Part of the Traveling the Silk Road exhibition.

A Cosmopolitan Capital

In silhouette, a person kneeling in a tent while holding a long object. In the background are two people astride camels, with hills in the distance.

The Silk Road begins in the massive Xi'an, capital of China's Tang Empire. It was the largest city in the world around 750 CE. This metropolis is home to nearly a million people, and another million live just outside the imposing walls. Imperial buildings, temples and markets line the streets, and the city buzzes with activity. Foreign merchants, ambassadors, scholars, and musicians flock to this urban center, stocking the markets with exotic goods and filling the streets with sights and sounds from distant lands.