Xi’an City Wall

Xi’an City Wall is located in the center of downtown Xi’an. It was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368AD~1644AD) on basis of the royal city wall of the Tang Dynasty (618AD~907AD). Xi’an city wall is one of the most famous and well-preserved city wall structures in Chinese history of latter part of the Middle Age. With a history of more than 600 years, Xi’an City Wall is ranked in the most favored national AAAA tourism attractions among visitors home and abroad.

Ancient city wall1

As early as the pre-establishment of the Ming Dynasty, when Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, captured Hui Zhou, a hermit named Zhu Shen advised him build high walls, save up food grains, and take time to proclaim him the emperor. Zhu Yuanzhang took the advice and he ordered his subject across the country to build hundreds of city walls. The Xi’an City Wall is one of the works of the rush to build city walls. People built a city wall on the basis of the Tang royal city wall, but this wall was larger than that of the Tang Dynasty.

Being built as a defensive system, the thickness of the City Wall is bigger than its height. It is as strong as a mountain. The Top of the City Wall can be used for soldier coaching and carriage running. The outlook of extant City Wall looks like a closed rectangle. It is 12 meters high, 15~18 meters wide at the bottom and 12~14 meters wide on the top, and the perimeter is 13.7 kilometers long. There is one enemy broadcasting station every 120 meters on the top of the Wall, altogether 98 stations. The enemy broadcasting stations project from the wall, and from here soldiers would shoot the enemies who attempted to climb the wall top. The half-distance between two enemy broadcasting stations is just within the range straggling of the arrow, which would help to kill the city attackers edgewise. The weapons in ancient times were quite undeveloped, and the city gate was the only entrance of the city, so the city gate was regarded as a very important fortification by feudal rulers. Xi’an City Wall got one main gate on the east wall, the west wall, the south wall, and the north wall each. And each main gate possesses one gate tower, one arrow tower and one flashboard tower. The flashboard tower is in front of the other two towers, it is responsible for raising and lowering the suspension bridge. Behind the flashboard board tower is he arrow tower. The front and two sides of this tower have quadrate windows for shooting. The gate tower is the most inside one of the three towers; it is the main gate of the city. The arrow tower and the gate tower is connected with enclosure, the ground inside the enclosure is called Wong Cheng, a place for halting troops. Besides, the non-stair sloping pack-ways that head from the foot to the top of the wall were built here. From the pack-ways, war hoses can run upward and downward. One projected corner table was constructed on each corner of the city wall. Except for the corner table in the southwest is round –shaped, the other three are all quadrate. It is guessed that the round table copied the table shape of the Tang Dynasty. One corner tower towers onto each corner table. Compared with the enemy towers, the corner towers are higher and larger. On the outside of the City Wall top, the buttress wall is built, on the buttress wall there are many crenels. By these crenels soldiers can shoot or watch. The inside of the wall top, parapet free from crenels is built for stopping soldiers falling off the wall. In the early rimes, the Xi’an City Wall was purely built in rammed earth structure. The lowest part of the Wall is a mixed rammed structure of earth, lime, and juice of glutinous rice. So this part is extremely solid. To protect the City Wall, the later people paved grey bricks onto the inside, outside and top part of the Wall. On the top of the Wall, there is one water channel every 40~60 meters. The water channels are paved with grey bricks to let rains flow from wall top down to ground. Those water channels played an important role in the long-term preservation of the Wall. The City Wall is surrounded with deep and wide city moat. Suspension bridges were set on each main gate of the City Wall, without the suspension bridge lower down to the ground, nobody can cross the moat to enter or exit the city.

Ancient city wall

The moat, suspension bridges, flashboard towers, arrow towers, gate towers, enemy towers, parapet wall, and crenels of the City Wall contribute to a complete defensive system. Paying a visit to the Xi’an City Wall would help you obtain a better understanding of wars, city construction and architectural art in ancient China.