Sightseeing on the Xi’an City Wall 西安城墙15 November, 2013
The Xi’an City Wall 西安城墙 is the most complete city wall that has survived in China and it is also one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. The original Tang Dynasty (618 -907) Xi’an City Wall was enlarged during Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and it now stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) thick at the bottom. The Xi’an City Wall perimeter is 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) with a deep moat surrounding it (at some parts – most of the moat had been removed for modern constructions and roads. The entrance fee to get on the Xi’an City Wall is 54 RMB for adults and 27 RMB for kids.
There are regularly scheduled live shows from warrior parades and orchestra performances at the different gates of the Xi’an City Wall and viewing of these performances is included in your ticket fee. There ain’t seats so you will have to stand around to watch the performances – these are short 10-15 minute acts.
Climbing up the Xi’an City Wall was quite ok – while there are quite a number of steps, the incline is not very steep. Do watch your steps as there might be some loose bricks on the steps.
With a thickness of 15-18 meters, the Xi’an city wall is almost impenetrable a few hundreds years ago with ancient war technology, thus the only way for the enemy to enter the city was by attacking the gate of the city wall. This explains the complicated gate structures which were built within the wall. The Xi’an city wall has four gates and they are named as Changle (meaning eternal joy) in the east, Anding (harmony peace) in the west, Yongning (eternal peace) in the south and Anyuan (forever harmony) in the north.
Most visitors enter the Xi’an City Wall through the South gate (Yongning) – this is also the closest gate to the Bell Tower (Xi’an city centre). Walking from the South gate to the Bell Tower will still take you about 15-20 minutes along South Street – from the Bell Tower, you will be very near to the heart of the city – the Xi’an Muslim Cultural Street and the Drum Tower. Entering through the South gate also has a symbolic meaning as this is the only gate used by armies returning home from a victorious battle.
Every 120 meters along the city wall, a rampart extends out from the main wall to defend against enemies climbing up the wall. There were 98 ramparts built along the wall. Each rampart has a sentry building, in which the soldiers could protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy. The distance between every two ramparts is based on the shooting range of an arrow, so that the wall is protected from all angles – sort of like the ancient arc of fire sticks range (something that most infantry soldiers in Singapore can relate to).
Cycling Around the Xi’an City Wall
The Xi’an City Wall perimeter is 13.7 kilometers so walking around it will take quite some time. Most people rent a bicycle to explore the Xi’an City Wall. There are bicycle rental stations at each of the gates – cycling at a leisurely pace around the wall will take about 1.5 to 2 hours. The cost for bicycle rental is RMB 40 for 100 minutes. There are also tandem bicycles which cost RMB 80 for 100 minutes. If you exceed the 100 minutes, you will be charged RMB 5 and RMB 10 for single and tandem bicycles respectively for every 10 minutes exceeded. Do note that the bicycle rental stations close at 7pm for the East, West and North gates; the South gate bicycle rental station closes at 10pm.
While you will be cycling on flat ground, do expect a slightly bumpy ride on some parts of the wall where the cobblestone floor is much more uneven. Along the way, you can take a look at the buildings within the city wall – there are also some temples built just beside the wall.
Cruising Around the Xi’an City Wall with Sightseeing Electric Car
If you find cycling 13 km too tiring but would still like to go around the Xi’an City Wall, you can take the easy way out with the sightseeing electric car (they call it the battery car). It cost RMB 80 for a complete round of the Xi’an City Wall – if you just want to get to the next gate, it will cost you RMB 20 per gate (i.e. getting from the South Gate to the West Gate will cost RMB 20; if you want to get to North Gate, it will cost a total of RMB 40).
The sightseeing electric car will stop at each gate for about 10 minutes – so you can roam around the gate and check out the ramparts and other displays at each of the gate – do take note of time and also keep your receipt in case the car leaves without you (so you can get on the next car).
As seen in the picture below, the wall seems never-ending so if you intend to walk or cycle – do ensure you have brought enough water and snacks for the journey or else you might end up like one of the tourists we picked up on our sightseeing electric car; the tourist hailed the car in the middle of nowhere and asked to board the car to the next gate – he walked the length of a section of the wall and got too tired from the walk!
For a quick glimpse of what riding on the sightseeing electric car and sights along the Xi’an City Wall, check out the video below:
The same video but hosted in Youku.
For accommodation options in Xi’an, we recommend Shangri-La Xi’an – take on the Xi’an Indulgence Package to enjoy a guided tour of the Terracotta Army Museum and enjoy a relaxing massage at Shangri-La Xi’an CHI The Spa.