the ming dynasty city walls of xi’an

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.

at the top of the Xi'an city walls

at the top of the Xi’an city walls

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.

Along the top of the wall are periodic pavilions and buildings

Along the top of the wall are sentry buildings on some of the 98 ramparts

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).

The view into downtown Xi'an (inside the walls) from the top of the wall

The view into downtown Xi’an (inside the walls) from the top of the wall

view from the city wall to the city

view from the city wall to the city

rampart on the southeast corner

rampart and sentry building on the southeast corner

the outside of the east wall from a rampart

the outside of the east wall from a rampart

view of the east wall from above

view of the east wall from above

more views of the east wall

more views of the east wall

the east wall and the gardens surrounding

the east wall and the gardens surrounding

Traffic going under Changlemen gate

Traffic going under Changlemen gate toward the Bell Tower in the center of the old city

Traffic under Changlemen

Traffic under Changlemen on the outside of the city walls

exercises by a rampart

exercises by a sentry building

the moat and the city walls

the moat and the city walls

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. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Changlemen, China, Shaanxi, Xi'an, Xi'an City Walls, Yongning | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “the ming dynasty city walls of xi’an

  1. At least it wasn’t raining, although it looks pretty hazy. Was it my imagination or is this more metropolitan looking than some of the other places you visited? The ramparts and sentry buildings are definitely utilitarian and not designed to be as opulent as the temples!



    • It was a little hazy on this afternoon, but not as bad as usual, Nancy. Xi’an is a very large city, and yes, bigger than most other places I’ve visited other than Hong Kong. It may be about the same size as Nanning, where I live. After this trip, I also went to Shanghai, which of course is a huge city! Yes, I think this wall was very functional rather than ornamental. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Is the moat used for boating, I think I see one? Or perhaps there are fish there? The wall looks quite strange with all those modern buildings around it. Thank goodness there’s a lot of greenery 🙂


    • It is sometimes strange to see the ancient things in China surrounded by the modern buildings. But I can assure you, it’s like that everywhere, Gilly. The country is too big and has too many people to do anything but build, build, build. At least I’m glad they preserve these ancient sites. I too was happy to see the greenery around the wall.


  3. Goodness – that wall is massive!


  4. Cathy, you’ve certainly seen some amazing architecture while you’ve been in China and I’ve enjoyed seeing it all.


  5. Echoing Gilly again (I seem to do a lot of that these days 🙂 ) – odd in those surroundings 🙂


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