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Bell Tower and Drum Tower

Bell and Drum Tower

Brief Introduction

The most impressive architectures in the center of Xi’an are the two towers, namely the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. In ancient times, the bell and the drum were used to strike time in the morning and at dusk because people didn’t have clocks or watches, so there is a saying ‘Morning Bell and Dusk Drum’ in Chinese. The two towers are the icons of Xi’an, as they are the best preserved towers in all of China.

Legend of the Bell Tower

The Bell Tower is in the centre of the entire city and at the focal point, from which  the four main streets namely the North Street, the South Street, the West Street and the East Street radiate outward. As the best preserved Bell Tower in China, it was originally built in 1384 in the Yingxiang Temple on the west street, and was moved here in 1582 due to the city expansion. Bell TowerLegend has it that in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), tens of thousands of people were killed in the frequent earthquakes occurring in the central Shaanxi plain. Someone said the earthquakes were caused by a dragon in an undercurrent beneath the plain. Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty  believed this saying and ordered many smiths in the city to make a 300-meter long chain to chain the dragon. Zhu ordered  a tower to be built on the site where the dragon was chained to weigh it down  to the bottom of the undercurrent. From then on, the dragon stopped its evil spells and the Shaanxi Plain became quite safe.

The truth is that Zhu wanted to keep his throne safe. Zhu was from a peasant family without royal bloodline. Xi’an was intermittently taken as the Imperial city since ancient times. In Chinese, we call royal descent ‘royal dragon’, so there must be many ‘royal dragons’ in Xi’an. Zhu was afraid that the ‘royal dragons’ would take his place , so he ordered   the Bell Tower to be built to repress the ‘royal spirit’.

Outlook of the Bell Tower

The Bell Tower is built on a base which covers an area Bell Towerof 1,377.4 square meters, 8.6 meters high and 35.5 meters wide. It is laid with blue bricks and has four arched gates  opening in  four directions. The Bell Tower is about 36 meters high and is a mixed structure with blue bricks and wood. From the exterior, we see it has three stories; while from the interior it only has two stories. The eaves of the tower are supported by several colorful Dougong, a traditional Chinese architecture system of brackets that are inserted on the top columns and crossbeams. The use of Dougong makes the building more firm and artistic.

Since 1949, the Xi’an Municipal Government has launched three restorations of the Bell Tower. Now it looks as magnificent as when it was first built in the Ming Dynasty, and has become an icon of Xi’an.

Inside the Bell TowerInside the Bell Tower

Inside the tower are some exhibitions of the local traditional handicrafts and arts. On the first floor of the tower, a group of traditional Chinese musicians play the ancient  Chime Bell instrument in a fixed schedule every day. The Chime Bell is a set of bells of different sizes and scales. The bells are arranged in order and tied to a supporter. The musicians tap the bells in a certain sequence and beautiful music is  produced. The Chime Bell  not only plays  ancient music, but also modern and foreign music such as the ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Outlook of the Drum Tower

The grand architecture about 500 meters way to the northwest of Drum Towerthe Bell Tower is the Drum Tower. It was built in 1380, four years earlier than the Bell Tower. The huge drum inside  was used to give people warnings during  war times and was later used for measuring time. The base covers an area of 1,924 square meters and is 35 meters high. The base is also coated with blue bricks. The tower takes on  a rectangular shape with tiers of eaves and a golden-tiled roof. It has two stories inside. There are corridors around the tower on each tier. The outer eaves are decorated with wooden arches, making the tower more elegant and beautiful.

The Drum Tower has been  twice restored to its original beauty, and has become a historical monument in Shaanxi Province.

Inside the Drum TowerDrums on the Drum Tower

The Drum Tower is also decorated with a splendid ceiling and colorful walls. A drum exhibition is shown inside the drum tower. You can see all kinds of drums from all over China made of different materials. There is a drum band which  gives a drum performance at a fixed time everyday.


Location: In the center of the city

Opening Time: 8:00 to 18:00

Ticket Price: Bell Tower: RMB 35yuan per person

Drum Tower: RMB 35yuan per person

Joint Ticket for Both: RMB 50yuan per person

Visiting Time Bell Tower: half an hour

Drum Tower: half an hour

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