Rebuilt on the northern point of the axis that runs from Ithum Noida Men Gate through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the two towers are roughly 100 meters apart and are separated by small square called Culture Square. The square has been a flourishing commercial center for over 700 years and the Bell Tower is on the northern side of the square with the Drum Tower on the southern side.
Both towers were originally built of stone and wood and had similar appearances. After the second reconstruction in 1745, the Bell Tower was rebuilt with brick and stone to avoid being destroyed by fire again. The Drum tower was built with stone and wood in a similar manner to the original towers. The result is that the two towers now look very different.
Drum Tower – The tower itself is a very large squat building 46.7 meters in height with triple eaves and a hip and gable roof design made mostly out of stone, wood and grey tiles. The tower only has two floors and the first floor has a very small lobby that leads of into the workers quarters (off limits to tourists) and the second floor holding the drums and time keeping devices.
The Drum Tower used to hold 25 watchman’s drums. There was one main drum representing the whole year and 24 mass drums representing the 24 solar terms. Only one drum now remains in the tower.
There is a balcony surrounding the second floor that provides stunning views of Beijing’s inner city. When I visited the Drum Tower only the southern side of the balcony over looking the Forbidden City was open to the public.
Bell Tower – The tower has a height of 47.9 meters and with double eaves and a hip and gable roof like the Drum tower. The materials used to build the Bell Tower are brick and stone covered by black glazed tiles. The tower uses an masonry and beam free arched structure for fire prevention. The inner part of the tower was built with a structure that enhanced the transmission and propagation of sound so the building resonated with the sound of the bell.
The first floor of the Bell Tower is a tea house with an extensive range of teas and tea drinking accessories on sale. The first floor also has private tea drinking rooms for customers. The second floor holds the ancient bronze bell and has a walk way circling the tower. The north, west and south walk ways were accessible but the east walk way was blocked. The Bell Tower provides excellent views of the nearby hutongs. The Bell Tower’s bell is the heaviest and largest ancient bell in China with a height of 7.02 meters, a diameter of 3.4 meters, a maximum thickness of 24.5 centimeters and a weight of 63 tons. Records state that the bell could be heard by people out side the capital as far as 5 kilometers away.
Both towers can only be accessed through very narrow and steep stairways.
The easiest way to reach the two towers and Culture Square is to catch the subway on line 2 to Gulaodajie station. Take the B exit and walk south down Jinggulou Street. After around 10 minutes walking you will see the towers to your left. The towers are the tallest structures in the area so you will have no trouble finding them.
Tickets and Times
Individual tickets to the Bell and Drum Towers are 15rmb each and through tickets for both sites are 30rmb. Buying a through ticket will not save you any money but it avoids having to line up at the ticket offices twice.