Xi'an City Wall
Xi’an City Wall, also known as the Fortifications of Xi’an, is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well as being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Restored, the City Wall is embellished with gardens in front of each of the main gates and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.
When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), captured Huizhou, a hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him to ‘build high walls, accumulate grain, and delay to be the king’. Zhu Yuanzhang followed his advice, and after the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, he began to enlarge the wall built initially during the old Tang Dynasty (618-907), forming today’s scale. Built-in 1374, the walls were initially made of rammed earth, mixed with lime and sticky rice juice. Then, they were covered with a facing of blue bricks in 1568. The walls are 12 meters high and cover an area of 11 km².
Since the ancient weapons did not have the power to break through a wall and the only way for the enemy to enter the city was by attacking the gate of the city wall, it was the focus of the feudal rulers’ painstaking defense and had to build the complicated gate structures within the wall.
The Xi’an City Wall includes four gates, and they are respectively named Changle (eternal joy) in the east, Anding (stable) in the west, Yongning (eternal peace) in the south, and Anyuan (forever safe) in the north.
The South Gate (also known as Yongning Gate) is the most beautifully decorated and is the entry point for visitors before beginning the tour of Xi’an City Walls. It is close to the Bell Tower, the center of the city, and some important ceremonies organized by the Provincial Government are usually held in the south gate square. The South Gate Square is restored and formally opens to the public on September 6, 2014. Covering an area of around 32,000 square meters, the U-shaped Square is divided into three parts, main royal road, secondary royal road, and celebration square. Below the square is a large underground parking lot. Meanwhile, two museums inside the barbican and the archery tower of the South Gate are also open to the public. Tourists who visit the City Wall can enjoy a free visit to these two museums.
The fortifications were then maintained by the Manchus of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) who installed a garrison in this strategic city for the defense of Northwest China.
Xi’an’s city walls are a great place to walk or cycle and soak up the historic atmosphere of this ancient city. Bicycles are available for rent on the wall, and it takes 1.5 to 2 hours to cycle around. Possibility to also rent electric cars to drive along the ramparts.
As you leisurely stroll on some of the ancient city wall, you can best enjoy its inner and outer walls, watchtowers, moat, and landscaped environs, as well as slightly elevated views of the city. But if you want to take your time experiencing this ancient structure, it is recommended that you visit in the late afternoon for the best combination of temperature and light for photography. It is also wonderful to stay till evening and enjoy the colorfully-lit wall and Xi’an night views.
Along the route, some shops are open to selling snacks and water. In summer, there is not much shade on the wall, so we advise you to take your precautions. Wearing a hat and/or applying sunscreen is more than a good idea.
Xi’an City Wall International Marathon
The Xi’an City Wall International Marathon is the only marathon in the world on an ancient city wall (though there is also a Great Wall Marathon). It is a grand event combining history, culture, and marathon running. The event was founded in 1993 and has been held annually since.
Generally speaking, the Xi’an City Wall International Marathon is held at the south gate of Xi’an City Wall in April every year (except in 2020, which was postponed to October due to the Covid-19). The scale of the event is 4,000 to 6,000 people, including 1,000 to 2, 000 marathon runners, a 13.7 km event (one lap of the wall), half of Marathon(half of the journey), and a 5 km event.
The city wall of Xi’an offers an immersion in the history of the ancient capital and is an essential stop on any itinerary in this city. Visiting this region combines perfectly with the Confucius Temple located next to the South Gate.
Chinese Name: 西安古城墙
Location: Beilin District, Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province
Opening hours: 08h00-22h00 (south door)
Ticket: 54 RMB /per. (except for the bike)
Bike rental: 45 RMB for a common bike, 90 RMB for a tandem bike, 200 RMB deposit
Recommended length of visit: 1-3 hours
Subway: Line 2, get off at Yongningmen 永宁门
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