Bell and Drum Towers, Beijing
The Bell and Drum Towers are not "must see" destinations in Beijing, but the hutong tours usually end in this area and so they're worth a visit just to go up one and look at the view.
Either will do, or do both if you like. A visit here will also give you a glimpse of Beijing's residential neighborhood life, as seen in the photo I took in front of the Bell Tower featuring a couple of Chinese playing badminton without a net. (See additional photo)
The Drum Tower was formerly used to announce the hours of day while the other tower rang its big bell when the city's gates closed at night. Imagine living in the hutong between these noisemakers, as the two towers aren't very far from each other.
If you wish to explore some hutongs on foot then head southeast of the towers toward Houhai, where you'll end up amidst a row of trendy drinking establishments.
In Beijing, there are two structures known as the bell tower and drum tower. They both lie on the north-south meridian that bisects the Forbidden City and Tian'an men square. The bell tower was used to mark the beginning of each day, while the drum tower was used to mark the end. Today, there is a tea shop located within the drum tower. Here, you are welcome to tea tasting ceremony. I was never really knowledgable on tea. Here in China, Chinese people drink tea everyday, like Americans would drink coffee. Different teas are used for different purposes. Here you will learn the different kinds and remedies.
On the central heavenly north-south axis of Beijing, the Drum and Bell Towers lie several kilometres north of the Forbidden City.
Both towers provide a wide-ranging perspective over the roofs of northern old Beijing, looming over the ancient hutong courtyards.
Few other tall buildings have been built on this axis, but looking east and west, the modern skyline is studded with tall tower-blocks, refelcting silver in the hazy grey sky.
The Drum and Bell towers are just a stone's throw from each other, separated now by a small, buzy paved square where locals compete for space with the tourist coaches and rickshaw touts.
The two towers look so different, but are inextricably part of the same function - for they were the timekeepers of dynasties through the ages. Only during the last 50 years have Beijing people been able to set their own time without the drums and bells, but for centuries the two towers set the pace and the rythym of daily life for everyone from emperor to the lowest citizen.
Every evening, at 7 o'clock the time-keepers would beat the drum thus officially starting the night hours. The drum would be struck every two hours until 5 in the morning. Then at 7 o'clock in the morning, the bell would be rung signifying the start of the day. Every two hours afterwards, the great bell would be rung.
The drums and bell could be heard throughout the old city, the sounds carrying far across the rooftops.
Both towers were started in 1420 and looked similar. In 1747, the Bell Tower was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original. Maybe it's an illusion, but the rebuilt tower seems to have much more stonework than the Drum Tower. In rebuilding, maybe they were mindful that stone poses less fire risk than wood.
The Drum Tower (Gulou) seems more elegant, with its wide balcony overlooking the Di'anmen Dajie, whic stretched southwards to Jingshan Hill. From a small doorway in the rear, a tremendous, single straight stone stairway leads up to the first floor high up in the tower. A great number of drums are arranged around this first floor. Walking counter-clockwise around the walls, the Chinese time system is explained on panels. Some extra drums are on display, including a drum damaged by the European forces after the Boxer uprising, and the world's largest drum, constructed in the 1990s for a festival in China.
Every hour, a demonstration of the drums is performed by a cadre of magnificently-dressed imperial drummers. The rythmic beating of the drums is an entertaining if somewhat improbable recreation of the old days.
On the ground floor, in the old archways of the base of the tower is the Tibetan Friendship Store, where a variety of handicrafts, carpets, furniture and jewellery are sold.
Across the square behind, is the Bell Tower, with a teahouse establishment at the base. A long flight of stone stairs gives access to a platform. A huge iron bell is suspended in the centre, but it is not rung anymore. Originally a bronze bell hung here, but disappeared over the ages. It is reported that the daughter of the ironmaker who cast the bell fell into the molten iron. The ironmaker tried to catch her but only managed to grasp her slipper, and so the bell is known as the Slipper Bell. A charming story but it is told of many other bells in China as well.
The bell itself is enormous, but its slender shape somehow belies its immense weight.
Open 9.30 am to 4.30pm; small entry fee for each tower.
Situated north of the Forbidden City are two towers. The southernmost is the drum tower. The tower houses drums (duh) used in keeping time at night. Starting at 7 o'clock the drums would be beaten every two hours all through the night until 7 o'clock the next morning. During the day the bell tower had the same function. Time was kept using three trays with water using the same principal as an hourglass.
The drum tower was built in the early 1400s and is built in stone and wood. Originally the two towers were similar, but a fire destroyed the first bell tower in the 1700s. When entering you have to climb up a dark, straight, stone staircase. At the top there are several drums on display, including a drum destroyed by 8 European powers in 1900 (silencing the boxer rebellion)
The Drum tower is located in the Dongcheng District of Beijing and was built in 1272 it stood in the heart of the Yuan capital Dadu. In 1420 the building was reconstructed to the east and in 1800 large-scale renovations were carried out.
The first level of the Drum Tower is a solid square terrace four meters high, 55.6 meters long and 30 meters wide. A broad wooden structure is built atop the terrace. The Drum Tower was once the time keeping center for the whole city, drums were beaten to mark the hours. The upper story of the building housed 24 drums, of which only one survives. The timekeeping was abondened at the same time with the last emperor.
Opposite of the Drum Tower is the Bell Tower, a 33 meter high tower with gray walls and a green glazed roof. The Bell Tower was first used during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle. It was destroyed by fire and in 1747 Emperor Qianlong undertook the reconstruction.
The Bell Tower originally housed a huge iron bell, this was not loud enough and was replaced by a massive cast bronze bell. This bell could be heard from a distance of over 20 kilometers.
Today you can climb a steep stairway to the second floor to see the bell, and have a good view over the hutongs and the drum tower opposite it.
After a though climb towards the upper floor of the Drum Tower, you finally arrive in a big hall which is filled with lots of drums, from big till very big.
Also this room was very red, which gave a warm feeling, or was climbing the steps the reason . . . .
Already in 1272 there was built a tower on this location, but this Drum Tower dates from 1420.
This was supost to see picks and tips about Bei Hai Park but i missed the target,so i changed the program for the day
I took a taxi from my hotel to Bei Hai park,the taxi driver left me in front of place i dont remember the name and make me signal to go to right,but when i start to walk i was literally "engulfed" be many chinese with map carts...rickshaw,rickshaw..huttongs,i don't remember how many times i said no.
i kept wallking i crossed the huttongs place,and went strait to Drum Tower
I bought the ticket that was 20 yuans , and steped to overlook around drum tower and i saw behai park the place i missed,then it was time for the drums show, after that i took a taxi to Lama Temple and paid 13 yuan's.
The bell tower burned down in the 18th century, and was rebuilt in stone. There is a myth saying that the bell makers daughter fell into the molten iron. The father only managed to get hold of her shoe, but it was to late for the girl. The Chinese say that the soft chime from the bell resembles the word shoe.
The bell tower and its sister the drum tower were the timekeepers in ancient Beijing. Every two hours during the day the bells were struck so that the people could hear what time it was.
There is a short performance certain times of the day. The schedule is posted at he ticket office. Interesting show and worth trying to plan your visit in order to see the show.
The Drum Performances are at 9:30am, 10:30, 11:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30. I was lucky to arrive in time for one of the performances here.
Here is the performance: Drum Performance
At the top of the Bell Tower is a single bell that is 47.9 meters in height and has a surface area of 1478 square meters.
The bell was used for time announcements which had a particular system. The system included 18 fast strikes, 18 slow strikes and 18 strikes that were nether fast nor slow. This was done twice and equaled 108 strikes.
The last photo tells of a legendary story of how the Bell Tower was made.
The Bell Tower is commonly done with seeing the Drum Tower. See Drum Tower for details on time and cost for both.
The Drum and Bell towers are located to the North of Beihai park. Due to lack of time, we only visited the Drum tower. The Drum Tower was built in 1272, being one of the oldest buildings in Beijing. It was used for the time keeping of the whole City with drums that beat every hour. It is now possible to see a display of the drums being beaten every half an hour. You can also see the largest drum in the world on display there.
Try and time your visit to the Drum Tower with the drum performances which happen throughout the day at the following times:
9:10, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 13:30, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 15:30, 16:00, 16:30 and 17:00.
Open: 9am-5pm. Admission: RMB20.
After my lunch in the restaurant near the Lama Temple, I wanted to visit the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower.
A few months ago, I had seen both towers in a TV show named Peking Express, this was a kind of competition were several couples had to hitchhike from Moscow to Peking, quiet an adventure . . .
To go towards both towers I decided to call for a taxi. That was not so difficult; I showed my destination on my Beijing map to the driver, so he could read the Chinese name of my desired destination.
After a short ride we (the driver and I) arrived near the Drum Tower. The price for the taxi ride was 10 Yuan.