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Shaanxi has more often than not been the axis around which the Chinese universe revolved. It was here more than 6,000 years ago that Neolithic tribes established the earliest permanent settlements in China. In 221 BC the territories of the Middle Kingdom were unified here under the Qin Dynasty (from which the name "China" is derived). Propitiously located at the eastern terminus of the
famed Silk Road, Shaanxi later gave birth to one of the ancient world's greatest capitals, Chang'an, a city enriched financially and culturally by the influence of foreign trade.But nothing lasts forever: as the Silk Road fell into disuse and China isolated itself from the outside world, Shaanxi's fortunes declined. Flood, drought, and political unrest among the province's large Muslim population made Shaanxi a very difficult place to live for most of the past 1,000 years. It's only since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 that the area has regained some of its former prominence, both as a center of industry and as a famed travel destination.