The architectural art of tall buildings was highly developed in ancient China, dating back to the Warring States Period (475-221BC). Among them, the classical Chinese Lou, which in modern Chinese refers to buildings of two or more stories, has been regarded as one type of the representative works.
In ancient China, Lou means a storied building with a horizontal main ridge and usually, all-round verandas. Many such buildings also feature sloped, double-eaved roofs, and carved brackets supporting the overhanging eaves from the columns.
Beijing, as the capital of Yuan, Ming and Qing three dynasties, has a classical collection of Lou, such as: Cheng Lou (Gate Tower), Jiao Lou (Corner Tower), Jian Lou (Archery Tower), Zhong Lou (Bell Tower) and Gu Lou (Drum Tower).
Jiao Lou (Corner Tower)
In the Forbidden City of Beijing, there are four so-named Jiao Lou (Corner Tower) on the four corners, which used to be stationed by the emperor's guardsmen, for instance, the existing Southeast Jiao Lou at Dongbianmen of the Chongwenmen (Chongwen Gate) District.
Zhong Lou (Bell Tower)
The Bell Tower in the city also plays a very big role in landscape. The existing Bell Tower of Beijing in the northern part of the city was built in the 18th year (1420) of the reign of Ming Emperor Chengzu. The Bell Tower was built entirely with bricks and stones. Under it is a square, towering brick platform, encircled by stone balustrades. A single-storied bell drum, which is the largest ever in China, was erected on the platform.
Jian Lou (Archery Tower)
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), each city gate of Beijing was also guarded by a Jian Lou (Archery Tower), and two of them have been well preserved.
Tian'anmen Gate Tower
Located to the north of the Tian'anmen Square, the Tian'anmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is a vermilion building with yellow glazed tiles, glistening in the sunlight with all its beauty, splendor and grandeur.
Tian'anmen Gate was built in the 15th year (1417) of Emperor Yongle's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and has a history of over 570 years. From imperial days, the yellow glaze-tiled double-eaves tower functioned as a rostrum for proclamations to the assembled masses. The tower has five doors and in front of it are seven bridges spanning a stream. Only the emperor could use the central door and bridge.
The Gate measures 43.7 meters in height and with a facade of 62.77 meters wide. This solemn architecture of national style with double eaves has 60 grand red columns, 8 ball-shaped palace lanterns hanging high, white balustrade, yellow tiles, red beams and painted pillars, which in the arrangement of either colors or structures shine in its entirety, with the extraordinary beauty of harmony.
Looking up, the four roof-ridges with an orderly array of figurines of dragons, phoenix, lions, unicorns, heavenly horses, fighting bulls and other animals can be seen, which are vivid and brilliant. But under the up-turned roof-eaves, there are lightly painted graceful pictures of golden dragon and imperial seal, golden phoenix and imperial seal, dragon brocade and imperial seal, dragon phoenix and imperial seal etc., which are known as palace color pictures with a history of several hundred years.
On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong, standing on the tower, proclaimed the founding of the new China.
Gu Lou (Drum Tower)
Located to the south of the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower overlooks the busy Drum Tower Street, with a platform below and a two-storied, three-eave building on the upper level. The Drum Tower is horizontal and long in form, larger in size and elegant in style, presenting a sharp contrast to the Bell Tower which is small, vertical, plain and neat.
In ancient times, according to the old rule, the local officials would open the city gate at the toll of the bell in the morning, and close it with the strike of the drum at dawn.