|Xian — Capital of Shaanxi Province|
|Altitude: 1352 feet
Area: 332 square miles
Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, is situated in the central part of the country, between the Weihe River in the north and the Qinling Mountains in the south. The city lies on a major rail route which runs from Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea via Urumqi in the autonomous region of Xinjiang and on to Kazakhstan. There are direct rail links with Beijing and Shanghai as well as flights to most large Chinese cities, including Hong Kong. Xi’an is one of northwest China’s chief textile centers, where cotton grown in the artificially irrigated paddy fields in the neighboring countryside is treated and processed. Other major industries are chemicals pharmaceutical manufacturing and civil engineering. (There are several major universities as well as art and trade schools.) Xian probably possesses more items of archaeological interest than any other town or city in China–the most important, of course, being the world-famous Terra-Cotta Warriors.
Xian is an ancient site, and there are layers of cities of different names beneath and around it. The land is fertile, renewed yearly by the silt from the Yellow River. Both nomadic and farming people enjoyed the relatively flat landscape, ready water, and ease of travel. Long ago, traders’ camps were erected outside the city walls–a mixture of colorful tents, utensils, bags, and bundles. The traders’ wares were cottons and exotic spices from India, metals and ceramics, scrolls of paintings, and seeds–most of it to be bartered for cascades of silk in all colors and textures to take on the return journey west.
Today’s city is smaller than Beijing, the present capital of China, and moves at a slower pace. Trees lend color and softness to most streets. It retains an almost mystical charm.