Despite the late administrative construction of Xianning (prefecture-level city), the counties and urban districts under its administration all have a long history. The territory of today’s Xianning belonged to Jing Chu in the Xia and Shang Dynasties ( about 2200-1100 BC), Nan County in the Qin Dynasty(221-206 BC ), Jiangxia County in the Han Dynasty(206 BC-- AD220 ), and Wu Kingdom at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty(AD 25-220). Puqi County (Chibi City now) was set up in the Huangwu second year (AD 223).Yongan Town was built in the Dali third year of the Tang Dynasty (AD 768), upgraded to Yongan County in the Baoda thirteenth year of the Southern Tang Dynasty (AD 955) and called Xianning County (Xian’an District now) in the Jingde fourth year of the Song Dynasty (AD 1007) since Emperor Zhenzong tabooed the Yongan Tomb of Emperor Taizu and named it with the same meaning of "All states are in peace " based on the book Yi Qianxiang. Jiayu County was built in Baoda eleventh year of the Southern Tang Dynasty (AD 953). In the Northern Song Dynasty., 3 counties were established, that was, Tongshan County in the Qiande second year (AD 953), Chongyang County in the Kaibao Eighth year (AD 975), and Tongcheng County in the Xining fifth year (AD 1072). In the Yuan Dynasty, Xianning stretched Wuchang Road from Hubei Province to Guangxi Province; in Ming and Qing Dynasty, it belonged to Wuchang Government; in the Republican period, it originally belonged to Jianghan Road, the first administrative Superintendence District of Hubei Province later. After the foundation of PRC, it was subordinated to Daye prefecture and Xiaogan prefecture. In August 1965, Xianning prefecture was established, with 9 counties (Xianning, Jiayu, Puqi ,Tongcheng, Tongshan, Chongyang, Yangxin, Ezhou, Wuchang) under its jurisdiction. In 1970, Xianning Prefecture was renamed the Xianning Region. In 1975 and 1979, Wuchang, and Echeng County was incorporated into Wuhan City and Huanggang region separately. In August 1983, Xianning County was disbanded and became Xianning City (county-level city). In June 1986, Puqi County was disbanded and became Puqi City (county-level city), renamed the Chibi City until October in 1998. In 1997, Yangxin County was incorporated into Huangshi City.
In December 1998, with the approval of the State Council, Xianning Region was disbanded and became Xianning City. Besides, the original Xianning City (a county-level city) was disbanded and became Xian’an District.