Xian City Wall

Destinations — By on 12/08/2012 6:43 am

Xian City Wall

Xian is a fascinating city with the Terracotta warriors nearby, loads of attractions in the city itself AND is completely enclosed by a wall and moat fortress system. This wall is the oldest and best preserved city walls in China and a must see when you travel to Xian. The wall itself is an incredible structure, it provides great views of the city and you can ride the entire length around Xian on a bicycle.


The first Xian city wall was completed in 190BCE after four years of construction when the city was named Chang’an and was the capital of ancient China.  At that time the wall was 25 kilometers long with a base 12 to 16 meters wide and the area of the enclosed city was 36 square kilometres. The wall was partially rebuilt during the

The city wall was completely rebuilt in 1370 by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang after he eliminated competing rebel factions, sent the Mongols packing, burnt their capital Dadu to the ground and established the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Since 1370 the wall has been restored three times. The first time was in 1568 when a government officer Zhang Zhi rebuilt Zhu Yuanzhang’s dirt wall with bricks. The second time was in 1781 when another governmentofficer Bi Yuan refitted the wall and gate towers. The last time was in 1983 when the Shaanxi government restored the wall and added parks and walking tracks on the base of the wall.


Size & Length – The size and length of the wall has not changed since 1370 and its current length is 13.7 kilometers and encloses and area of 14 square kilometres. A lot smaller than its original size two thousand years ago. The actual wall is 12 meters high with a base 15 to 18 meters wide and a top 12 to 14 meters wide. The wall is surrounded by a deep moat that is clearly visible when you walk around it.

Ramparts – The outer side of the wall has 98 ramparts spaced at 120 meter intervals that extend out from it. The ramparts are designed to defend against enemies scaling the walls on their rickety ladders and each rampart has a protective sentry box. The other key features of the wall are the four main gates set in the centre of the north, south, east and western sides of the wall.  There are 18 gates in total along the length of the wall.

Gates – At the time the wall was built, there was no siege equipment capable of knocking it down so the only way enemy could take the city was by scaling it (hence 98 ramparts) or breaching the gates. To improve the gates effectiveness, they were built with three sets of gate towers. The outer Zhalou gate controlled the bridge over the moat and the middle and inner Jianlou and Zhenglou gates protected the city entrance.

Visiting the Wall

Start Anywhere – The easiest way visit the wall is to head to the section nearest to your hostel and look for the closest gate with access up to the top of the wall. The wall can be circled from any point so where you start is no big deal.

South Gate – I recommend you start at the south gate because this is the most impressive of the four main gates and renting bikes there is convenient and easy. Rental prices vary with a deposit of at least 100rmb being normal and expect to pay 30rmb or more an hour.

Getting to the South Gate – If the south gate is too far from your hostel to walk, catch the subway to Yongingmen station.  There are also loads of buses that go to the south gate such as buses number 6, 203 and 903.

pixel Xian City Wall
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