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Xian City Wall

Xi'an, China

Xian City Wall is not only a well preserved ancient Chinese monument but was once also a complex and well-organized system of defense for the city.   

The City Wall was built by order of Zhu Yuanzhang, the forefather of Ming Dynasty. He was admonished by a hermit named Zhu Sheng to  “build high walls, store abundant provisions, and take time in proclaiming yourself emperor.” Zhu Yuangzhang accepted his proposal and gave orders to the local governments to build the city walls when the whole country was unified.     

The current City Wall is an extension of the old Tang Dynasty structure. It is 12 meters high, 12 to 14 meters in width across the top, 15 to 18 meters at the bottom and 13.7 kilometers in a total length.   

Due to the primitive weapons of ancient time, passage through the gate was only way to forcefully enter the city. The feudal rulers of every period hence put great emphasis on its reinforcement. In Xian, the east, west, south and north gates consist of three gate towers. The “Zhalou” tower is used to lift and lower a suspension bridge and stands away from the wall. The “Jianlou” tower is located in between the two others. There are square windows for defending archers in front and on both sides. The inner “Zhenglou” defense tower doubles as the main entrance to the city. There are in total 11 horse passages located around the city leading to the top of the wall. These have gradually ascending steps that make it easy for chargers to ascend and descend. 
Ramparts were built every 120 meters along the length of the wall. The distance between every two ramparts is just within the archers range from either side. The ramparts extends out from the main wall at the same height. There are 98 ramparts in total and each has a sentry building to accommodate troops. 

A wide and deep moat runs around the city. It measures 20 meters in width and 7 in depth with a defense wall 2 meters high on the inner bank. Over the moat at the south Gate, there is a huge suspension bridge that limits access to the city in all but this point.   

The City Walls were first built of earth. The base layer was made of soil, quicklime, and glutinous rice extract. This made the wall extremely firm. Later, the wall was reinforced with brickwork. On the top of the wall, there is a brick trough every 40 to 60 meters. These were used for drainage and have played a very important role in the long–term environmental protection of the walls. 

In 1997, then US President Clinton chose Xian as the first stop of his historic trip to China. He sang high praises after visiting the ancient city wall and the gates. The ancient Xi’an City Wall is a timeless display of the ability and wisdom of the people of ancient China. It provides visitors with an invaluable insight into Chinese history, military developments and architecture.  

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