Xi’an is one of the few cities in China where the old City Walls are still standing. The Ancient City Wall of Xi’an, with a history of more than 600 years, is the longest, oldest and best-preserved extant city defense system from ancient China and one of a few such ancient military facilities in the world. It is also one of the most important landmarks of the Xi’an city.
Xi’an was originally a walled city, and even today the wall is considered a landmark dividing the city into the inner part and the outer part. The present wall was built in the early Ming Dynasty on the basis of the wall of Chang’an, capital city of the Tang Dynasty. It was renovated many times in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and was reinforced by lining its surface with black bricks. A large-scale renovation project was carried out in the 1980s.
The wall now is 13.74 kilometers (8.5 miles) in circumference, 12 meters (40 feet) high, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60feet) wide at the bottom. Each of the four corners has a turret, and the wall is surrounded by a protective moat. Every 120 meters, there is a rampart stretching out 11 meters from the city wall. All together, there are 98 ramparts, which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up. On top of 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 5,948 crenellations, namely battlements. Under each of the 5,984 crenels there is a square hole, from which arrows were shot and watch was kept. The lower, inner walls are called parapets. They were used to prevent soldiers from falling off the wall, when walking back and forth.
The old city wall had four main gates, named respectively as Changle Gate in the east, Anding Gate in the west, Yongning Gate in the south and Anyuan Gate in the north. Each main gate is composed of three parts: lock tower, watchtower and the main gate tower. They enclose an enceinte. There were also two supplementary gates of Zhuque and Hanguang. The other gates, the Yuxiang, Zhongshan, Heping, Wenchang, Shangde and Jianguo were built in the modern era.
Cycling is the best way to explore the ancient City Wall of Xi’an, which will bring you an enjoyable and interesting experience. To cycle round the wall for a whole circle takes about 1-2 hours. It is also possible to walk the entirety of the walls in a leisurely 4 hours. The truly lazy can be whisked around in a golf cart.
A public park today surrounds the City Wall. It is decorated with pavilions, terraces, towers and greenbelts. The City Wall has become an ideal place for holding cultural, sports and tourist activities, traditional festivals, bonfire evening parties and large lantern shows. Xi’an City Wall International Marathon, with its start at the city wall, has become one of China’s most famous international races. The ancient-style ceremony held on the City Wall for tourists is reputed as the “best welcoming ceremony in China”.
Admission Fee: 54yuan
South Gate: 8:00-22:00 (Apr. 1-Oct. 31); 8:00-20:00 (Nov. 1-Mar. 31)
East/North/West Gate, Wenchang Gate, Heping Gate, Shangde Gate: 8:00-19:00 (May 1-Oct. 31); 8:00-18:00 (Nov. 1-Apr. 30)
Hanguang Gate: 8:30-18:00 (Jan. 1-Dec. 31)
Getting there: You can reach the city wall by public bus No. 26, 31, 36, 215, 302, 321 or 323.