Xian City Wall

Xi’an City Wall

Xi’an City Wall is A Symbol of Xian City

Once you step out of the Xi’an Railway Station or drive into Xian central downtown from the airport, what comes into your eyes is majestic Xi’an City Wall. Yes, the ancient City Wall almost defines the first impression of this city for the travelers from all the world. Through the tall wall with antique bricks, you will feel the strong pulse of ancient Xi’an and fantasy how it looks like in the remote old time. When you walk around the city wall, its mottled and mineral green walls always remind you—-You are here in Xi’an, the noble Four Great Ancient Capitals in the world with thousands of years history! 


When and Why was Xi’an City Wall Built? – The History of Xi’an City Wall

Xi’an City Wall is the largest-sized and completest-preserved ancient city wall of China. It was first built in 1370, AD in the purpose of guarding the city and finished in 1378, AD. Zhuyuanzhang, the first emperor of Ming dynasty, guided by the policy of “build high walls, store abundant food supplies and crown emperor slowly”, started to build the city wall based on the imperial city of Sui and Tang dynasties.

Since its construction to now, Xi’an City Wall has experienced five restorations in Sui dynasty, the end of Tang dynasty, Song and Yuan period, Ming and Qing periods, and the 1980s. According to history, there are 13 dynasties and 74 emperors in total took Xi’an as Capital city. The numbers are rightly matched with the length of the City Wall–13.74 kilometers.

The city wall is in the shape of a rectangle. Four major city gates distribute in the north, south, east, and west of it. They are Yongning Gate (south), Anding Gate (west), and Anyuan Gate (north) and Changle Gate (east). Outside the city wall, there are battlements, ancient warriors looked out and shot arrows here. Inside the city wall, there are parapets, so that they wouldn’t fall from the wall.

The Constructions of Xi’an City Wall

The city wall is in a shape of a rectangle. Four major city gates distribute in the north, south, east and west of the it. They are Yongning Gate (south) , Anding Gate (west), and Anyuan Gate (north) and Changle Gate (east). Outside the city wall, there are battlements, ancient warriors looked out and shot arrows here. Inside the city wall, there are parapets, so that they wouldn’t fall down from the wall.

Four Major City Gates

The South Gate — Yongning Gate

First built in Sui dynasty, Yongning Gate has the longest history among all of city gates. In Chinese folk stories, south is the location where the god of fire lives. To avoid fire disasters, people prayed him to bless them peaceful. And that’s what Yongning means in Chinese. Yongning Gate is the completest one after being restored for many times.

The West Gate — Anding Gate

This gate consists of a gate tower, a floodgate tower and a archery tower. Between the gate tower and the floodgate tower is a enclosed space called Wengcheng in Chinese. It is used to go through in daily life and defend during a war. The archery tower of West Gate is the completest ancient castle of China up to now.

The North Gate — Anyuan Gate

Anyuan in Ming dynasty refers to the wish of Han nationality to the ethnic groups in rural areas. They wish those ethnic groups to hold a grateful attitude towards Han nationality, and to be wiling to be unified.

The East Gate — Changle Gate

Changle in Chinese means to keep peace and happy, but actually this gate didn’t have a peace and happy story in the history. It is recorded that at the end of Ming dynasty, Lizicheng attacked Xi’an with his army from the East Gate. When he saw the plaque saying “Changle”, he said, “If the emperor keeps peace and happy, the people will suffer sorrow.” Then, they fired Changle Gate. Until Qing dynasty, it was rebuilt. General Zhangxueliang trained his army on the gate tower before the Xi’an Incident, so it was rebuilt to memory this important historic incident now.

Five lines of defense

With five lines of defense, Xi’an City Wall has strong functions in defense. The first line is the moat around the wall. The moat is equipped with drawbridges which are functioned as the only access of inside and outside of the city. In daytime, they connected both sides of the moat for people’s going through while at night they were hanging above the moat to cut access to the city. Outside the city gate there is floodgate tower for night patrol and alarm reminder. This is the second line. The third line of defense is archery tower behind floodgate tower. It is full of arrow holes on the wall for observation and shooting. Between the archery tower and gate tower is a enclosed space which is called Wengcheng in Chinese. If enemies attack the city and arrive here, they will be surrounded by people both in archery tower and gate tower. This is the forth line of defense. The final line is definitely the city gate. Five lines of defense are sightly connected and it is difficult to overcome them to get into the city.

Interesting Facts about the City Wall

  • Unique southwest watchtower

There are four watchtowers in the four corners of the city wall. The one in the southwest is round while the other three are square. It is said that there was a granny who was tortured by her son and daughter-in-law in Ming dynasty. After being reported to the local government, the son and his wife were killed here where the southwestern watchtower is located now. In Chinese ancient culture, the shape of square has the meaning of good virtues like honesty, but the couple were not honest at all. To remind the following generations, the original design was changed.

  • Numbers on the bricks of the City Wall

When you walk on the City Wall, you will find that each brick under your feet has a number on it. These numbers are functioned as today’s QR code. In the 1980s, the City Wall was destroyed during the war. Since 1983, authorities began to restore it. At that time, there were no advanced technologies. To make work more efficient, they numbered every brick so that they can find the person who restored this brick when problems occurred. These numbers show people’s wisdom.

  • Thicker width than height

In ancient China , the City Wall was functioned as defensive system to protect the city. The walls are 12 meters high, 12~14 meters wide on the top and 15~18 meters on the base. The width is thicker than the height because it will be very steady in this structure.

  • Not only defense

We all know that the moat is the first line of defense of Xi’an City Wall. It was principally used to protect the city in ancient Xi’an. But nowadays, the moat plays an important role in the drainage system. When rainstorm occurs, the pouring rain water flows from the drainage system on the City Wall into the moat so that flood can be prevented. Wisdom of ancient people still benefits us in many ways.

Top Things to Do on Xi’an City Wall

  • Cycling on the wall

The city wall is almost 14 Km long, so it will take much time and you will be very exhausted if you walk for sightseeing. Better choice is cycling. You can rent and return a bicycle at any major gate mentioned previously. If you don’t want to ride a bike, there are tour buses at the four gates, too.

  • Wonderful performances

At the South Gate, there many wonderful performances, schedules as following.

10:00/11:00(everyday): Warriors Cruise Performance

15:00/17:00(everyday): Warriors Shift Ceremony

20:30~21:20(only for Thursday to Sunday): Chang’an Impression–Tang Dynasty Grand Welcoming Ceremony Live Performance.

  • International Marathon on Xi’an City Wall

Started in 1993, the International Marathon on Xi’an City Wall is held in December every year. The marathon starts at the east of Yongnng Gate, going through Wenchang Gate, Heping Gate, Changle Gate, Chaoyang Gate, Jiefang Gate, Anyuan Gate, Shangwu Gate, Yuxiang Gate, Anding Gate and Hanguang Gate, and finally finishes at the west of Yongning Gate. Total length is about 13.7 kilometers. If you like marathon, it will be a meaningful and impressive experience to come to Xi’an City Wall.

  • Spring Festival Lantern Show on Xi’an City Wall

There is an annual Lantern Show during Spring Festival Holiday on Xi’an City Wall. It’s a totally folk art to demonstrate Chinese traditional culture and express people’s beautiful wishes for the next year. The lanterns in various shapes and colors attractes endless travelers and push the celebration of  Chinese New Year into climax. 

Travel Information of Xi’an City Wall

Ticket: CNY 54/p.p

Opening Hours: 8:00~22:00

Best time for visiting: March to May (spring) / September to November (autumn)

Travel Tips about Xi’an City Wall

* There are no shelters on the City Wall so sunburn prevention is needed. Or you can visit it in the morning or late afternoon.

* There are comb tickets of Xi’an City Wall and Xi’an Beilin Museum costing CNY 100. if you are interested you can have a try.

* Visiting the whole part of City Wall on foot will cost over 3 hours. If you rent a bike or take the battery cart it will take about 1 hour to cover the whole part of City Wall. Cost depends on how long time you rent the bike or take the battery cart.

* There are 4 main gates of City wall and they are quite far from one to another one. Please choose one nearest to your hotel to visit.

* As long as it does not rain, at South Gate of City Wall each evening there is Welcoming Ceremony Show starting at 19:00 in summer half year.