Xi’an is roughly as old as Beijing and serves as the capital city of the Shaanxi Province in northwest China. The history of Xi’an is one of its biggest draws. It was the start of the once indispensable Silk Road that made commerce between many countries in Eurasia possible. It was the imperial seat for no fewer than eleven dynasties, before the unification of China between 1000 BC and 1000 AD making it one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. Today, it is a cultural and technological center, being home to the Xi’an Aerospace Science and Technology Industrial Base and dozens of public, military and private universities.
Taxis, busses and the new subway are the most common ways to get around the city. In a bid to cut down on pollution, the majority of Xi’an taxis run on compressed natural gas. The city is also home to a major international airport. The 14th century city walls are more than 12 km (8 miles) long. They are not only a part of the city history, but traveling in the city sometimes requires going under, on or around them.
It is also home to the rather recently discovered Terracotta Army, the protectors of the tomb of the first emperor of China. The site of the ancient Daming Palace includes some original structures and some reconstructions that were only opened to the public in recent years. Other interesting structures in the city include the Roman Catholic St. Francis Cathedral of Xi’an, the Ming Dynasty Bell and Drum Towers built in the 14th century, and the Islamic Great Mosque. Those who want a more Eastern experience can watch a traditional Chinese opera at the Shaanxi Grand Opera House.