In the year 1757 (namely, the 22ed year of Qianlong period in Qing dynasty), the then Qing government put down the Junggar rebellion and made the land that long belonged to China under the rule of central government of Qing dynasty again. In order to make integrity and stability of the border, in the year 1762 (namely, the 27th year of Qianlong period in Qing dynasty), the government officially set the position of Yili General to govern the area both in military and administration. The area covered the vast land in the east and south of Balkhash Lake.
In the next year, the general ordered to build a city in Huiyuan, and made this place as his ruling residence. From then on, Huiyuan became the political and military center in Xinjiang. The situation did not change until 1884 (namely, the 10th year of Guangxu period). In that year, Xinjiang province was set and the capital city was moved to Dihua (the present Urmqi).
Huiyuan city was built in the north bank of Yili River. The city wall is 4.67 meters high and the city is 5580 meters in circumference. The scope of the city is very extensive and the city is easy to defense. The mild climate in Yili valley, the abundant rainfall and plentiful materials, together with the advantage of being political and military center, made Huiyuan city a prosperous place not soon.
According to history records, “shops sit one after another, goods pile up, and the market are full of vendors and customers” at that time in Huiyuan city. The words may be a little exaggerated, but they reflect the real situation there at that time to some extent. The Yili general residence at that time was really splendid. It looks like a famous garden in South China. After hundreds of years’ history, the residence has changed a lot. But the broken stone lions and some relics of pavilions can still remind people of the prosperity at that time.
While building Huiyuan city, Qing government of that time also built eight other satellite cities---Huining city, Xichun city, Ningyuan city, Gonghuan city, Guangren city, Suiding city, Zhande city, and Taerqi city consecutively in both banks of Yili River.
The nine cities are the famous “Yili nine cities” in Qing dynasty. In the year 1871, Czar Russia began to invade Yili and the invasion made the cities being damaged. Old Huiyuan city was destroyed in that war. Soon after that, Qing government built another Huiyuan city in the north of the old Huiyuan city. The layout of the new Huiyuan city was the same with the old one.
The famous Bell-Drum-Mounted Building was built at that time. The building situates in the center of the city and the building was a typical Chinese building which was made of wood. It witnesses the never-give-up spirit of Chinese people. Now, many visitors come here for touring. When they get on the building, they will oversee the whole landscape of Yili valley.