In the south east of Beijing right next to the Beijing Train Station are the 600 year old remains of Beijing’s ancient city wall and enormous Ming Dynasty watch tower. A great site to visit during your travels in Beijing if you have an afternoon free.
Since 1271 Beijing has been the capital of China and the home to China’s last three dynasties, the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Beijing was divided into the Inner City that Forbidden City palace complex and the Outer City that included the Temple of Heaven. Each of the two cities was heavily fortified with walls, gate towers, moats, barbicans and guard towers.
The Beijing City inner wall was built in 1419 with a length of 40 kilometers and nine entrances to the inner city. The Chongwenmen Gate at the south east end of the inner wall is the largest gate and tower complex in China and was built in 1436.
The Beijing Inner City Wall
Of the original 40 kilometers of wall, only 1.5 kilometers remain and are now a part of the Ming Dynasty Wall Relics Park that also includes the remains of the Chongwenmen Gate complex.
The wall was originally just rammed earth but was later reinforced with bricks and stone. You can clearly see the rammed clay on the 1.5 kilometer stretch where the outer bricks have been removed. The wall was 1 meters high, 15 meters wide at the top and 18 meters wide at the base.
The contrast between the ruined section of the wall that runs most of the length of the park and the restored section of the wall at the gate house is fascinating.
Originally named Wenning or Hade gate, the Chongwenmen Gate was used as a tax office soon after construction in 1436 and was soon in charge of collecting commercial tax for the whole of Beijing City. Chongwenmen Gate continued to be the commercial tax office for Beijing for over 400 years until it was closed down in 1930.
Chongwenmen Gate was dismantled in the 1960’s to make room for Beijing’s second ring road and what you see now is just the corner tower and a small part of the fortifications that used to the Chongwenmen Gate.
You can buy a 10rmb ticked to see the restored section that includes a part of the wall and the corner tower. The corner tower is enormous with a cavernous inside that has three floors. The first and third floors are used as a modern art gallery and the second floor has a collection of very old photos which are great and models of buildings and structures from Ming and Qing Dynasty Beijing.
Tips For Visiting the Beijing City Wall and Gate Area
Quick & Easy – You only need 1 to 2 hours to see the everything and park area is very easy to get to so ideal if you have a free morning or afternoon in Beijing.
Subway – The nearest subway station is only a 2-3 minute walk from the park entrance so subway is the best way to get there. Catch the subway to Chongwenmen subway station on line two then take the C exit. The park will be on the left of Changwenmen Dong road straight in front of the subway exit. There is a big brown park sign across the road so you can’t miss it.