The construction from the Ming period was totally recovered in the eighties. Excellent idea and work. It expresses true authenticity, and the sights of the ramparts punctuated with beautiful towers until fading in the haze is magnificent.
Walking a little in any section of its 15 km long, and a visit of one of the several towers are not to be missed.
Outside the city wall is surrounded by city park with trees, exercise equipment, benches, and pavilions. I walked around the park in the early morning, and enjoyed seeing the locals doing exercises including Tai Chi, dancing, badminton, and etc.
Inside the city wall is a preserved ancient old town with many shop houses and buildings with Ming and Qing dynasty architecture. Near the South Gate, I adore several streets like Sanxue Street, and Shuyuanmen Street. You can find several YHA China or HI in this neighborhood. Shuyuanmen has been famous being the ancient cultural street gathered by local artists or painters to demonstrate their talents and share their passion of arts with the public.
It's fundamental to climb the city wall, and to walk on it.
It's easy to feel its importance in the defense of the city, and the challenge it would mean to those who tried to cross it with their primitive resources.
Though the balloons and some decoration are recent (I don't know if matching any tradition), it's remarkable the aesthetics they add to a military construction.
There are four main gates towers at Xi'an City Wall; Yongningmen (South Gate), Changlemen (East Gate), Anyuan Gate (North Gate), and Andingmen (West Gate). These gates look alike. I cycled from South --> East --> North --> West --> South.
" On the top of the city gate the Watch Tower was the main building in the defense system. It is 32 meters high and 43 meters long. The blue tiled, double eaves structure really reflected its greatness and power, and hence used to be the general's office during times of war. The two stories and three eaves structure made the watch tower a very cherished example of ancient Chinese architecture, fully demonstrating the perfect combination of aesthetics and practical function. " written on signboard.
Xi'an City Wall is the longest and oldest city wall that I have seen in China. It is very impressive the first time I saw it. It was a great day to walk around the wall during spring season. In fact, the color and structures of all the walls are the same, but I could see the city from different angles, from ancient architectural buildings or shop-lots to modern skyscrapers outside the wall. After walking for a while, I realized that It was impossible to walk the whole wall on foot within these few hours. So, I rented a bicycle to explore the wall from Changle Gate all the way back to Yongning Gate, passing Anyuan Gate and Anding Gate. The bicycle rental is Y20 for 90 minutes, which was just enough time for me to circle around the wall.
The City Wall's signboard was written as:
Xi'an City Wall was first built in 582, the 2nd year of the Emperor Kaihuang's reign of the Sui Dynasty. The current structure is an extension of both east and north of the old structure by Zhu Shuang, the Prince of Qin in 1370, the 3rd year of Emperor Hongwu's reign of the Ming Dynasty in accordance with the policy made by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in the early Ming Dynasty of "building high city walls, storing abundant provisions and taking your time in proclaiming yourself emperor". With a circumference of 13.74 kilometers, the City Wall stands 12 meters high, 12-14 meters wide across the top, 16-18 meters thick at the bottom, covering 11.5 square kilometers interior area. It has moat suspension bridge, Zhalou (sluice gate), Jianlou (arrow tower), Chenglou (the main gate tower), corner towers, rampart towers, parapets and crenellations or battlements, which formed a strict and complicated system of city defense in an era of non-fired weapon. It is also one of the most famous ancient city walls in China, as well as the longest, the most intact and best-preserved, and the largest in scale of the ancient defense systems in the world.
Don't miss this, the entrance to the wall is through Nanmen (South gate).
Admission: Y40 (Adult) (8:00- 22:00)
The city wall is a great monument by itself. Walking on it, even in a short distance, is mndatory.
Furthermore, the clever idea of spreading on it some recreations of the old war machines enhances the views, and give this place a sense of natural authenticity.
Of course, we don't know the purpose of some of them, but... they fit well in place!
I regret not having enough time to walk a section of the inpressive City Wall. We passed it many times as we drove through the city. Walking the wall would be walking on history, also the view from the wall would be outstanding.
"The Xi'an City Wall augmented in Ming Dynasty measures 12 meters high, 12 to 14 meters wide on the top, 15 to 18 meters wide at the bottom with a total length of 13.7 kilometers. There is a watchtower in every 120 meters, outstanding with a same height leveling with the wall to help soldiers kill enemies that are climbing the wall".
The defensive walls surrounding the inner city of Xian are the best preserved walls in China, if not the world. Built in the 14th and 15th Century to defend against nomadic invaders, the wall is wide enough to accomodate cars.
To access the parapets, admission is charged. You can then walk or rent a bicycle to traverse its circumference. Several structures can be seen atop, surrounded by modern high rise buildings. One of the most imposing is the Archers Tower. From this structure, archers would shoot down on any possible enemey or invader with deadly accuracy. (see picture).
We had a fabulous visit to Xian with the help of Allen Guo as our guide. From the first contact made via email, Allen was very professional and helpful. His English is excellent and he asked questions in order to create a tour that met our needs. He went above and beyond a number of times such as finding us a hotel with a larger room (we were 2 adults and one child) in the area we requested and for a better price and scouting out restaurants with local specialties. Allan met us at the airport with his driver. From the airport he took us to the Wild Goose Pagoda then lunch near the Muslim quarter. He was very attentive to our questions and needs and really made it fun for our 8 year old. Next he took us to a Jade factory where we learned all about different types of Jade and watched carving. Thent to an art museum with a private tour and a chance to learn and practice caligraphy. Finally, to the hotel to check in. Our room was upgraded to a suite and very spacious. Allen personally checked the room to be sure it met our needs. He took us to dinner at a local hot pot restaurant nearby. It was a locals place and very tasty. The next morning he met us at the hotel and we went to the city wall and rented bicycles and rode around the entire perimeter (about 9 miles). It was not crowded and we had a wonderful time with some excellent views. Then we visited the Terra Cotta Soldiers which was the highlight of Xian. Allen is very knowledgeable in Xian history and gave us so much information. He found a home built in a cave for us to see on our way back to Xian. He definitely went the extra mile to make our trip very enjoyable. I would not hesitate to hire Allen again on a future visit. His email is email@example.com, mobile is 13572901624 and website is www.xianprivatetours.com.
We bought a ticket for 20 yuan to rent our bikes for 100 minutes. We had to leave a deposit of 100 yuan for each bike which we got back after our ride. You can ride the bike all around the city but it takes a great deal of time. The wall is very well restored and wide and bike riding is smooth.
The view is really beautiful here and gives a whole new perspective to Xi'an, especially the old city quarters where there many quaint shops. The modern high rises are outside the wall.
There are four symetrical entrances - East Gate, West Gate, North Gate and South Gate. The East Gate is the only way in and it cost about 40 yuan, or $6. The wall is very wide and well cared for.
We thought it would be awesome to actually walk on this Ancient City Wall - and it was at the start of our walk. It's huge and after 3kms it was same same and no exit off it except for the North, South, East, West Gates - nothing in between so you really need to work out where you want to get off this wall as after walking 3kms there's not a whole lot to see except people's houses and traffic - the main attractions are at each of the Gates, where you can view the city from top of the chaos down below.
We'd been told you could hire a golfcart – great idea!! but this was not an option and there was a people mover but it was always full so we didn't get a chance to get onboard. We walked to the North Gate and exited there and caught a cab back to the Hostel.
Visiting the City Wall – South Gate entrance = RMB40 or AUD 7. Opening hours – 08:00 to 19:00 – allow 3 hours. 14kms walkable wall all around rim of Xi’an.
In our somewhat futile attempt to search for the way up the city walls, we discovered another side of Xi'an that is more tranquil.
If you walk along the outside of the wall, you'll find a lot of parks and green space where the locals congregate to practice dancing, tai chi, play chess, or simply exercise. There were high beams, manual rowing machines, and other "human powered" equipment for the residents to keep fit. Plus it's a great way to strike up a conversation with the locals.
Based on a tip from one of our fellow "exercise-mates", we realized we had to double back to where we came from. So this time, we decided to walk inside the walls and the scene had changed again and we were greeted by the hustle and bustle of a local market. People getting haircuts on the side of the road, vendors selling fruit etc. It was actually kind of "tranquil" comparing to the food markets in the Muslim quarters and the main streets of Xi'an.
When we finally found the entrance, we realized we only brought enough cash to pay for the admission (40RMB), the deposit for 1 bike (200RMB) and the rental for 1 hour (20RMB). It was fine though - we each took turns riding the bike down one side of the wall and back. Beyond the tower area, there were virtually no people walking along the wall, though the grounds were in disrepair, making the ride a bit bumpy. As we exit the City Wall, we saw a couple getting their wedding pictures taken on the steps. Interesting how a short little stroll down the wrong path could show us a much different Xi'an from the hectic city we had grown accustomed to?
The old city of Xi'an is beautifully lit at night with lights in the trees along the broad streets. Especially spectacular is the lighting of the wall. Each building is brilliantly lit and the battlements picked out with light.
The park at the inner entrance of the South Gate is a virtual fairyland.
Lantern festivals are a great tradition in China. Xi'an holds its festival on the city walls. It starts around the 15th of the first lunar month and lanterns have many themes - depicting Tang Dynasty and Shaanxi Customs as well as nature themes.
I was not fortunate to be there at the time of the festival but saw many of the lanterns on the wall during my bike ride. Check out the web site for pictures of the festival at night.
Even unlit the lanterns are amazing.
Originally built in the Tang Dynasty, the Xian City Wall was enlarged and extended during the Ming Dynasty. The work was started by the first Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. It is the most complete surviving wall in China.
The wall is 12 metres high and has a total distance of almost 14 km. There are 4 main gates, one at each point of the compass. The South Gate is the most magnificent of the four. The wall is surrounded by a moat most of which is now parkland.
The top of the wall can be accessed at a number of places including the four main gates and the whole of the top is open to visitors. What better way to explore the wall and get great views of the city than by bicycle. There are vendors at most main gates and a bike will cost about 20 CNY for about 1 and 1/2 hours - enough time to cycle the whole distance. Tandem bikes are 40 CNY.
Warning - the top of the wall is cobbled with large uneven paving stones and bike seats are not the most comfortable!