Xi'an was once called “Chang'an” in the Han Dynasty. The meaning of this name is “permanent peace”. Xi'an marked the starting point of the world famous Silk Road. It obtained its present name in the year 1369. Xi'an ranks first on the list of the country's seven largest ancient capitals. From 11th century B.C. onwards, Xi'an or its vicinity has been established as the capital city by 15 kingdoms or feudal dynasties successively, including the Western Zhou, the Qin, the Han, the Sui and the Tang. It serves as an ancient capital city beyond comparison with regard to the number of dynasties and span of time. It was also regarded as one of the “Four Ancient Civilizations of the World”, the other three being Rome, Athens, and Istanbul.
Within Xi'an one can find a large number of historic attractions, 34 of which have been listed among the national monuments, such as the remains of Banpo Village, a Neolithic matriarchal clan community, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, which has been listed in “the World Cultural Heritages”, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Small Wild Goose Pagoda built in the Tang Dynasty, and the time-honored Forest of Stone Tablets. Walking around this old city is like going through thousands of years in history. It's no wonder why foreigners always say “He who has not visited Xi'an can not be said to have visited China.”
Once the whole country was unified in Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang sent orders to the local governments to build city walls on a large scale. Zhu assumed that “out of all the mountains and rivers in the world, the central Qin is the most strongly fortified and strategically impregnable”. The city wall of Xi'an is an extension of the old Tang Dynasty structure, as a result of this wall building campaign. The city wall, after its extension in the Ming Dynasty, stands 12 meters high. It is 12—14 meters wide across the top, 15---18 meters thick at the bottom and 13.7 kilometers in length. Thus, the Ming Dynasty city wall formed a complex and well-organized system of defense. It is also the most complete city wall that has survived through China's long history.
The Da Ci'en Temple was originally built in 589 A.D. in the Sui Dynasty, and at the time was named the Wulou Temple. The Temple went into gradual decay after the downfall of the Tang Dynasty. The halls and rooms that have survived the ages were actually built in the Ming Dynasty. The Tang Regime gave orders to build a chamber for the translation of Buddhist scriptures and appointed the widely renowned Master Xuan Zang (Monk Tripitaka) the head of the temple.
The Bell Tower is a classical building with carved beams and painted rafters. It stands in the center of the downtown area where the North Street, the South Street, the East Street and the West Street meet. It houses a huge bell which was originally used to strike time every morning in ancient times. Ever since its establishment, it has become the symbol of Xi'an.
The Bell Tower was first built in the Yingxiang Temple in 1384, which used to mark the center of the city. It was moved to its present site in 1582 as a result of the city's expansion program.