Bell and Drum towers is located at Dongcheng District of Beijing, at the north end of central axis of Beijing City. It is a unique tourist attraction. Bells and drums were musical instruments in ancient China. Later they were used as timepieces by government and became watches for the officials and common people as well. The Bell and Drum towers were central to official timekeeping in China in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. They were continued to function as the official timepiece of Beijing until 1924, when the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was forced to leave the Forbidden City and western-style clockwork was made the official means of time-keeping.
Drum Tower and Bell Tower
Drum Tower was initially built in 1272 (during the reign of Kublai Khan), was rebuilt in 1297, 1420 and 1539. The two-story structure was made of wood with a height of 47 meters. On its second floor there originally were 25 drums. Among them, there were one big drum and 24 smaller drums (The big one represents a year and the 24 small drums represent 24 solar terms of China). Now, only the big drum is left. The drum is beaten four times a day, for 15 minutes at a time. There are many shops on the first floor where you can buy what you need.
Close behind the Drum Tower stands the Bell Tower. Bell Tower is made of bricks and stone with gray walls and a green glazed roof. It is 48 meters high and also is two stories. On all four sides of the tower there is an arched door on the first floor. A stairway leads to the second floor. On the second floor there is also an arched door with a stone window framing each side. Right in the middle of the second floor is the big copper bell that tells the time. It is hung on a wooden framework. It is the heaviest bell in China. There is a round wooden peg that knocks the bell.
Ancient bell inside the Bell Tower
The Bell Tower originally housed a huge iron bell. But because its tolling was not loud enough, this was replaced by a large bronze bell. The iron bell was moved to the back of the Drum Tower where it has remained for over 500 years. And the bronze bell is in perfect condition today. It is over 10 inches thick and 7 meters (23 feet) high, with a weight of 63 tons. As recently as 1924, the bronze bell could be heard ringing out the 7:00 p.m. chiming from a distance of over 20 kilometers.
The Bell and Drum towers were central to official timekeeping in China in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Drum and Bell towers was built in 1272 during the reign of Kublai Khan. At that time, they stood at the very heart of Dadu, which was the capital of Yuan Dynasty and was known as the Tower of Orderly Administration (Qizhenglou). In 1420, the building was rebuilt to the east of the original site under the order of the Ming Emperor Yongle. The Bell Tower first came into use during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, which it was converted. The new Bell Tower was destroyed by fire after only a brief existence and it was not until 1747 that Emperor Qianlong undertook the reconstruction of an attractive durable stone structure. In 1800, large-scale renovations were carried out under the order of the Qing Emperor Jiaqing. In 1924, Feng Yuxiang removed the official status of the towers. After the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was forced to leave the Forbidden City and western-style clockwork was made the official means of time-keeping. And they were replaced with western time-keeping methods and renamed the building “Mingchilou”, or the “tower of clarifying shame”. Later on, it was destroyed in wars. In the 1980s, after much repair, the Bell and Drum Towers were opened to tourists.
How to Get there
• Subway: take Subway Line No.2 and get off at Guoloudajie Station. Then exit at Exit B and walk southwards to get there
• Bus: take bus No.5, 124, 60 or Trolley –bus No.107 and get off at Drum Tower (Gulou) Station.