Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 3/5

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’ an (Xi’an). The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

When we left Neville Gishford‘s documentary, China’s Most Honourable City, in Part 2, Chang’ an was the capital of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) with a population of over a million — six times the size of ancient Rome.

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was 800 years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. This huge palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’ an (Xi’an) powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris and Dubai, Chang’ an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China (and it is happening again) and arrived at Chang’ an over the Silk Road.

But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Major religions also arrived in China at this time.

Islam was barely a century old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’ an. In another post, A Road to the Hajj from China, I wrote, “The ancient city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.”

Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’ an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Continued on October 20, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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4 Responses to Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 3/5

  1. Alessandro says:

    Hi Mr. Lofthouse. Without a doubt Chang’an has been for a very long time the world’s largest and most populous city after the fall or roman empire (and, no matter what we in the west are usually told and taught, it was the FIRST city to reach one million inhabitants after the fall of Rome, LONG before London); but before, and especially during the imperial times, that is still in debate. Even if I also tend to think that Chang’an was anyway larger and with more inhabitants than Rome (historically it seems that the population of China during those centuries has always been much larger than that of the whole roman empire), there are many different “estimates” of how large imperial Rome population was: most accredited ones put it at 800 thousand – 1 million, and some also estimates 1,5 millions inhabitants. To state that with over 1 million inhabitants, Tang Chang’an had 6 times the population of ancient Rome is a gross overestimation by Discovery Channel. It could be true if u refer to the population of Rome during the Republican era, but not during the Imperial one.

    • Alessandro,

      What I find interesting is that both Rome and China (at the time) had to fend off barbarians along its borders and expansion of both empires was more into protecting the motherland than building a larger empire. When threatened, armies pushed the borders out to remove the threat and push enemies further away. And both empires built walls to defend against enemies that were difficult or impossible to defeat. In the Roman Empire, it was Hadrian’s Wall in England while using rivers and strings of forts in Europe as defensive lines.

      Another question I have is why Alexander the Great changed direction after defeating the tribes in the area we call Afghanistan today and invade India instead of pushing on toward China. Did he have intelligence and know what was waiting for him. Alexander lived 356 – 323 BC and at that time the Warring States Period was taking place in China.

      In fact, the Great Wall already existed since it was built during the Spring and Autumn period by the seven states that existed in China at that time, which predates Alexander the Great. As I understand it, the combined segments of the Great Wall reached more than 3,000 miles in length even if they did belong to the different countries.

      Since the Roman Empire would trade with China in a few centuries, Alexander may have known of China. Do you know what the earliest known date of trade between the European West and China is?

      • Alessandro says:

        Good question, mr. Lofthouse…actually no, I don’t exactly know what’s the earliest known date for trade between european west and China…and ur hypothesis on Alexander knowing in advance what was ahead of India and Afghanistan is quite intriguing. Possibly he had news from scouts and different sources (merchants and diplomats alike) on what kind of situation he would have found had he pushed towards China. When I have time I’ll certainly try to look deeper into the issue 🙂

      • Allessandro,

        If Alexander did send scouts to the east while he was in Afghanistan and they ran into the Great Wall, which was about 3,000 miles long at that time (in segments), then it would be possible he decided anyone that could build a wall like that would be worth avoiding since curiosity killed the cat and he didn’t want to be that cat.

        In fact, it would have been highly possible that he would have gathered information from merchants and diplomats (as you suggested, which I never considered) in the lands he had already conquered such as Persia since the Persian Empire probably traded with China at that time and there may have been tribes in Afghanistan that knew of it too.

        I thought of a way to verify this and checked the history of silk production.

        According to the Chinese, the history of silk starts in the 27th century BCE. Its use was confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the latter half of the first millennium BCE. China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk for another thousand years.

        Although the Silk Road wouldn’t reach the West (Greece and Rome until after China was unified by the Qin, looking at the Silk Road from an perspective, the exchange of goods and technologies started as early as 2500 B.C. with the movement of horses, chariots, the Indo-European languages, and metallurgy

        Source: http://www.workingdogweb.com/Silk-Road.htm

        In addition, this site lists a Chronology of the Silk Road and estimates it started about 500BC spreading West from that time. It makes sense that the Silk Road would evolve and grow over a period of centuries until it reached Europe and along the way trade would develop with all the cultures along that route.

        Source: http://www.drben.net/ChinaReport/Sources/History/Silk_Road/Chronology_Silk-Road.html

        The Chinese were more warlike at that time too since the real influence of Confucius wouldn’t be seen for centuries until the Han Dyansty.

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