Friday, October 03, 2008

The Evolution of Xian

This is a historical map of Xian in the museum next to“Little Wild Goose Pagoda” (小雁塔). The museum was not very impressive. This map was pretty much the only exhibit that interested me - because it captured succinctly the historical evolution of the city over the 3100 years of its history.

The city was in the lower left hand corner of the map (South-West), called "Fenghao" (丰鎬) as the capital of the (Western) Zhou (周) Dynasty, beginning around 1046BC.

It was in the upper left (North-West) as the capital of the Qin (秦) Dynasty, Xianyang (咸阳). The famous palace E Fang Gong (阿房宮), which was said to burn for 3 months after being looted by Xiang Yu (項羽), was slightly to the south of Xianyang.

It then moved towards the South-East as the capital Changan (長安) of the Han (汉) Dynasty, in 206 AD.

It moved further south-east as Daxing (大興) in the Sui (隋) Dynasty in 581 AD. And then as Changan (長安) again in the Tang (唐) Dynasty beginning in 618 AD.

It was renamed as Xian (西安) only in 1369 AD, in the Ming Dynasty. The city walls as they stand now (around the small rectangle in the center of the photo) dated only from the Ming Dynasty. Not much of the palaces, temples, houses, city walls, etc. prior to that survived. The only things that are in abundance are tombs. But whenever I found myself in Xian, I couldn’t help but to think: many many historial figures had stood where I stand, and numerous historical events had happened right in front of me, just that it was many years ago. I was in awe.

Xian, like the rest of China, has a very long history. While much of the “hardware” had been lost, there remains a lot of “software” - the history, the literature, the philosophies, the “national character”, etc., which make up a large part of what it is to be Chinese. But most people these days do not seem to care about the software. Most of us Chinese are proud of being Chinese. But what does it really mean to be Chinese?


fisher said...

I am a Xi'an native. I also noticed this museum but never made it to visit here. Now I worked in Shanghai and I began to realized that I know so rare about my city when talking with others on my hometown. Countless things about Xi'an are there for me to explore. BTW, I like that map, which gives me an instinct notion on the geographical location of these capitals. Good job!

StephenC said...

Yes, indeed I found Xian fascinating. Even though much has already been lost, what is left is already much more than what most other cities have. The more I know about its history, the most interesting it becomes.

I am glad you like that map too. I have always liked maps. They tell you so much in so little space.

Perhaps you can tell us more about Xian since you are from there?