The Zhenyuan Building or the Jingyuan Building is also known as the Drum Tower in the area. The building has been built for imitating the Xi’an Tower. The surface of the building is square and has been erected over a brick altar. It is 32 meters long and 9 m high.
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Like many other towns and cities in China, Zhangye also has a drum and bell tower for marking the city’s center. The Zhenyuan Building is situated at the meeting point of the four important streets of the city. Its central location makes the building even more impressive and magnificent.
The drum tower in Zhangye is the largest of its kind in the Silk Road district’s Hexi corridor. The tower was built during Ming Dynasty in 1507. During the rule of Qing Dynasty in 1648 it had been destroyed. It was later rebuilt in 1668 by the superintendent of Gansu, Zhang Yong.
The Zhenyuan Building tower has a foundation as well as a three storey high pavilion. It is 21 meters from the bottom to top, 9 meters high and 32 meters wide. Many people say that the tower stretches up to the clouds due to its immense height.
Inside its foundation is a decussate hole pointing north, south, east and west. This links the tower to the four important streets of the town. There is a stele on every side of this pavilion describing the different natural scenes of Zhangye and the surrounding areas.
The Bronze Bell
The massive construction of Zhenyuan Building currently has a large bronze bell located on its south east corner. This bell is 1.3 meters high and has a 1.15 meter diameter. The bell is 600 kg in weight and is decorated delicately with beautiful patterns like tigers, dragons and flying apsaras.
The bell was used in ancient times to alarm in case of fire or for giving the time. Zhenyuan Building is a small but significant highlight of the city and is a symbolic construction of this old city. It is therefore a great place to visit if you are looking for a location that wouldn’t be packed with tourists.
The Zhenyuan Building has a turriform, three floor architecture with rake angles and cornices. The architecture of the building is traditional Chinese with solemn and elegant painted rafters and carved beams.
Under the building is the Cross Cave leading in four different directions. Small vehicles and pedestrians can pass through it. The building also has four steles that are engraved and embedded above the cave gates: Sunrise, Merchant City, Facing Fume and Guarding Lands afar respectively in the east, west, south and north.
Four other steles also hang above the building. The eastern stele reads “Spring Rain and Golden City”. The Western stele reads “Moon in Dawn and Jade Pass. The southern stele reads “ Sunny Day after Snow in Mount Qilian” while the north stele reads “Residences Stretching to the Old Pastureland”. The stone tablet is completely preserved and it records and reconstructs the Zhenyuan Building and Ganzhou Drawbridge, standing at the north of Zhenyuan Building.