“I will build a great wall on our southern border” – Donald Trump

The 650-year old Xi’an City Wall was built to fortify the city that was the capital of 13 ruling dynasties of China (1046 BCE – 904 CE);  a city where many Silk Road journeys began. The rectangular wall – 14 kilometres (8.5 miles) long, 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) wide at the base and 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) at the top with a walkway – was encircled by a water-filled moat 18 metres (59 ft) wide and 06 metres (20 ft) deep.


Xi’an City Wall and Moat

A rampart, extending-out from the wall, was built every 120 meters. The distance between the two ramparts was within the range of arrows shot from them. The 98 ramparts allowed the soldiers inside to attack, without exposing themselves, the enemy attempting to climb the wall. The wall also had 5,948 crenellations (battlements) from which the soldiers could look-out for the enemy and shoot at them.


The Wall at dusk; the courtyard in the Wall premises

Ancient weapons could not break through the wall. The enemy could enter the city only by attacking the gates. Therefore the four gates in the wall had complicated gate structures built within the wall.

Xi’an wall is the most complete of all the ancient city walls in China; and one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg jogging on the Wall

The “high wall” was built by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), to protect the city so that he could focus on unifying China and “take time to be an Emperor.” It was built during  an eight-year period, over an ancient wall built during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 CE). In a way therefore the wall has a history of more than 1400 years.


A budding gymnast on the Walkway at the top of the Wall

The wall stands between modern Xi’an and the old city: outside the wall, high-rises and highways, shiny billboards advertising international brands, reveal the new wealth; inside the wall, the 36-square-kilometer old Xi’an of low, ancient buildings because skyscrapers are not allowed inside the city wall, and landmarks such as the Bell and Drum Towers and the Muslim Quarter. Top of the wall offers the most dramatic view of one of China’s most fascinating cities.

Built as a defence system, the Xi’an wall is today the city’s play ground.  A place for ‘engaged’ girls to be photographed in their colourful gowns before nuptials; for budding young gymnast-girls to practice;  for the joggers, for the cyclists; for the tourists to watch the multicoloured  flags in the square and the ancient cannons and to be photographed with the ramparts in the background. Since 1993, every first Sunday of November, thousands of athletes from China and abroad compete on a special track.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg jogged there. Michelle Obama, U.S. First Lady, jumped rope and danced there during her China tour in 2014.

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An ‘engaged’ girl getting herself photographed on the Wall before nuptials


A must see for any tourist to China.


The Author on the Wall – November 2016



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