Drum Tower in Xian

Why is Xi’an Drum Tower So Special?

  1. Dating back to the 1380s, the very beginning of the Ming Dynasty, Xi’an’s majestic Bell Tower and Drum Tower are symbols of the city’s rich past and are some of the largest and best-preserved of their kind in China.
  2. In Chinese history from Ming Dynasty, each city had a bell tower and a drum tower. The bell was sounded at dawn and the drum at dusk each day in ancient time, a means of telling time. Xi’an was not exception. 
  3. Drum tower marks the entrance to the city’s Muslim Quarter which is a interesting area to walk around and have a look. You will feel as if you are in a “city within a city” and the streets around this district leading to the Mosque are like a small village filled with people selling all kinds of things.

Brief Introduction of The Drum Tower

The Drum Tower is located northwest of the Bell Tower of Xi’an, across the Bell and Drum Tower Square. Both of them are called the ‘sister buildings’ or ‘morning bell and dark drum’. In ancient China, especially from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the drums were used to signal the running of time and on occasion were used as an alarm in emergency situations.

It was initially built in 1380 during the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and was renovated twice in 1699 and 1740 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is a two-storied post and panel structure, 34 meters (about 112 feet) high and 52.6 meters (about 172 feet) long from east to west as well as 38 meters (about 124 feet) wide from north to south. The architecture style of the Drum Tower is a combination of the styles of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Qing Dynasty. However, it also has some innovative features. For example, it should be mentioned that there is no iron nail used anywhere in the Tower.

History of Drum Tower

Xi’an Drum Tower was built in Ming Hongwu period thirteenth year (1380), four years earlier than the Bell Town. In the tower, there was a big drum, drumming the hours per day; therefore it was called “Drum Tower”. Drum Tower is across north Gate Street, and is only 200 meters apart from Bell Tower, corresponding to each other.

The people who organized to construct Drum Tower were marquis Changxing–Hou Gengbing and magistrate of Xi’an Wang Zongzhou, and it is said to lay a foundation under the rainy day. Thirty-eighth year of the reign of emperor Kangxi (1699) in Qing dynasty, and Emperor Qianlong forth year (1740) it had rebuilt twice.

Xian City in Ming dynasty has circumference of 11.9 kilometers, covers an area of 8.7 square kilometers, the Drum Tower is located in the middle of Xian city by southwest, in order to make the drums can spread throughout the city, it is necessary to build tall tower and set the drums. In Ming and Qing dynasties, around the Drum Tower mostly is government department at all levels of Shaanxi province and Xi’an city, the government office and the lives of residents cannot do without the drum sound, and the drum sound also became the most familiar voice at that time. There are stairs in Drum Tower, step into upstairs people can overlook the whole city scenery. Xi’an Drum Tower is one of the main symbol and representative architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasties in the city.

Structure of Xi’an Drum Tower

Similar to the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower is a typically Chinese wood and brick building constructed on a large brick base. The base is 52.6 meters in length, 38 meters in width and 7.7 meters in height, through which there is a tunnel for pedestrians and vehicles. Outside the base there are stone ladders leading to the main body of the Drum Tower, a two-storey building with exquisite colored paints and a green glaze-tiled roof. Standing on the base outside the tower, visitors can enjoy the general view of Xi’an. The Drum Tower of Xi’an is the biggest ancient drum tower in China.

After the repair in 1580s, two wooden plaques with two Chinese phrases were hung above different sides of the second storey but were burnt out in 1970s. To present the original appearance of the whole Drum Tower, Xi’an Municipal Government made a great effort to recover the two plaques since 1982 and successfully remade them with modern materials by traditional technology in 2004, after a long time of consulting historical data and elder people.

The Big Drum

The big drum in the Drum Tower of Xi’an is 2.83 meters in diameter. Aiming at maintaining the historical culture and boosting the tourism of the city, a large-scale repair project to the Drum Tower was undertaken in 1990s – a big drum (2.83 meters in diameter and 1.5 tons in weight) made of oxhide with 1996 nails and 4 copper rings was placed in the Drum Tower again and the ancient tradition of “morning bell and evening drum” revived.

Activities in Drum Tower

  1. 1. China Drum Culture Exhibition: Since ancient time, there are a variety of drums, like pottery drum, drum-shaped stone blocks, shield drum, war drum, elephant-foot drum, bronze drum, Dutan drum, etc.
  2. Morning bell and evening drum performance: since 2007, Xian Bell Tower and Drum Tower held “Morning Bell and Evening Drum” imitated ancient life performance activity, every day at 9:00, 12:00. 15:00, the Jingyun Bell of Xian Bell Tower (replica) rings 24 times; at 18:00, the 24 solar terms drums in the Drum Tower is beaten and then Wentian Drum is ringing 24 times for reporting time. This activity marks that the giving the correct time system “Morning bell and evening drum” that disappeared for more than 100 years in Xian has been recovered.
  3. Nationality Strains of Music Accompanied by Drumbeats Performances.

How to get to Drum Tower

Travel with ChinaDragonTours (top recommended)

If you want to get out of the traffic and hassle of navigation, you can book a private tour package that includes visiting, dining and transfer from us. Our local guide and driver will escort you to the Drum Tower in Xi’an in the fastest and most convenient way and take care of all the details. You just have to focus on the visiting.

Independent Traveler

  • By Metro:
    Take Metro Line 2 and get off at Zhonglou (Bell Tower) Station. Get out from Exit B. Walk towards west for around 6 minutes.
  • By Bus:
    1. Take bus No. 7, 15, 32, 205, 215, 221, 222, 251, 252, 612, 618 or Tourist Line 8 (No. 610) and get off at Zhonglou Xi (Bell Tower West) Station. Then you can see the Drum Tower.
    2. Dang-dang Trolley Sightseeing Bus
    Xi’an Dang-dang Trolley Sightseeing Bus connects Drum Tower, Bell Tower, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and Qujiang Scenic Area. It operates from 18:00 to 20:00

Useful Travel Tips

  1. Best Time to Visit: All year round. As summer is hot in Xian, visiting in morning and after sunset is better choice.
  2. There are also a lot of other sites including the Bell Tower, Daxingshan Temple, the Shaanxi History Museum, the Beilin Museum, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. To see another place where scriptures were translated a little later, Kumarajiva (344-413) worked at the Caotang Temple about 30 kilometers or 25 miles southwest of Xi’an. ChinaDragonTours can help you design a trip to this and other places.
  3. Admission Fee
    Drum Tower only: CNY 30   Bell Tower only: CNY 30
    Joint ticket of Bell and Drum Tower: CNY 50
  4. Drum Musical Performance Timetable: 09:30, 10:15, 11:00, 11:45, 14:00, 14:45, 15:30, 16:20

Nearby Attractions

Edited by Bella Ren/任新月