Xi'an City Wall

The Xi'an City Wall is the best preserved city wall in China and one of the most impressive ancient city walls in the world. Throughout Xi'an's history as a capital of many dynasties, it has had a need to be protected. Today's wall was originally built between 1370-1378, by the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu Emperor) on the base of older walls built around Chang'an during the Sui (581-617) and Tang (618-904) Dynasties.

Before he became emperor he was advised by a hermit called Zhu Sheng to "build high walls, store abundant provisions and take your time in proclaiming yourself emperor" and this is how it came to be.

Creating an inner section in modern Xi'an, it was originally made of earth and was enclosed with bricks in 1568. It was restored again in 1781 and most recently in 1983 by the Shaanxi government Stretching 13.7km in length and surrounded by a moat, it is 12m high, 15-18m wide at the base and 12-14m wide at the top. Ninety eight ramparts extend out from the wall every 120m, which allowed the guards to fire upon enemies trying to scale it, without being exposed. A watch tower stands at each corner.

Four huge gates were the only access to the city and had intricate security systems involving 3 towers each. They are Anyuan (forever harmony) in the north, Yongning (eternal peace) in the south, Anding (harmony peace) in the west and Changle (eternal joy) in the east. The outer tower (Zhalou) is away from the wall and was used to raise the drawbridge. In the middle, Jianlou tower was used for defense and the inner tower (Zhenglou) is the main entrance. The wall between Jianlou and Zhenglou housed the guards and gave access for horses to the top.

Nowadays the wall is very popular with visitors who come to admire its size and beauty. You can walk around the entire wall on top or hire a bike as it is quite a long way round. From the top there is a great view of the city and at night time access is closed but it is lit up nicely. A park has been created along the wall and moat which is a pleasant place to stroll among the trees and flowers while still being in the city.