/see"ahn", shee"-/, n.
Older Spelling. Xian.

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also spelled  Xian , Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Hsi-an  or (PinyinXi'an 
      capital of Shensi sheng (province), China, located on the loess plain of the Wei River southwest of Beijing. It was important in history as the capital of several ruling dynasties and as a market and trade centre. Sian was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that connected China with the Mediterranean.

      Cities have existed in the area since the 11th century BC. Ch'ang-an-ch'eng (“Walled City of Ch'ang-an”), built in 202 BC just northwest of modern Sian, was the capital of the Former (Western) Han dynasty and one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. It was largely destroyed during the disturbances that preceded Wang Mang's interregnum (AD 9–23). The Later (Eastern) Han dynasty, established in 23, moved its capital to Lo-yang.

      For several centuries Ch'ang-an declined, despite its strategic importance to the northwestern barbarian principalities and its adoption as capital by the Western Wei and Northern Chou states in the 6th century. It was revived by the Sui emperors (581–618), who also made it their capital.

      As the capital of the T'ang dynasty (618–907), Ch'ang-an was expanded and divided into three parts—the Palace City; the Imperial City, for the officials; and the Outer City, for artisans and merchants. It soon became one of the most splendid and extravagant cities in the world. The city declined after the downfall of the T'ang, though it continued as a market centre and broker of the Central Asian trade. In the 13th century Marco Polo described the city as a thriving trade centre. The popular name Sian (“Western Peace”), adopted after the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) but later changed to Siking, was restored in 1943.

      From the 1920s the city was the chief port of entry for communist ideology reaching China from the Soviet Union. The city was also the site of the Sian Incident, of December 1936, which marked the beginning of united Chinese Nationalist and communist resistance against the Japanese.

      Modern Sian's industries include a steelworks, a textile mill, an electrical-machinery plant, and a chemical industry that produces fertilizers and plastics. Tourism, based on the city's historical monuments and a plethora of ancient tombs in the vicinity, has also become an important asset. As the centre of an important agricultural region, Sian is engaged in crop processing, most notably of cotton, wheat, and tea. The city lies on the Lunghai Railway, joining Sian with Suzhou on the east coast and with Central Asia to the west. An airport north of the city provides flights from most major mainland cities and Hong Kong.

      Located in the city is the Shensi Provincial Museum, housed in a former Confucian temple; it is noted for its Forest of Stelae, an important collection of inscribed stelae and Buddhist sculpture. The Shensi History Museum houses artifacts and art objects spanning China's history, from the Paleolithic Period through the Ching dynasty. Other sites of interest in the city include the Little Wild Goose Pagoda, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (148 feet [45 metres] high), and the Temple of Great Good Will, constructed during the T'ang dynasty; the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, built during the Ming dynasty; the Great Mosque, founded in 742 with the existing buildings dating from the 14th century; and three well-preserved 14th-century city gates in the wall that surrounds the old city.

      Sian is a center of technological education, home to Xian Jiaotong University, Northwest University, Northwestern Polytechnical University, a medical school, mining and petroleum institutes, Xian University of Technology, Xian University of Architecture and Technology, and Xidian University, specializing in electronics and information technology.

      About 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Sian lies the tomb of Shih huang-ti, excavated by archaeologists beginning in 1974. The site contains an army of about 6,000 life-size terra-cotta figures arrayed in battle formation (see Ch'in tomb). Pop. (1999 est.) 2,294,790.

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Universalium. 2010.

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