china edition


Drum and Bell Towers

Gulou, the drum tower of Beijing, is situated at the northern end of the central axis of the Inner City to the north of Di'anmen Street. Originally built for musical reasons it was later used to announce the time and is now a tourist attraction.

Zhonglou, the bell tower of Beijing, stands closely behind the drum tower.

Drum and Bell TowersBells and drums were musical instruments in ancient China. Later they were used to tell time and became watches for the officials and common people as well. The Bell and Drum towers were the center of time telling during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Although the Bell and Drum Towers have lost their function of telling time (The function was completely lost in 1924 when the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was forced to leave the Forbidden City), you can still hear the rings of these ancient timepieces even now. The Drum Tower was built in 1272 during the reign of Kublai Khan, at which time it stood at the very heart of the Yuan capital Khanbaliq. At that time it was known as the Tower of Orderly Administration (Qizhenglou).

In 1420, under the Ming Emperor Yongle, the building was reconstructed to the east of the original site and in 1800 under the Qing Emperor Jiaqing, large-scale renovations were carried out. In 1924, the name of the building was changed to the Tower of Realizing Shamefulness (Mingchilou) and objects related to the Eight-Power Allied Forces' invasion of Beijing and later the May 30 Massacre of 1925 were put on display. Nowadays, the upper story of the building serves as the People's Cultural Hall of the East City District.

In the 1980s, after much repair, the Bell and Drum Towers were opened to tourists.

The Drum tower is a two-story building made of wood with a height of 47 m. In ancient times the upper story of the building housed 24 drums, of which only one survives. Close behind the Drum Tower stands the Bell Tower, a 33-m-high edifice with gray walls and a green glazed roof.