Towers of Xi’an, Part 1: The Bell Tower

The Xi’an Bell Tower, built in 1384 during the early Ming Dynasty, is located near the geological center of Shaanxi Province’s capital, at the intersection of East, West, North, and South Streets. As one of the grandest towers of its kind in China, it is thus a widely recognizable symbol of the city. Appropriately, the tower also contains several large bronze-cast bells dating from the Tang Dynasty. The tower’s original giant bell, known as the “Jingyun Bell”, named after the year of its casting, was moved to the city of Dongting in 1953. However, the Xi’an Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics later copied the original bell, not only in terms of its height, size, and weight, but also in terms of its ornamentation, inscription, and even majestic sound quality. This replica bell has been on display in the Bell Tower since January 1997. Originally, the Bell Tower was located at the Yingxiang  Temple, directly facing the Drum Tower, about 1,000 meters from its current location. However, as the city expanded and the city center gradually moved eastward, the city gates were rebuilt and new named streets were formed for the four cardinal directions.

In October 1939, during World War II, the Bell Tower was seriously damaged after being bombed by Japanese planes. It was repaired after the war and overhauled five more times after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In August 1956, it was protected as one of the first batch of key cultural relics within Shaanxi Province. It was officially opened to the public in 1984, and in November 1996, it gained protection as one of the national key cultural relics.

Like Chinese clock towers during ancient times, the Xi’an Bell Tower was used for reporting the time of day and the publishing news. However, over time its traditional functions were slowly phased out. During the Revolution of 1911, the rebel forces fought the Qing army deployed here. Then, during the “War of Protecting the Nation”, it was the site of rioting started by rival warlords. In 1927, it even housed a sound cinema, the first in the city’s history. During the Anti-Japanese War, because of its high terrain, the tower became an alarm station to warn of Japanese air raids. The Guo Ming Dang also used it to imprison criminals. With the founding of the People’s Republic of China, it also became the rostrum for parades, reviews, and Labor Day and National Day celebrations. Today, it is open to the public for tourism and sightseeing.

  • Viewed: Feb 1996

1 Comment

  1. The Bell Tower is indeed situated in the busy cultural and tourist centre of the city of Xi’an, however it is geometrically positioned at the bottom third of the rectangular inner city surrounded by the Xi’an City Wall, and sits 10 per cent farther west from the central meridian. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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