With more than 3,100 years of history behind it, Xi’an, a great capital of ancient China, is also one of the country’s oldest cities. Having been the centre of activity during the Zhou, Qing, Han Sui and Tang dynasties, Xian abounds with impressive ancient structures, one of which is its iconic city wall.
Having been improved and strengthened through centuries to withstand ground-based invasions, the Xi’an city walls are one of the oldest examples of defensive architectural features that have stood the test of time in the country. The first city wall is said to have been constructed over a four-year period beginning in 184 BCE and had encircled 36 sq km as it snaked its way over 25.7 km. The existing wall was started during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century to enclose 14 sq km. The fortifications include a moat, 98 ramparts jutting out at every 120 meters, making them strategic defensive spots for archers, and 6,000 crenellations atop the wall that provided safe spaces from which to let loose a volley of arrows at the enemy.
The most fortified and complicated parts of the wall were the city gates, which were also the most vulnerable points of the wall. The gates faced the most concentrated attacks as ancient instruments of war did not have the capacity to breach a densely constructed wall. The Xi’an city wall has sixteen gates, out of which four on the four sides functioned as main entrances. The south gate seem to have been the main gate as it features elaborate decorations and is close to the bell tower, which was at the centre of the city. Even today, dignitaries visiting the city are greeted at the south gate.
Each of the main gates featured three towers, one of which contained the mechanism to open and lower bridges over the moat. Four watchtowers in the four corners were also part of the walls’ defence mechanism. The wall included ramps for horses and wagons, and the top was wide enough to accommodate pedestrian, horse, and other traffic both ways in a smooth stream. The construction material used appears to be several layers of earth mixed with lime and a glutinous rice extract that was tamped down to form a firm base. In the 16th century, the wall was completely covered in brick. More recently, a city wall park has been added between the wall and the moat. Now the wall serves as a walkway for visitors who come there to admire the views and a place for cyclists to try out their paces.
In one of the most convenient locations in the city, the Citadines Xingqing Palace Xian offers an array of spacious accommodation, from studios to 2-bedroom suites that are some of the most comfortable service apartments Xian has to offer its visitors. Close to important commercial, education, entertainment and dining destinations, as well as city attractions, this fine offering of Xian accommodation is ideal for long-stay business and leisure travelers.
Angela Fernando is an impassioned travel writer who composes pieces under the pen name Sumaira Narayan. She loves writing about new and exciting places around the world and hopes to visit them all someday. Google+