Xi'an, capital of populous Shanxi Province, is one of China’s fastest expanding industrial centres, and at first glance seems to hold little promise for visitors. For over two-thousand years, however, this well-watered area at the heart of the Guangzhou Plain served as the seat of China’s ruling dynasties – ‘the Axis of the World’ – rivalled in its day only by Baghdad and Constantinople. Behind the skyscrapers and flyovers, many impressive vestiges survive from these past civilizations, including the most complete set of Ming-era ramparts in the county. Above all, however, Xi'an is noteworthy as the springboard for visits to the Terracotta Army and Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, which lie in the countryside 17 miles (28km) east. 

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