was historically called Jing () or Du (), both meaning “the capital”. Several suggested abbreviations include Feng (, the city’s first name when it was founded as the new capital of Zhou, meaning abundance, greatness, and bumper harvest), Hao (Chinese: ; pinyin: Hào, derived from the name of Zhou dynasty’s capital Haojing), or Tang (Chinese: ; pinyin: Táng, from the name of the Tang dynasty).

Weather

Xi’an has a temperate climate that is influenced by the East Asian monsoon, classified under the Köppen climate classification as situated on the borderline between a semi-arid climate (BSk) and humid subtropical climate (Cwa). The Wei River valley is characterised by hot, humid summers, cold, dry winters, and dry springs and autumns. Most of the annual precipitation is delivered from July to late October. Snow occasionally falls in winter but rarely settles for long. Dust storms often occur during March and April as the city rapidly warms up. Summer months also experience frequent but short thunderstorms. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from around the freezing mark in January to 27.0 °C (80.6 °F) in July, with an annual mean of 14.08 °C (57.3 °F). With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 31 percent in December to 47 percent in August, the city receives 1,536 hours of bright sunshine annually. Extremes since 1951 have ranged from −20.6 °C (−5 °F) on 11 January 1955 to 41.8 °C (107 °F) on 21 June 1998. A highest record of 42.9 °C (109 °F) was registered in another station on 17 June 2006.