Xian Ancient City Wall
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 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.
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.
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.
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.