|Name||陕西 (shǎn xī) ['Shanzhou' 'west'] Old Name Shensi WG|
|Population||37.696 million (2.74 %) [17th] comparison table|
|Area||206,000 km2 [79,537 mile2] (2.15 %) [11th]|
|GDP||46,928 (7.07 %) [16th]|
Shaanxi (the double 'a' indicates a different vocal tone than its neighbor Shanxi) is one of the provinces where Chinese culture had its birth. It is one of only a few provinces named after a specific place, Shanzhou is a city in Henan, so ‘Shaanxi’ is west of Shanzhou. There is a distinct north-south divide the north is rather dry while in the south the mountains catch more rain and there is more vegetation.
Hominid remains in Shaanxi go back as far as 1.15 million years with Lantian Man ➚ found south east of Xi'an. More modern archaeological remains of the Banpo Culture ➚ dating back 6,000 years were found close to Xi'an; here a whole community has been unearthed showing their round timber houses, a cemetery, pottery kilns and storage pits. The site demonstrates how settlement began on the rich alluvial soils along the Huang He (Yellow River) and Wei rivers. The mythical founders of China Yandi and Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) are both reputed to have lived in Shaanxi. It was home to the tribes that formed the Zhou and Qin dynasties and there are many archaeological treasures of ancient China. In the ancient Zhou dynasty China's capital was at Hao which is near to present day Xi'an.
In the following Qin dynasty Shaanxi's capital moved to Xianyang just to the west of Xi'an. Xianyang boasts a museum containing a Han dynasty miniature version of the terracotta army. Nearby is the full sized version, the world famous Qin Terracotta warriors at the Imperial tombs just east of modern Xi'an. The provincial capital city of Xi'an stands on the site of Chang'an; another ancient capital of China and for a long while the largest city in the world with over a million people within its city walls. Much later on, after the fall of the Tang, continual incursions from the north drove people further south and east. The ancient over-land Silk Road that led to Chang'an, lost its strategic importance as transport by sea became more competitive. Xi'an has city walls built in the Ming dynasty an impressive 35 feet [11 meters] high and 40 feet [12 meters] wide.
Haixian ➚ 70 miles [113 kms] east of Xi'an was the epicenter of the world's deadliest earthquake on Mon Jan 23 1556 when 830,000 people lost their lives. Also in Shaanxi, there was a great famine in 1628 which led to a rebellion that was pivotal in the downfall of the Ming Empire. After this time the area was sparsely populated and then settled by people from the north who had converted to Islam. The new settlers rose up in the Dungan Revolt (1862-77) ➚ which was ruthless put down by the Qing army killing many Muslims. The province became a disregarded backwater, with Xi'an the only major city in China where foreign powers did not create a protected enclave. It was to Xi'an that Dowager Empress Cixi fled after the Boxer Rebellion.
Within the great city walls of Xi'an there are the Big ➚ and Little Goose Pagodas ➚; Stele Forest ➚ and a Great Mosque ➚ for tourists to visit. The Big Goose Pagoda (大雁塔 dà yàn tǎ) dates back to 652 originally built with five stories now expanded to seven, it housed the famous Buddhist scriptures brought from India by Xuanzang. The Little Goose Pagoda stands in the grounds of the Jianfu Temple.
Xi'an has a Stele forest contains thousands of inscribed stones with fine calligraphy some dating back thousands of years. For centuries students of the great masters took rubbings of the calligraphy so they could study them, the first form of printing. Also worth a visit is the fascinating early Christian church turned Buddhist temple Daqin Pagoda ➚ (Daqin 大秦) is an old Chinese name for the Roman Empire). At the center of Xi'an are the ancient Bell and Drum Towers, these towers announced dawn and dusk respectively each day.
The Famen Temple ➚ holds important relics attributed to Buddha. The Tang Emperor Taizong broke with the tradition of an extensive burial mound by instead quarrying out a tomb in the mountains at Zhaoling 47 miles [75 kms] northwest. A little further out are the tombs of Tang emperors Gaozong ➚ and Empress Wu Zetian (the only Chinese Empress who ruled in her own right) at Qianling. With all this history, Xi'an boasts many well stocked museums of ancient artifacts. The Shaanxi History Museum ➚ houses objects of interest from many dynasties.
The tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, the unifier of China, is the must-see tourist destination in Shaanxi if not the whole of China. The tomb took 36 years to build with about 500,000 slave laborers, only a tiny proportion of the vast tomb area has been excavated. The tomb is a large artificial mound 249 feet [76 meters] high. It is believed that at its center is a model of his great empire with liquid mercury used to represent the rivers. The terracotta warriors that guard the tomb were discovered by accident in 1974, 19 miles [31 kms] east of Xi'an. Six thousand figures have been found, some with horses and equipped with real weapons (crossbows; swords; javelins). The figures were mass produced in several parts and assembled but each face was modeled individually by hand. Three vaults have figures of different styles, the second vault has chariots, with archers as well as foot soldiers.
Huaqing Pool ➚ was an Imperial winter pleasure resort located 16 miles [25 kms] north-east of Xian. Imperial visitors from as long as the Western Zhou dynasty 2,800 years ago are recorded. It was extended in the Tang dynasty using water from the hot springs (109 ° F [43 ° C]). Tang Emperor Xuanzong indulged the excesses of favorite concubine Yang Guifei here. More recently the Hot Springs were the site of the famous ‘Xian Incident’ when Chiang Kaishek in 1936 was taken hostage by his own troops to force a rapprochement with his Communist foes in order to hold back the Japanese occupation. The Pool is at the foot of majestic Mount Lishan ➚ 3,937 feet [1,200 meters], the mountain has several ancient sites including Zhou dynasty beacon towers. On the Yellow River with its border with Shanxi at Hukou are the Yellow River Waterfalls ➚. The valley of the River Wei in which Xi'an is located has many more historic sites.
The Qingling mountain range contains Mount Hua ➚ (or Huashan “Flower mountain”) sacred to Daoists; it is one of the five traditional great mountains of China. The mountain has five peaks, the South Peak is the highest at 7,070 feet [2,155 meters]. It is a tough climb, starting at Yuquan Garden ➚ (Jade fountain) from where the path takes 18 bends before a perilous climb up sheer rock faces. Despite claiming many lives of climbers ➚ over the years it remains a very popular hike.
In the drier northern half of the Shaanxi province Yan'an has the claim to fame as the eventual destination of Mao's Long March of 1935-6. Midway to Yan'an on the road from Xi'an is the reputed tomb of Yellow Emperor Huangdi at Huangling. In the southern part of the province, the heritage of the ancient Shu kingdom ➚ from the time of the Three Kingdoms can be seen. To emphasize the cultural heritage of the province, Shaanxi has its own style of traditional Opera.
Shaanxi is isolated from the climatic extremes of China, although it can still be hot in summer, with generally low rainfall, it is notably drier and cooler in the north than the south of the province. The rivers irrigate extensive fields of wheat and cotton, further south, rice and maize can be grown. Maojian tea from Ziyang is a famous product. Industrialization is aided by copious deposits of coal and oil within the province.
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