The Old City Wall in Xi'an was
built in 1374A.D on the basis of the city of Chang'an in the Tang
Dynasty. They are 11.9kilometres in girth with the top widths of
12 to 14 meters. They are one of China’s most historically—known
city wall buildings remaining from the later stage of the Middle
Ages. They are built of grey bricks and kept intact. The gate tower
built over each of the four city gates and painted in dark green,
which looks lofty and magnificent and forms a tight defense engineering
Old City Wall
on the Xi'an City Wall
Xi'an City Wall was erected in the 14th century Ming Dynasty, under
the regime of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. When Zhu Yuanzhang captured
Huizhou, long before the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, he was
admonished by a hermit named Zhu Sheng, who told him to "build
high walls, store abundant provisions and take your time in proclaiming
yourself emperor." This advice Zhu Yuanzhang heeded. Once the
whole country was unified, he sent orders to the local governments
to build city walls on a large scale. Zhu assured that "out
of all the mountains and rivers in the world, the area of Central
Qin is the most strongly fortified and strategically impregnable."
The current city wall is an enhancement of the old Tang Dynasty
structure, as a result of the emperor's wall building campaign.
The Structure of the City Wall
The first city wall of Xi'an was built of earth, rammed layer upon
layer. The base layer was made of earth, quick lime, and glutinous
rice extract, tamped together. It made the wall extremely strong
and firm. Later, the wall was totally enclosed with bricks. A moat,
wide and deep, ran around the city. Over the moat, there used to
be a huge drawbridge, which would cut off the way in and out of
the city, once lifted.
Xi'an's city wall, after its enlargement in the Ming Dynasty, stands
12 meters high. It is 12-14 meters across the top, 15-18 meters
thick at bottom, and 13.7 kilometers in length. There is a rampart
every 120 meters. The ramparts are towers that extend out from the
main wall. The ramparts were built to allow soldiers to see enemies
trying to climb the wall. The distance between the ramparts is within
the range of arrows fired from either side. This allowed soldiers
to protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy.
There are altogether 98 ramparts; each has a sentry building on
top of it.
The gates of the city wall were the only way to go into and out
of town. Therefore, these gates were important strategic points,
which the feudal rulers racked their brains to try to defend. In
Xi'an's case, the north, south, east and west gates, each consist
of three towers: the gate tower, which holds the drawbridge, the
narrow tower and the main tower. The gate tower stands proud of
the wall. It is used to lift and lower the drawbridge. The narrow
tower is in the middle. Its inner walls have square windows to shoot
arrows from. The main tower is the innermost one, and forms the
entrance to the city.
The narrow tower and the main tower are connected by tunnels, in
which soldiers could be stationed. From the tunnels there are also
horse passages leading to the top of the wall. There are gradually
ascending steps, made so that it was easy for war horses to ascend
and descend. There are all together 11 horse passages around the
A watch tower is located on each of the four corners of the wall.
The one at the southwestern corner is round, probably after the
model of the imperial city wall of the Tang Dynasty, but the other
three are square-shaped. On top of the watch towers there is a corner
rampart, higher and larger than the ordinary ramparts. This shows
the strategic importance of the corners of the city wall in war
Along the outer crest of the city wall there are crenellations or
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 traveling back and forth.