The story of Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in China, began long before cities were invented: archaeologists have discovered fossils of early Homo erectus nearby that may be a million years old, and there was a Neolithic village in the area at least eight thousand years ago. Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, selected Xi'an for his capital in the third century BCE, and it rivaled such Western cities as Rome and Athens.
In 1974, parts of Qin’s burial complex (the largest mausoleum ever discovered) were identified and excavated. Eight thousand life-sized clay figures, known as the Terra Cotta
Warriors and Horses, were found along with actual chariots, weapons, armor, and other funerary art. Their role was to guard Qin
in the afterlife and allow him to rule the universes from his tomb. The site
also included figures of acrobats and musicians whose role was to provide
eternal entertainment for the emperor.
Throughout the centuries, thirteen Chinese dynasties
established their primary centers at Xi’an, and it became the eastern terminus of
Silk Road, the network of trade
routes that linked the East with the West. (All Facts Considered, by Kee Malesky)