Bell Tower-Drum Tower Square is located at the joint point of the South Street, North Street, East Street and West Street. On its east stands the 600-year-old Bell Tower, and on the west lies the largest existing Drum Tower in China. When the square was built in the late 1990s, all disorderly buildings between Bell Tower and Drum Tower weredemolished so that the sister buildings could face each other. The square was designed and constructed on the principle of “Morning Bell and Evening Drum” to echo the original function of the two towers. The lawn between Bell Tower and Drum Tower is divided into 9 rows and 9 columns to copy the layout of Changan City in the Tang Dynasty. On the north side of the Square, there are some time-honored restaurants like Tongshengxiang, Defachang, and Wanghaitang, etc. You will also find some excellent shopping malls, stores, and cafes underneath the Square. On weekends, a lot of citizens come here for leisure and shopping.
The Bell Tower is located in the center of downtown area where the North Street, the South Street, the East Street and the West Street meet. It was first built in Yingxiang Temple in 1384, to mark the center of the city. As a result of the city’s expansion, it was shifted to its present site in 1582. It used to hold a sizable bell to strike time every morning.
The Bell Tower has a classical structure with carved beams and painted rafters. It is 36 meters above ground. The base of the Bell Tower is 1,337.4 square meters in size, 8.6 meters high and 35.5 meters wide. The tower was built in 1384 by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as a way to dominate the surrounding countryside and provide early warning of attack by rival rulers.
It has three layers of eaves but only two stories. Inside, a staircase spirals up. The grey bricks of the square base, the dark green glazed tiles on the eaves, gold-plating on the roof and gilded color painting make the tower a colorful and dramatic masterpiece of Ming-style architecture. In addition to enhancing the beauty of the building, the three layers of eaves reduce the impact of rain on the building.
Originally, the northwest corner of the tower housed the famous Jingyun Bell from the Tang Dynasty. Legend has it that although nothing had changed in the tower, the Jingyun Bell fell silent during the Ming Dynasty, so the current bell, a much smaller one weighing only 5 tons, was cast. The original Jingyun Bell can now be seen in Forest of Stone Steles Museum.
The engravings on the doors of the Tower reflect the decorative fashion of Ming and Qing Dynasties, recounting popular stories of ancient China. About 500 meters northwest of the Bell Tower stands another magnificent building, the Drum Tower. Built in 1380, it used to house a huge drum to tell the time at dusk. The base of the Drum Tower is 1,924 square meters, and its height is 34 meters.
The drum tower was called (Qizhenglou in Yuan Dynasty, the relationship with the bell tower and its history are stated. They were the part of remarkable buildings in Yuan’ capital city, marked out at same time, constructed at the same time and their functions were same. They were reflecting each other in the north and in the south. The drum tower went together with the bell-tower on giving the correct time, but it’s more thoughtful and with more times; the drum was hit at every geng and gave the time. The structure of the existing architecture differs from the former one.
The existing drum tower is a two-floor on appearance (the third floor is hidden), double brim and Xieshanding-style, tail, wooden-structure and pavilion-style building. Its housetop is with ash pantiles and green scissor border. Its total highness is 46.7 meters, and the length of the face is 34 meters, the size from the Face to the back is 22.4 meters.
Watchman’s drum is for giving people the correct time at night. The drum tower was once equipped with drums of various sizes and timers, but as time went by, it was not easy to keep them in good condition.
The geng-drums, were important things in the drum-tower. They were put on the second floor formerly. There were 25 drums in it, a big one, and 24 small ones. The 24 small drums stand for 24 jieqi. Only one big drum exists, its diameter is 1.5 meters, made of a piece of complete cattle skill. Nobody knew when it was made, more likely to Qing Dynasty. It’s pity that the big drum is with countless scars, that was proof of the guilt of Eight-Power Allied Forces at 26th year of Guangxu reign, Qing Dynasty (1900A.D.)
About hitting drums, there was a restrict role; it was same as beating bell; after drumming, hit bell. The drums were beaten at 7 o’clock in the evenings, called “calm geng”, the drumming at 5 o’clock in the morning was called “bright geng”. The drums were beaten two attacks every time; the drum were beaten 54 times at one attack. There was a saying, “urgent 18, slow 18, between urgent and slow 18”. The two attacks make 108 times, it is same as the times of hitting bell.
History: As said, there used to have a large drum hung up in the tower and it was beaten for telling the time at the dusk. Standing opposite the Bell Tower it presented a scene of “Bell sounding in the morning and Drum beating in the evening” to suggest a flourishing atmosphere of the time, hence known as the Drum Tower.
Features: Built of grey bricks, the platform of the Drum Tower is 52.6 meters in width, 38 meters in depth from north to south and 7.7 meters in height, covering a floor space of 1,924 square meters. Towering 33 meter from the grouted to the top there’s all arched tunnel right in the middle of the platform leading from north gate to the Western Avenue in the south. Shaped a rectangle the Bell Tower is a solid mass in a gambrel style with double eaves.
Entrance fee: Bell Tower: RMB 35 per person ; Drum Tower: RMB35 per person Coupon ticket for Bell Tower and Drum Tower: RMB 50 per person
Public transportation: Metro Line 2. Zhonglou Station of Metro Line 2, Bus No. 215, No.7, No.15, No.222, etc.
Tips for Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square visiting:
Please take car of personal belongs when walking on the Square.
The Square opens to public for free but if one wants to ascend the Bell Tower or Drum Tower, please buy entrance ticket accordingly.