Xianyang (Chinese: 咸阳; pinyin: Xiányáng) is a Chinese city that was the capital of China in the Qin dynasty. It is a prefecture in modern-day Shaanxi province, on the Wei River, and is located a few kilometers upstream (west) from Xi'an. Integrated into the Xi'an metropolitan area, one of the main urban agglomerations in inland China, with more than 7.17 million inhabitants, its built-up area made of 2 urban districts (Qindu and Weicheng) was 945,420 inhabitants at the 2010 census. It has a total area of 10,213 square kilometres (3,943 sq mi).


Xianyang was among the capital city's environs during the Western Zhou dynasty, and was made the capital of the state of Qin in 350 BC during the Warring States period before becoming the capital of China during the short-lived Qin dynasty.[1] Because the city lay south of the Jiuzong Mountains and north of the Wei River - both sunlight-rich (yang) orientations - it was named "Xianyang", meaning "fully yang".[1] Under Duke Xiao of Qin, minister Shang Yang designed Xianyang in 350 BC, which was then the capital for over 140 years. It was located in the modern day Shaanxi province on the northern bank of the Wei River, on the opposite side of which Liu Bang would later build the Han dynasty capital of Chang'an once he became emperor.

In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang eliminated all six other vassal states to establish the first centralized empire in Chinese history. Xianyang became the centre of politics, economy and culture of the Qin empire. The Emperor had a lavish mausoleum built near the capital, complete with his Terracotta Army. This and other large undertakings required enormous levels of manpower and resources, not to mention repressive measures, which eventually led to the fall of the Qin dynasty and with it the original city of Xianyang.[citation needed]

Qin Shi Huang expanded Xianyang beyond the walls. Then he built replicas of the palaces of all the conquered states along the Wei River. In 220 BC, he built Xin Palace (新城, Xīnchéng) and later renamed it Apex temple (渭城) to be the earthly equivalent of the apex star (Polaris). He continued with the theme of earth as the mirror of heaven building a network of 300 palaces in the Wei valley connected by elevated roads. In 212 BC, he built the Hilltop Palace (阿房宮, Ēfánggōng).

Shortly after the First Emperor's death in 210 BC revolts erupted. At the beginning of December 207 BC, then King of Qin Ziying surrendered to rebel leader Liu Bang. Liu Bang went on to capture Xianyang, but was forced to hand it over to another rebel leader, Xiang Yu, whose army greatly outnumbered Liu Bang's. Xiang Yu then killed Ziying and burned Xianyang in 206 BC,[2] thereby forever robbing humanity of some unique copies of the many "forbidden books" kept in the royal library.[citation needed]

In 202 BC, after defeating Xiang Yu, Liu Bang built a new city near the old Xianyang and named this new capital Chang'an. The Han-era town of Anling (安陵) was located nearby and houses some of the Han dynasty's mausoleums.

From the end of the 1950s until the middle of the 1990s, archaeologists discovered and excavated a large numbers of Qin era sites in Xianyang, including palaces, workshops and tombs.

Administrative divisions

Name Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Population (2004 est.) Area (km²) Density (/km²)
Weicheng District 渭城区 Wèichéng Qū 400,000 272 1,471
Yangling District 杨陵区 Yánglíng Qū 140,000 94 1,489
Qindu District 秦都区 Qíndū Qū 450,000 251 1,793
Xingping City 兴平市 Xīngpíng Shì 560,000 496 1,129
Sanyuan County 三原县 Sānyuán Xiàn 400,000 569 703
Jingyang County 泾阳县 Jīngyáng Xiàn 500,000 792 631
Qian County 乾县 Qián Xiàn 560,000 994 563
Liquan County 礼泉县 Lǐquán Xiàn 460,000 1,017 452
Yongshou County 永寿县 Yǒngshòu Xiàn 190,000 869 219
Bin County 彬县 Bīn Xiàn 330,000 1,202 275
Changwu County 长武县 Chángwǔ Xiàn 170,000 583 292
Xunyi County 旬邑县 Xúnyì Xiàn 270,000 1,697 159
Chunhua County 淳化县 Chúnhuà Xiàn 200,000 965 207
Wugong County 武功县 Wǔgōng Xiàn 410,000 392 1,046

Chinese Bureau of Statistics lists the urban population of the city at 316,641 (1990 Census), rising to 814,625 (2000 Census), and 835,648 in 2010 Census.[3] Despite being a former national capital, the city suffers from extreme air pollution.




  1. ^ a b Zhongguo Gujin Diming Dacidian 中国古今地名大词典, 2005. (Shanghai: Shanghai Cishu Chubanshe), 2134.
  2. ^ Cotterell. Page 29.
  3. ^ "China: Provinces and Major Cities - Population Statistics, Maps, Charts, Weather and Web Information". citypopulation.de. Retrieved 4 April 2018. 

Further reading

  • Cotterell, Arthur. (2007). The Imperial Capitals of China - An Inside View of the Celestial Empire. London: Pimlico. p. 304 pages. ISBN 978-1-84595-009-5. 

External links

Preceded by
Capital of China
221 BC-206 BC
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 34°21′N 108°43′E / 34.350°N 108.717°E / 34.350; 108.717