Bell Tower and Drum Tower: Iconic Landmark in Xian

Located in the center of Xi’an City, the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, once the timekeeping devices, have witnessed great changes in local people’s life for over 600 years. Today, the two buildings are not timekeepers any longer. The surroundings have become the busiest commercial district with the well-known Muslim Quarter behind the Drum Tower.

During the day, the Bell and Drum Towers are standing there with solemnity; at night, their magnificence is illuminated by colorful lights. Viewing Bell Tower and Drum Tower is on the to-do list of most visitors when they travel to Xian.

Bell Tower Square Xian
Bell Tower at Night

First Built in Ming Dynasty to Tell the Time

The Drum Tower was first built in 1380 and four years later, people created the Bell Tower not far away. Since then, locals have been scheduled by the sound of the bell and the drum. That is the so-called “bell at dawn and drum at dusk”.

Ancient Xi’an City in the Ming Dynasty was 11.9 km in circumference with a covering area of 87,000 square km. Therefore, both towers should be huge enough to make sound spread as wide as possible. Still today, the Bell Tower and Drum Tower in Xian are the largest and completest-preserved ones in China.

Highlights of Bell Tower

Distinctive Architectural Style of Bell Tower

The Bell Tower is a pavilion-like square building with a pyramidal roof wrapped with gold. Presenting the architectural style of the Ming dynasty, the whole tower was built on a base made up of blue bricks and lime. It has triple-layered eaves covered with dark green glazed tiles. When it rains, the layer in the middle will reduce the damage of rain dropping from the top layer directly to the third layer, which presents the superb intelligence of ancient people.

Jingyun Bell

The original bell hanging on the tower is called Jingyun Bell. It is a national first-class cultural relic and is now collected in Xi’an Forest of Stone Steles. The one on the Bell Tower now is a copy. According to history, the Bell Tower, together with the authentic Jingyun Bell, had been moved from its original site. To people’s surprise, Jingyun Bell didn’t ring anymore at the new site. Why it happened is still a mystery. So the copy one was produced.
The reproduction is perfectly similar to the original, with a height of 2.45 m and a weight of 6,500 kg. On 30th, January 1997, the bell rang again on the tower after keeping silent for hundreds of years.

Xian Jingyun Bell
Jingyun Bell

Vivid Stele Carvings and Fancy Reliefs

The doors of halls on the two floors of the Bell Tower are carved with 64 exquisite reliefs in total. Every relief tells stories about ancient Chinese celebrities and Chinese fairy tales. On the first floor, you can also see three pieces of stele carvings on the wall. The first one records the restoration of the Bell Tower; the second one describes why the building was moved from the original site and the last one is an ode to the tower.

Highlights of Xian Drum Tower

The World’s Heaviest Drum

As its name indicates, there is a huge drum on the Drum Tower. It is a reproduction made in 1996 with 1.8 m in height, 2.83 m in diameter, and a total weight of 1.8 tons, which has earned recognition from Guinness World Records as the heaviest drum in the world. You will also be amazed by 24 smaller drums placed around the tower, and each stands for one of the traditional Chinese solar terms with its name written in ancient Chinese characters.

Artworks of Qi Baishi

Qi Baishi is one of the most influential Chinese painters, specializing in Chinese ink painting. The exhibition hall in the Drum Tower collects some of his masterpieces. You can also enjoy the works of other artists to feel the unique charm of this kind of art.

Top Things to Do at Bell Tower and Drum Tower

Enjoy a Perfect Combination of Ancient and Modern Time

Although located in the center of Xi’an city, the Bell Tower and Drum Tower are not urbanized at all. Modern facilities around provide convenience for visitors, but you can still feel the pulse of ancient Xi’an at any of them. After one day’s Xian tour, you are suggested to take a walk around the Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square with sunset.

It is time for locals to go back home from work. Streets are filled with people and cars, but it is not crowded and noisy at all. Instead, when the afterglow shines on the golden top of the Bell Tower and reflects some rosy lights, you will forget about the fatigue of the whole day’s trip to Xian and enjoy the perfect combination of ancient and modern times.

Xian Drum Tower
Drum Tower at Night

Appreciate the Ancient Chinese Chime Show at Drum Tower

If interested in traditional Chinese musical instruments, you can enjoy a 10-minute performance of traditional Chinese Chimes at the Drum Tower, which could be a highlight of your Xian trip. There are 6 scenes per day at 9:30, 10:15, 11:00, 11:45, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:00.

Perfect Places to Get Wonderful Pictures of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower

1. View the platform on the 5th floor of Kaiyuan Mall to take photos of the two towers in one shot.
2. Square at the southeast corner of the Bell Tower to get the contrast of the ancient tower and the busy modern traffic around.
3. Square at the northwest corner of the Bell Tower to capture the whole scene of the Drum Tower.
4. Yongning Gate and Anyuan Gate of the Xian City Wall to see the Bell Tower standing on the central axis of the city.

How do I get to the Bell Tower and Drum Tower?

Located at the intersection of East, West, South, and North Street (the center of Xi’an City), it is convenient to get to the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.

By bus:
Take bus no. 4, 12, 37, 229, 235, 600, 618 and get off at Zhonglou Bei
Take bus no. 6, 16, 29, 35, 203, 603, 609, 616 and get off at Zhonglou Nan
Take bus no. 7, 8, 47 and get off at Zhonglou Dong
Take bus no. 15, 32, 43, 45, 201, 215, 218, 221, 222, 251, 252, 286, 300, 604, 611, 612, 618, 622 and get off at Zhonglou Xi

By subway: Take metro line 2 and get off at Zhonglou Station, then follow signs to the destination.

Travel information about Bell Tower and Drum Tower


CNY 50 for a comb ticket to Xian Bell Tower and Drum Tower
CNY 30 for each of them

Opening hours:

8:30-21:30 (1st January to 10th October) in peak season

8:30-18:00 (11th October to 31st December) in low season

Best time for visiting: All year round