In the exact center of Xian is a magnificent giant Chinese pavilion atop a stone base that forms a roundabout intersection around which traffic goes. At night, this tower is lit up and it forms a particular picturesque sight from every corner of the intersection. This is Xian’s old Bell Tower, a three-storey Chinese tower with multiple wooden roofs with each corner curving gently upwards. The Bell Tower was built over 600 years ago in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty, and is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in China. There’s an interesting legend behind the tower’s construction, that it was built to repel the power of mythical dragons to protect the city from earthquakes, which were believed to be caused by dragons. After it was built, earthquakes never occurred again. The Bell Tower had a utilitarian use though. Its giant bell was sounded at dawn every day, while a giant drum in the Drum Tower was sounded to mark the sunset.
To visit it, you have to go underground and find the Bell Tower ticket office. The area underneath this specific intersection is a busy set of corridors that lead to street exits, department stores, and the subway station. After you buy the ticket underground, you ascent the stairs to the base of the Bell Tower where you are at street level and can see traffic speeding around you, with a steel fence preventing people from walking onto the road of course. Most of the building is wooden, and the ceilings feature nicely colored patterns and elaborate eaves. There’s a huge bell on the outer level and inside, there are scrolls and a stage where bell performances took place daily.
Not far from the Bell Tower is the Drum Tower. Just as ancient (built four years earlier in 1380) and esteemed as the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower is more rectangular and longer. It’s located a little further off on the NW corner of the intersection, roughly in front of the Muslim Quarter.
While the Bell Tower has the more impressive location, I found the Drum Tower to be more interesting since there’s more to see. It features giant drums all around its entrance while inside is a drum museum featuring all kinds of weird and fascinating drums. I was lucky enough to catch a free performance there, which happens several times every day. A troupe of young drummers played Chinese drums for about 20 minutes, with at least one solo.
This was the morning before my afternoon flight back to Taipei, but I managed to visit the Grand Mosque in the Muslim quarter after I left the Drum Tower. With this post, I’ve finally concluded writing about my Xian-Huashan-Luoyang trip last year and I’m quite relieved.
Straight ahead, at the end of the street is a guard tower of the City Wall which surrounds the entire Xian city center.
The Drum Tower has a collection of diverse drums inside.
View from ground level at the base of the Bell Tower. I raised the camera over the steel fence to take this pic.