Xi'an has a rich and culturally significant history. The Lantian Man was discovered in 1963 in Lantian County, 50 km southeast of Xi'an, and dates back at least 500,000 years before present.
Xi'an became a cultural and political center of China in 11th century BCE with the founding of the Zhou Dynasty. Following the Warring States Period, China was unified under the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) for the first time, with the capital located at Xianyang, just northwest from modern Xi'an. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army and his mausoleum just east of Xi'an shortly before his death.
In 202 BCE, the founding emperor Liu Bang of the Han Dynasty established his capital in Chang'an County; his first palace Changle Palace (perpetual happiness) was built across the river from the ruin of the Qin capital. This is traditionally regarded as the founding date of Chang'an, or Xi'an.
From top: Terracotta Army, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Drum Tower of Xi'an, Hua Shan (Mount Hua), City wall of Xi'an, and the Tang Paradise
The original Xi'an city wall was started in 194 BCE and took 4 years to finish. Upon completion, the wall measured 25.7 km in length and 12-16 m in thickness at the base, enclosing an area of 36 km².
Following several hundred years of unrest, Sui Dynasty united China again in 582. The emperor of Sui ordered a new capital to be built southeast of the Han capital, called DaXing. It consisted of three sections: the Xi'an Palace, the Imperial City, and the civilian section, with a total area of 84 km² within the city walls.
At the time, it was the largest city in the world. The city was renamed Chang'an in the Tang Dynasty. In the mid-7th century, after returning from his pilgrimage to India, Buddhist monk Xuan Zang (popularly known as Tang Sanzang) established a translation center for Sanskrit scriptures.
Construction of the Da Yan Pagoda (Great Wild Goose Pagoda) began in 652. This pagoda was 64 m in height, and was built to store the translations of Buddhist sutras obtained from India by the Xuan Zang. In 707, construction of the Xiao Yan Pagoda (Little Wild Goose Pagoda) began, and measured 45 m tall at the time of completion. An earthquake in 1556 damaged the tower and reduced its height to 43.4 m.