The capital of the Shaanxi province, Xi'an (pronounced 'Shiang') is home to some seven million people and is in essence right at the heart of China's history. It was here during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that China introduced silk, paper and spice to the West by way of the Silk Route (the city is at the eastern terminus of the route).
One of the four ancient capitals of the world, along with Athens, Rome and Cairo – Xian is considered the birthplace of eastern civilization. Enjoying a rich archeological heritage, Xi'an sits in the fertile Wei River Valley and most tourists spend just two or three days in the city before moving on, while history buffs are likely to become smitten and stay longer. The city features an endearing juxtaposition of modern and pre-historic architecture.