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Xi'an attractions: City Wall
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Updated: 2011-03-04

Xi'an attractions: City Wall

When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), captured Huizhou, a hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him that he should 'built high walls, store abundant food supplies and take time to be an Emperor,' so that he could fortify the city and unify the other states. After the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang followed his advice and began to enlarge the wall built initially during the old Tang dynasty (618 -907), creating the modern Xi'an City Wall. It's the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well 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 covers 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 on the wall, which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up the wall. 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 the enemy, who wanted to attack the city, from the side. On the outer side of the city wall, there are 5948 crenellations, namely battlements. The soldiers can outlook and shoot at the enemy. On the inner side, parapets were built to protect the soldiers from falling off.

Since the ancient weapons did not have the power to break through a wall and the only way for an enemy to enter the city was by attacking the gate of the city wall. This is why complicated gate structures were built within the wall. In Xi'an, the city wall includes four gates and they are respectively named as Changle (meaning eternal joy) in the east, Anding (harmony peace) in the west, Yongning (eternal peace) in the south and Anyuan (forever harmony) in the north. The south gate, Yongning, is the most beautifully decorated one. It is very near to the Bell Tower, center of the city. Important greeting ceremonies organized by the Provincial Government are usually held in the south gate square.

Each city gate has three gate towers: Zhenglou, Jianlou and Zhalou. The most outside is Zhalou, which stands away from the City Wall and is opposite to Zhenglou. It was used to raise and lower the suspension bridge. Jianlou with small windows in the front and flanks was used as a defensive outpost. Zhenglou, in the inner, is the main entrance to the city. The wall connects Jianlou and Zhenglou Towers. The area between them within the wall was called 'Wong Cheng', in which the soldiers stationed. From Wong Cheng, there are sloped horse passages leading to the top of the city wall.

Initially, the wall was built with layers of dirt, with the base layer including also lime and glutinous rice extract. Throughout the time Xi'an City Wall has been restored three times. In 1568, Zhang Zhi (the government officer of that period) was in charge to rebuild the wall with bricks. In 1781, another officer, Bi Yuan, refitted the city wall and the gate towers. More recently (since 1983) the Shaanxi Provincial Government restored the city wall again. A circular park has been built along the high wall and the deep moat. The thriving trees and flowers decorate the classical Chinese architecture of the wall, adding additional beauty to the city of Xi'an.

Travel tips

1. Ascending the City Wall: Encircling the rectangled city center of Xi'an, the City Wall has 18 city gates, which are all open for tourists to ascend the wall. Visitors can ascend the City Wall from the nearest city gate according to your location. No matter which gate you choose, you can tour the whole circle of the wall if you like.

The South Gate (Yongning Gate) is the most time-honored and magnificent one among all the city gates, so it is popular for tourist to ascend the city wall from here. If you stay near the Bell Tower, it is recommended that you take a 10 minutes' walk along the South Street to get to the South Gate. If you are at the Xi'an Railway Station, you can choose the nearest Shangde Gate to ascend the wall.

The following lists all gates open to tourists to ascend the City Wall: Eastern side: East Gate, Zhongshan Gate, Northeastern Corner of the City Wall Western side: Yuxiang Gate, West Gate (two entrances), Southwestern Corner of the Northern Bridle Way Southern side: Small South Gate, South Gate, Wenchang Gate (two entrances), Heping Gate, Jianguo Gate Northern side: Small North Gate, North Gate (two entrances), Shangde Gate

Transportation to the Major Four Gates:

If your location is out of walking distance, we recommend you refer to the following public buses to get to either of the four major gates of the City Wall.

Transportation to the South Gate: Take bus no.6, 11, 12, 23, 46, 215, 239, 302, 600, 603, 608, 713, 910, K600, K618, or Wulong Special Line…and arrive at South Gate Station.

Transportation to the East Gate: Take bus no.8, 22, 27, 29, 33, 37, 43, 45, 102, 203, 218, 232, 235, 252, 300, 527, 602, 604, 714, or 903 and arrive at East Gate Station.

Transportation to the North Gate: Take bus no.6, 26, 28, 33, 37, 39, 104, 107, 117, 205, 206, 208, 214, 216, 229, 236, 238, 310, 336, 506 or 511 and arrive at North Gate Station.

Transportation to the West Gate: Take bus no.4, 10, 15, 23, 31, 201, 205, 206, 215, 221, 222, 223, 300, 302, 407, 504, 611, 701 or K630 and arrive at West Gate Station.

2. Cycling on the City Wall: Try biking on the City Wall, you will have an enjoyable and interesting experience. The bicycle deposit is CNY 200. The single bicycle costs CNY 20/100 minutes. The tandem bicycle costs CNY 40/100 minutes. The sightseeing bus costs CNY 65 for a tour around the city wall. Visitors can also tour the wall by sections which are charged differently by the distance.

Admission Fee: CNY 40

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 21:30 (Spring and Summer); 08:00 to 19:00 (Fall and Winter)

Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours

Xi'an City Wall International Marathon

2010 Xi'an City Wall International Marathon

Time: 08:30, Nov.6 (Saturday), 2010

Starting Point: South Gate of the City Wall


1. Five Kilometers: Starting from 200 meters to the east of the gate tower of South Gate, via Wenchang Gate – Heping Gate – Jianguo Gate – East Gate, return along the same route from 150 meters to the south of East Gate to the starting point

2. 13.7 Kilometers: Starting from 200 meters to the east of the gate tower of South Gate, via Wenchang Gate – Heping Gate – Jianguo Gate – East Gate – Chaoyang Gate – North Gate – Yuxiang Gate – West Gate – Hanguang Gate, and reach the west of the gate tower of South Gate, the finish line

3. Half Marathon: Starting from 200 meters to the east of the gate tower of South Gate, via Wenchang Gate – Heping Gate – Jianguo Gate – East Gate – Chaoyang Gate – North Gate – Yuxiang Gate, return along the same route from 400 meters to the south of Yuxiang Gate to the east of the gate tower of South Gate, the finish line.


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