Bell and drum towers were what kept the lives of Chinese townsfolk ticking long before the introduction of clocks in town squares. The sounds of bells at dawn and drums at dusk helped people regulate their lives around them as there was no other reliable means for the public to know the time of day. Both towers were also used to sound the alarm during enemy incursions. Because of these public functions the towers became an architectural feature in almost every ancient town in China.
Bell and drum towers are mentioned as far back in history as the 2nd century BC. The 40 metre high large brick and timber bell tower in the heart of old Xian dates to the Ming Dynasty and is still a prominent feature of the city occupying an area of 1,377 sq metres. Its large bronze bells were replaced during the Tang Dynasty.
The drum tower is just across the bell tower to the west. The bell tower marked the centre of old Xian and all roads radiated from it connecting it to the entrances and exits in the city wall. The size of the towers indicated the size and importance of the city. There are several colourful tales as to why the bell tower was built.
The squat monolithic two storied structure is made to look taller by having three set of eaves. However, the eaves serve the practical purpose of diffusing the impact of rain, an important function considering that a good part of the structure is timber. Dark green glazed tiles, gold painted roof decorations, red columns and interior decoration make it an attractive monument. A winding narrow stairway provides access to the top storey where visitors have panoramic views over the city. Traffic once moved through the 20 foot tall archways at the bottom of the tower but now they whirl round it instead.
The tower’s other uses were as a telephone exchange, a cinema and a planetarium in the early part of the 20th century and a meteorological station, an observatory and a prison during WWII. Visitors are allowed to ‘ring’ the bells which involves rushing at each of them with large poles suspended from the ceiling. When the bells are struck they make a deep melodious sound that echoes over the city.
Citadines Gaoxin Xi’an, with its well appointed studio and two bedroom accommodation in Xian offers a relaxed lifestyle and comfortable, modern functional spaces that are ideal for business and leisure visitors and their families. Stay at this Xian apartment to enjoy easy access to a range of amenities and city activities and attractions.
Chandrishan Williams is a travel writer who writes under the pen name, Caleb Falcon. He specializes in writing content based on the many exciting world adventures that await intrepid travellers.