When Zhu yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was on his way making his empire, a wise hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him to 'built high walls, store abundant food supplies and take time to be an Emperor,' then he maybe fortify the city and unify the other states, so that’s the reason why Zhu yuanzhang enlarged the city wall which was originally built during the Tang Dynasty (618 -907). Nowadays, the City Wall of Xian is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well as one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.
The wall was originally built with layers of dirt, with the base layer including also lime and glutinous rice extract, and throughout the time Xian City Wall has been restored three times. The first one was in 1568, Zhangzhi, the government officer of that period, was in charge to rebuild the wall with bricks. The second time was in 1781, Bi Yuan, another government officer of that period, refitted the city wall and the gate towers. The last one started from 1983 by the Shaanxi Provincial Government; meanwhile, a circular park has been built along the high wall and the deep moat.
Now, the wall is 12 meters tall, 12-14 meters wide at the top, 15-18 meters thick at the bottom and covers 13.7 kilometers in length with a deep moat surrounding it. The 98 ramparts on the wall, which extend out from the main wall with every 120 meters distance, 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. On the outer side of the city wall, there are 5948 crenellations (battlement), from which the soldiers can outlook and shoot at the enemy. On the inner side, parapets were built to protect the soldiers from falling off.
Because, during the cold weapon war times, it seems there is no better way of breaking into the city by city gate, compared with the high stood walls, so almost famous cities in ancient China have complicated gate structures within the wall.
In Xian, Changle (meaning eternal joy) Gate in the east, Anding (harmony peace) Gate in the west, Yongning (eternal peace) Gate in the south and Anyuan (forever harmony) Gate in the north. Among the four gates, Yongning gate, located in the south near the Bell Tower, is the most beautifully decorated one and it is where the Provincial Government are usually held the important greeting ceremonies. The important is each city gate has three gate towers: Zhenglou, Jianlou and Zhalou. The most outside Zhalou, which stands away from the City Wall and is opposite to Zhenglou, was used to raise and lower the suspension bridge. Jianlou, which has small windows in the front and flanks, was used as a defensive outpost. Zhenglou, which locates in the inner and the main entrance to the city, connects Jianlou and Zhenglou Towers. 'Wong Cheng', the area between them within the wall, was the place where the soldiers stationed in. Besides, there are sloped horse passages leading to the top of the city wall from the Wong Cheng.
Opening Hours: 08:00 to 21:30 (Spring and Summer); 08:00 to 19:00.
Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours
1. Ascending the City Wall
Visitors could ascend the wall by any nearest city gate of the 18 city gates to enjoy the beautiful Xian city. Besides, no matter which gate you choose, you can tour the whole circle of the wall if you like.
As we known, the South Gate (Yongning Gate) is the most splendid one among the 18 city gates, so it is very popular to ascend the city wall from here. We highly suggest you take a hotel near the Bell Tower, then you can take a 10 minutes’ walk along the South Street to get here. However, if you stay at the Xian Railway Station, you can choose the nearest Shangde Gate.
2.Cycling on the City Wall
Visitors do have many choices on the City Wall to enjoy themselves better. Visitors can bike or take a sightseeing bus on the City Wall, the bicycle deposit is CNY 200, and the single bicycle costs CNY 20/100 minutes, the tandem bicycle costs CNY 40/100 minutes, while the sightseeing bus costs CNY 65 for a tour around the city wall. Moreover, visitors can also tour the wall by sections with sightseeing bus which are charged differently by the distance.
More information of the Gates opens to tourists to ascend the City Wall:
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
Western side: Yuxiang Gate, West Gate (two entrances), Southwestern Corner of the Northern Bridle Way
Eastern side: East Gate, Zhongshan Gate, Northeastern Corner 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 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.
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.