The Bell Tower and The Drum Tower
In the downtown area of Xi'an at the intersection where the North, South, East and West Streets meet, stands a magnificent classical building. With carved beams and painted rafters, it's known as the Bell Tower. It has gained its name from the function it used to perform, to tell the time in the morning. Ever since its establishment, the tower has become the symbol of Xl'an. Now it is a historic monument in Shaanxi Province. The Bell Tower was first built in 1384, in the Yingxiang Tem-ple which used to be located in the center of the city. The tower was moved to its present place in 1582 as a result of the city expan-sion programme.
There have been various legendary tales about the Bell Tower. In the Ming Dynasty, tens of thousands people were killed in sever-al earthquakes on Central Shaanxi Plain. People said that a gigantic dragon in the huge undercurrent that flowed beneath the city caused all those quakes. When the governor of the city heard this, he or-dered all the smiths in the city to make a chain 300 meters long to chain the dragon at the bottom of the und.er-current, right in the center of the city. He then ordered 5, 000 skillful craftsmen to build the tower over the place where the dragon was chained so that it would be weighed down to the bottom of the under-current forev-er, and to stop forever, its eveil spells. The tale may sound absurd; however, it is not without reason.
The first emperor of the Ming Dynasty was born into a poor family. His parents died when he was young. He had to work as a shep-herd, herding sheep for the rich landowners. Later, he went to a temple and became a monk. When he ascended the throne, he was afraid of being deposed by someone of "real dragon" (i. e. royal de-scent). Therefore, he ordered bell towers to be built all over the country to repress the "dragon spirits". Xi'an has been the site of imperial capitals ever since ancient times. Just as popular then as now, the saying that the "dragon spirits" must be running rampanl here comes from this belief. This made Zhu Yuanzhang, the Em-peror, all the more afraid. Therefore, the Bell Tower in Xi'an was not only built earlier, but also taller than the other ones in the coun-try.The square-shaped base of the tower occupies an area of 1, 337.4 square metres and is 8. 6 metres high and 35.5 metres wide. The base was completely laid with blue bricks. The building proper is a mixed structure of bricks and wood, and it is 36 metres high. Three storeys of eaves are seen from the exterior of the building. The interior of the building is only two storeys. The eaves are sup-ported by colorful dougong—a unique Chinese architectural style of brackets inserted on the top of column and crossbeams. They not only made the whole building firm, but also look artistic. In fact, the dougong architecture has a long history, dating far back to the Shang Dynasty (1600---71100 B. C. ). A comparatively complete de-sign of dougong can still be seen, from the engravings on bronze wares dating back to the Warring States Period (475--221 B. C. ). Since 1949, the Municipal Government of Xi'an has launched three repair programmes on the tower. As a result, the tower now looks as great and magnificent as when it was first built hundreds 0f yesrs ago. Today, if you climb the tower by way of its wooden stairs, you will command an extensive view over the whole city. If you are lucky to go on a fine day, your eye sight might reach as far as Zhongnan Mountain in the far southern suburb of the city. About 300 metres to the northwest of the Bell Tower, stands another magnificent building the Drum Tower, which was built in 1380, four years older than the Bell Tower. There used to be a huge drum in the tower which told the time at dusk~ hence, the name Drum Tower. The bell in the Bell Tower and the drum in the Drum Tower, have been referred to as "the Morning Bell ' and "the Dusk Drum". Later, the drum was no longer used to tell time but only to give warnings to people in times of war. The base of the Drum Tower covers an area of 1,924 square metres and is 34 metres high. It was also built with blue bricks. The building is rectangular with tiers of eaves and has a golden-tiled roof. It is only two storeys inside. There are corridors around the tower on each tier and the outer eaves are decorated with networks of wood arches. The elegance and grandeur of its structure reveals much of the superb workmanship in architecture of the Chinese peo-ple.