Try to imagine 1400 years ago in the glory days of Tang, Xian (then known as Changan) was 6 times bigger than Imperial Rome and 40 times larger than medieval London.
Being the world’s largest city with over 1 million inhabitants, Changan housed those not only with scholastic and artistic talent but also leaders with immense political and religious clout. Not to mention wealth. Ancient Xi’an was the global centre of trade and commerce as the start point of the Silkroad with the internationally renowned Western Market (recently reopened on the exact spot) a multicultural people magnet. This is where, long before Hong Kong and Dubai, A-listers of the time flocked to shop, trade and ink deals. Marco Polo arrived on the scene six or seven hundred years later.
Tang was an imperial dynasty which ruled over China in the years of 618 A.D. to 907 A.D. This dynasty was preceded by the Sui Dynasty and was later followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in China history. The Tang Dynasty was founded by the Li family, who overtook power of the Empire during the collapse of the Sui Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty ruled with Chang’an, or the present day Xi’an, as its capital
Chang’an was previously the capital city in China for both the Han Dynasty and Jin Dynasty who were from a much earlier time than the Tang Dynasty. When the Tang Dynasty took Chang’an, or present day Xi’an, as their capital city, this city had roughly ten kilometers of walls that ran from the east to west and eight kilometers of walls that ran from the north to the south.
The royal palace, Da Min Gong, was located within these walls in the city of Chang’an and was 5 times bigger than the Forbiddon city. Chang’an was the center of China’s central government in the Tang Dynasty era and the city was one that was filled with luxuries and splendor. Also within the city, there were fourteen main streets that ran their course from east to west and eleven main streets that ran their course from north to south.
Leisure and celebration times were important in the Tang Dynasty. Chang’an was a capital city that was full of celebration and livelihood at many times. Traditional Chinese holidays such as the Chinese New Year, Cold Food Festival and Lantern Festivals were always large events. During the Lantern Festival, the city curfew in Chang’an would be lifted for the three days of celebration. Aside from the traditional Chinese holidays, there were sixty-nine grand carnivals bestowed nationwide by the imperial throne. These carnivals all took place between the years of 628 A.D. to 758 A.D.
The government of Xian today has pledged to return the city the glory days of the Tang Dynasty and the development of the city is astonishing. As an example, Da Ming Palace was 5 times bigger than the Forbidden City in Beijing and is currently under reconstruction just north of the City Walls. With a perimeter of more than 8km the complex is set to be a true architectural master piece and another fabulous reminder of the incredible Tang Dynasty reign.
Tips for Xian Travel
1. The Shaanxi History is free and offers an excellent exhibit of the Tang Dynasty
2. The Western Market of the Silkroad has reopened 1400 years later on the exact spot
3. Try to avoid traveling during Chinese National Holidays