Xian City Wall
Xian City Entering Ceremony

Xian City Wall

Why Xian City Wall is a Rarity?
It demonstrated ancient Chinese wisdom in establishing an extremely strong defensive force to their capital city. It is the best-preserved architectural masterpiece of its kind.

The current Xian City Wall was constructed in Ming Dynasty (1370). It replaced the one that was built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Prior to that, Han Dynasty initiated the massive building of an up-scale capital city at Xian (202) together with a defensive city wall.

Appearance of the Xian City Wall
The wall is 12 meters tall, 16 meters thick and roughly 12 kilometers in circumference. It encloses the city of Xian which is basically square in shape. A wide and deep moat surrounds the wall and the city.

On top of the wall, there is an 11-meter wide roadway which was originally designed for soldiers to move rapidly. Today, the roadway is a perfect place for a scenic walk. You can even try biking on it.

Each side of the square wall has a gate, named by their direction South, East, North and West. There are drawbridges at each of the four gates. Lifting the drawbridge would cut off the way in and out of the city.

Military Defensive Mechanism of the Xian City Wall
Each corner of the wall has an imposing watchtower. These are the major strategic control points at war time.

On top of the watchtowers there are corner ramparts, higher and larger than the ordinary ramparts. Ramparts are towers that extend out from the main wall to allow soldiers to monitor their enemies who tempted to climb the wall. They also allow soldiers to protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy.

The city wall, city moat, drawbridges, watchtowers, corner towers, parapet walls and gate towers once made up the most comprehensive city defense system.

Once gates closed and drawbridges lifted, the city is completely enclosed. These make protecting of the city easy and attacking difficult.

The weapons in ancient times were primitive. The gates were the main attacking points should enemies wanted to break into the city. Therefore, the gates were important strategic points to defend.

3-Layer Structure of the Gates

  1. Outer most – Gate Tower – controls the lowering and lifting of the drawbridge
  2. Middle layer – Arrow Tower – windows for shooting arrows and monitoring enemies
  3. Inner most – Main Tower – main city gate
Arrow Tower and Main Tower are connected by parapet walls. Soldiers usually station here. There are gradually ascending steps made way easy for war horses to go up and down.

Xian City Entering Ceremony
It was a highest honor welcome ceremony take place at the South Gate of the Xian City Wall. No other city in China has the same tradition, as Xian has been the capital city for 13 dynasties. The ceremony was actually a royal protocol.

The protocol originated in Tang Dynasty. It was the most extravagant way of welcoming the most important guests into the capital Xian.

Chinese believe ‘south’ is the best among the four directions. Therefore palaces must face south. Likewise, Xian’s main entrance was the South Gate on the City Wall. The City Entering Ceremony has been held here since Tang Dynasty.

The ceremony had a history of 1,300 years. However the current China government is still practicing it when welcoming their important guests. One of the most recent occasions was Bill Clinton being invited to China in 1998.

Xian City Entering Ceremony Agenda

Xian City Entry Ceremony

Venue:  South Gate Square beyond Xian City Wall
Setting: Flags, red lanterns, Tang music with horns, drums and gongs played by a band in Tang customs


  1. Hundreds of young ladies and soldiers all in Tang customs, aligned on both sides of the Royal Path
  2. Lowering of the bridge over the moat
  3. Soldiers with weapons, young ladies with lanterns, civil and military officers came out from the city
  4. Dancers in colorful robes offered flowers and fruits to guests
  5. Protocol Officer declared the welcoming of guests to enter the city of Xian
  6. In Tang music and lead by young ladies, guests walked through the Royal Path to enter the city of Xian.

That was the way Bill Clinton was welcomed to China. I have extracted the following for your pleasure reading.

Extraction of the Official Transcript of the President's Remarks:

Bill Clinton entering Xian

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary (Xian, China) June 25, 1998


THE PRESIDENT: Mayor Feng, Governor Cheng, Secretary Li, nim men hao. Thank you for the key to your city and for this magnificent welcome.

Here in this ancient capital, China seems very young to me tonight, blessed with both a proud history and the promise of tomorrow. I am delighted to begin my journey in Xian, once the capital of China, still the heartland of the Chinese people. I was raised in the heartland of my country. I know that the character of a nation is determined by the hard-working people who live here.

Over 1,000 years ago, during the Tang Dynasty, which I have seen recreated tonight, Xian was perhaps the most open and culturally advanced city in the entire world. From this place, trade routes extended through Asia to Europe and Africa. And to this place, great thinkers came, spreading philosophy and new ideas that have contributed to the greatness of China.

Anna's Notes
Xian City Wall is a rarity, so as the Xian City Entering Ceremony. However the Ceremony is basically a non-commercial thing. It is usually done on festival days or when the China Government welcomes their VIPs. So it is a matter of luck if you could co-incidentally see one.

Customize a Xian tour to see the Xian City Wall

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