The Bell Tower stands on the geographical center of the ancient city of Xian, and is the largest and best-preserved of its kind. The wooden tower is a colorful and striking building archetypal to Ming-style architecture (1368-1644). The 118 feet (36 m) tall tower was built in 1384 by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang to survey the countryside and provide early warning against enemy attacks. Intricate engravings on the doors of the Tower recount popular stories of ancient China and display the decorative style of the Ming and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties. As the city of Xian grew, the geographical center changed. In 1582, the Tower was moved 3280 feet (1000 m) to the east of the original site. All but the base were the original parts, and the relocation marks a remarkable achievement in architectural history in China.
The Drum Tower is located northwest of the Bell Tower, and both are considered ‘sister buildings’, dubbed the ‘morning bell and dark drum’. In ancient China, the drums were used to signal time and were occasionally used as an alarm in emergency situations. The tower was built in 1380 during the Ming Dynasty, and the architecture is a combination of the styles of both the Tang (618-907) and Qing Dynasties. Today, the drums are no longer used to tell time, but instead are used to give powerful musical performances reminiscent of ancient Chinese culture.