Monday, April 20: At the top of the Xi’an city wall, I rent a bicycle to ride along the top. The wall is over 8 miles around, but I don’t plan to ride around the entire perimeter. Bikes can be rented for a couple of hours and returned to any of the main gates, so I plan to ride from the south gate to the east gate and then walk back down the east road, Dong Dajie, to the Bell Tower and then return to my hotel.
The ride is a little bumpy over the stone pavement, but it feels great to have the wind in my hair and magnificent views over the city.
According to China Travel Guide, after the Ming dynasty was established, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the dynasty, began in 1370 to enlarge the wall built initially during the old Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), creating the modern Xi’an City Wall. In 1568, the walls were faced with brick, giving them their modern form. It’s the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well as being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.
After the extension, the wall now stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) thick at the bottom. It is 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) in length with a deep moat surrounding it.
Every 120 meters, there is a rampart which extends out from the main wall. All together, there are 98 ramparts, which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up. Each rampart has a sentry building, in which the soldiers could protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy. Besides, the distance between every two ramparts is just within the range of an arrow shot from either side, so that they could shoot any enemy who wanted to attack. On the outer side of the city wall, there are 5,948 crenellations, namely battlements, where the soldiers could look out and shoot at the enemy. On the inner side, parapets were built to protect the soldiers from falling off (Travel China Guide: Xian City Wall).
I spend nearly two hours up on the wall, riding and making a number of stops to admire the views and take pictures. Afterwards, I decide I’ll walk back from Changlemen, the east gate, to the Bell Tower and then to my hotel. Little do I know how far that will be. Once again, the map fools me into thinking it’s a shorter distance than it is!
As it is, I walk a long way until I see a three-wheeled taxi driver catch my eye. When he does, I wave to him and he picks me up and drives me back to my hotel. It’s a long drive in the vehicle, so I’m glad I didn’t try to walk the whole way.
I have a plan to go to a performance tonight with Mari, the Finnish lady from our small Terra Cotta Warrior tour group, so I want to shower and change before that. When I arrive back at the hotel, I stop at a cafe for a beer, and then go up to my room to get ready for the evening ahead. 🙂