Erected in 1380, the Drum Tower is the counterpart of the Bell Tower, which is 300 meters to the southeast. Like the Bell Tower, the Drum tower was used to tell time. An enormous drum once declared the hour at dusk, but later it was only used to warn of attacks.
Standing 34 meters high, the tower was until recently one of the tallest structures in the city. The base is made of stone, while the upper stories are wood. The base of the tower is 1337.4 square meters in size, with a height of 8.6 meters and a length of 35.5 meters. The whole building is 36 meters high with its "blue brick" base and a "brick and wooden" body. It's a two-storey construction with colored "dougong" on the eaves. "Dougong" refers to the sets of brackets on top of the columns supporting the roof. They are quite unique in Chinese construction, and make the building more stable and beautiful.
A legend has it that in the Ming dynasty, continuous earthquakes killed many people, and according to a popular explanation an evil gigantic dragon in the huge undercurrent below the city caused them. Later the dragon was trussed up with a 300-meter iron chain, and people built a tower over the place to contain its spells forever. Another story concerns the first emperor of the Ming dynasty who was born into a poor family. As an orphan following his parents' deaths, he herded sheep for rich landowners. Later when he ascended the throne, afraid of being deposed by others of "real dragon" (i.e. royal) descent, he ordered bell towers to be built all over the country to repress the "dragon spirits". Xi'an was considered the central place where "dragon spirits" ran rampant.
A huge iron bell made in the Year of Chenghua Ming Dynasty (1465～1487) hangs in the northwestern corner of the Bell Tower. On the body of the five-ton bell there is the Eight Diagrams of Taoism. The bell is in fact a new bell. The original bell, known as the Jingyun Bell, so named because it was made in the Year of Jingyun of the Tang Dynasty, was much larger and heavier. The old Jingyun Bell is now part of the collection of the Xi'an Steles Forest Museum. As regards the replacement of the bell, a story goes that after the Bell Tower was moved to its new location, the Jingyun Bell could not ring, even though the architecture and interior decoration of the tower had been changed little. Consequently a new bell had to be made.
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