Shaanxi, with Xi’an as its provincial capital, is located in the hinterland of China on the upper reaches of the Yellow River, covering a total area of about 210,000 sq km. Lying on the most eastern side of the northwestern provinces, therefore, Shaanxi serves as a gateway to the northwestern regions and the center of China’s inland areas. The Qinling Mountains divide Shaanxi into Qinba mountainous area, Guanzhong Plain and Shanbei Plateau (Shanbei specifies the northern part of Shaanxi Province). The feature of the Qinba mountainous area is that two mountains (Qinling and Daba) flank the Hanshui River. The Taibai Mountain of the Qinling range is the highest peak in the eastern part of China. The Guanzhong Plain, with fertile land and rich water resources, is known as a major wheat and cotton producing area. The loess plateau in the north of the province accounts for 45 percent of the total area, with undulating hills crisscrossed by valleys.
Shaanxi got its name in the early Western Zhou Dynasty (1046–771 B.C.). As Shaanxi was under the jurisdiction of the state of Qin in the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.) and Warring States (475-221 B.C.), it was called “Qin” for short; and the later generations refer to it as “Sanqin” (a general term for North Shaanxi, Guanzhong and South Shaanxi).
With a time-honored history, Shaanxi Province is known as a “Natural History Museum of China” and is an important birthplace of the Chinese nation. As early as 700,000 – 800,000 years ago, “Lantian Ape-men” inhabited the area and later became Lantian County. In today’s Banpo Museum which is located in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an City, there is Banpo Village Site dating back to the Neolithic Age some 6,000 years ago. The Banpo people at that time formed a matriarchal society. Agriculture provided an economic basis, leading to the appearance of primitive culture and art.
Starting from the 11th century B.C., Xi’an served as the capital of 13 dynasties for over 1,100 years, such as the Zhou (c. 11th century – 256 B.C.), Qin (221-206 B.C.), Han (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.) and Tang (618-907). In particular from the Qin and Han dynasties to the Sui and Tang dynasties, China’s feudal civilization was highly developed and appeared most advanced in its economy and culture. Chang’an (Xi’an was called Chang’an in ancient times), the capital of the Tang Dynasty, was one of the busiest capitals in the world, and the phrase was coined that “There is Rome in the West, and Chang’an in the East”. And Xi’an is the starting point of the famous “Silk Road”, which stretches more than 4,000 kilometers within China, mainly passing through Shaanxi and Gansu provinces and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Main Tourist Attractions
13 dynasties have set up their capitals in Xian successively and 73 emperors ruled the country here, creating a glorious history and leaving behind numerous precious historic and cultural relics. Shaanxi ranks first in the world in cultural relics, displays the profound historic charm of this land to people throughout the world. Shaanxi has collected more than 2 million pieces of cultural relics, and contains over 35,750 historic sites, including 72 large imperial tombs and 20 large imperial steles. Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Terracotta Warriors and Horses, the world-renowned “Eighth Wonder in the World”, is the largest on-site museum in China. The terracotta warriors are vivid and lifelike, and each warrior has different feature and facial expression. Ancient City Wall of Xi’an is the longest, oldest and best-preserved extant city defense system from ancient China and one of a few such ancient military facilities in the world. The Huaqing Pool witnessed the romantic love between Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty and his favorite concubine – Lady Yang. The Famen Temple, the only venue in the world that stores the veritable finger bones of Sakyamuni, is revered by the Buddhists all over the world. The Forest of Stone Steles in Xi’an, a treasure house of calligraphic art, houses the largest number of stone inscriptions in China (nearly 3,000 pieces left after the Han Dynasty). The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, one of China’s best examples of a Tang-style pagoda, is regarded as the symbol of the ancient Xi’an City. And The Qianling Mausoleum, the only joint burial place of an emperor and empress in the world, dimly presents the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty.
Besides the historic sites, the famous mountains and long rivers on this land show another kind of glamour of Shaanxi. The middle section of the Qinling Mountains where giant pandas, golden monkeys and other types of rare animals live is in Shaanxi; Mount Huashan, known for its steep hill sides and sharp ridges, is located in Shaanxi; and the Yellow River, the mother river of China, runs through Shaanxi, creating the magnificent scenery of the Hukou Waterfall.
Unique Folk Customs
Shaanxi has developed its own free, colorful style of folk art and culture, such as the Qinqiang (Shaanxi Opera) which is one of the ancient operas with strong local characteristics in China, the puppet show, the shadow play, the embroidery, the melodious Shanbei folk songs, the sweet sound of the suona horn (a woodwind instrument), and so on. In particular, the Yan’an paper-cut, the paintings by farmers of Huxian County, the lively Shanbei yangko dance, the rhythmic Ansai waist-drum dance, and Fengxiang clay sculpture enjoy high reputation.
In Shaanxi, you can also have the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic shows, such as the dream-like Tang-style Music and Dances, which was created according to the historical records of culture, poetry, music, dance, painting, mural and carving handed down from the Tang Dynasty (618-907); and the large-scale historical play – the “Song of Everlasting Regret”, which vividly illustrates the love story between Emperor Xuanzong and Lady Yang.
Shaanxi has a population of 37.39 million, with the great majority being of the Han nationality. The population of 41 minority nationalities, such as Hui, Manchu, Mongolian and Zhuang ethnic groups, accounts for 0.4 percent of the total.
In Shaanxi, you can also taste a wide variety of local snacks, such as Mutton Soup with Pancake Pieces and other wheaten snacks.
Shaanxi is cold in winter and hot in summer, with clear-cut seasonal changes. The period from March to November is the best season to take a tour of Shaanxi.