Shaanxi Travel Guide
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Shaanxi Overview

Shaanxi Province, part of the ancient territory that is at the heart of China's "cradle of civilization" - and which provided the capital city of dynastic China for over a thousand years, one of which Shaanxi Province China capitals was the ancient city of Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), site of the Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty Terracotta Army - is located in the central part, east to west, of northern China, just south of present-day Inner Mongolia. Much of Shaanxi Province is mountainous, serving as a natural continental divide that separates the Yellow River drainage to the north from the Yangtze River drainage to the south. The northern part of Shaanxi Province, in which part lies the city of Xi'an, is a loess plateau, the central part of the province belongs to the Guanzhong plain, and the southern part of the province lies in the Qingling and the Daba Mountains.

Unlike many other parts of China, Shaanxi Province did not experience a turbulent history, except for the 19th century Muslim Hui uprising, known alternately as the Dungan Revolt and the Hui Minorities' War, as the history section below illustrates. But first things first, as they say, for Shaanxi Province, with its many rivers, its loess plateau in the north, its central plains and its mountains in the south, made ideal hunting grounds for early man, as the next section explains.

Shaanxi Province has a long history marked by its many years as the capital of China. The result of Shaanxi's significant historical past is a rich accumulation of historical sites that amount to a treasure trove of tourist attractions, some of the most prominent of which are: the Ancient City Walls of Xi'an, with its Ancient City Gates; the Wild Goose Pagoda in the city of Yan'an; Daqin Pagoda, the remnants of the earliest surviving Christian Church in China, built in CE 640 by Nestorian Christians (Daqin being the name used to refer to the Roman Empire in 1st and 2nd century Chinese documents); Famen Temple, which houses a finger bone belonging to the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha; the Great Mosque of Xi'an, China's oldest and one of the country's most renowned mosques, it is built entirely in a Chinese architectural style; the Yellow Emperor Mausoleum; the Yan Emperor Mausoleum; the Qianling Mausoleum, which houses the burial tombs of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty and his wife; the Forest of Stone Steles Museum; the Shaanxi History Museum; the city of Yan'an itself, which is rich in Communist Revolution era historical relics; and the Mausoleum and Terracotta Army Museum in the city of Xi'an, considered one of the Eighth Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

In numbers, Shaanxi Province has 72 large-scale Imperial tombs, more than 20 Imperial palaces, some 2600 ancient buildings, and over 1200 ancient temples and monasteries. Of the province's more than 600,000 cultural artifacts distributed among Shaanxi Province's 74 museums and memorial halls, some 5000 represent rare artifacts, some 3500 represent what are termed Class 1 cultural relics, and 123 represent national treasures, making Shaanxi Province a living, breathing, as it were, natural, cultural and historical outdoor museum.

Besides its historical attractions, Shaanxi Province offers numerous natural attractions - some of which are also cultural attractions - such as the Qingling Mountain Range with its highest peak, Mount Taibai; Mount Hua (aka West Mountain Peak), one of Taoism's Five Sacred Mountains, and, sacred or not, Mount Hua, which also belongs to the Qingling Mountain Range, features breathtakingly spectacular cliffs with unforgettable vistas; the Yellow River Waterfall in the city of Hukou on the border with Shanxi Province, China's second-largest waterfall; and Huaqing Hot Springs near Mount Li, the latter of which is also situated in the Qingling Mountain Range near the edge of the Guanzhong Plain and whose barren cliff face juts up into the sky 1302 meters above sea level - Mount Li is said to "shine like a beacon in the sunset".

In addition, Shaanxi Province, as indicated, is rich in older, prehistorical sites, such as the 6000 year old Neolithic Banpo Village Ruins. The province features an additional 60 some palaeoanthropological sites belonging to the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages.

Shaanxi Opera is widespread throughout the province, its music being rich in the sounds of drums and gongs and its stage being rich in paper-cut decorations and emotive paintings depicting themes typical of the life of rural peasants, their woes and also their joys. As Shaanxi Province develops - which province today still belongs to the poorer end of the spectrum of Chinese provinces - the central and provincial governments plan to revive the formerly rich cultural heritage of this once peerless province, including the music and the theatre of its Imperial court that spanned over a thousand years, not least the Imperial court of the illustrious Tang Dynasty. To get a better idea of the noteworthy natural, cultural and historical (and prehistorical) sites of Shaanxi Province, click on the "Shaanxi Tourist Cities" link in the upper left-hand column of this page.

Shaanxi Province enjoys a relatively stable, slightly monsoonal continental climate that is sharply divided between a northern (north of the Qinling Mountain Range) and a southern climate type. Generally speaking, the temperature increases the farther south one travels, though the higher the elevation, the cooler the climate. The province's precipitation falls chiefly in the mountainous south, feeding the province's many rivers. It is the case for both the northern and the southern parts of the province that the winters tend to be quite cold while the summers are quite hot. The best time to visit Shaanxi Province is from late spring to mid-autumn.

Shaanxi Province, called Shaan for short, is located in the very heart of China with Xian as the provincial capital. It is a gateway to northwest China and one of the cradles of the Chinese nation where 13 dynasties made their national capital. Yanan and some other places in northern Shaanxi was the seat of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party from October 1935 to 1948.

It covers an area of over 205,600 square kilometers (about 50,804,870 acres) inhabited mostly by Han (99%), Hui, Manchu and Mongolian. The inland province includes most of the middle reaches of the Yellow River and neighbors the provinces of Henan, Hubei, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia and Shanxi. The province comprises three distinct geographic natural regions: In the north are upland plateaus, in the middle, plains and in the south, mountainous areas.

Shaanxi Province is well-known for its abundant ancient cultural and historical sites since it was the centre of activity for many dynasties. 72 imperial mausoleums in Xian witness to the ancient economy and culture, including the Qinshihuang's Terracotta Warriors which was included in the World Heritages in 1987 and is highly praised as the eighth world wonder. Other famous historical relics include the site of Lantian Ape Man, Xian Forest of Steles, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Famen Temple in Baoji, and Huaqing Pool in Lintong, Banpo Primitive Society Ruins, Mausoleum of Huang Di, Shaanxi History Museum, and the city gate and City Wall of Xian. Dispersed in Shaanxi is also magnificent scenery with beautiful mountains such as Mt.Huashan in Weinan, Mt.Lishan in Lintong, Mt.Tiantai in Baoji, Mt. Cuihua. The national major famous scenic areas, such as Mt. Huashan, Mt. Lishan and the Terracotta Warriors, Mausoleum of Huangdi and Hechuan Scenic Area are all well-known to visitors both from home and abroad.

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