Art District “798”, Drum & Bell Tower

This day was a long time ago, 19th of January to be exact, but I remember it clearly.

One of my friends suggested we could visit Art District “798”. So, we arranged a meeting with some of my classmates for the next morning  and went to visit this famous district of Beijing. The place is a little far from the campus of Tsinghua, I don’t remember how to get there exactly (which subway line and where to get off) but what I do remember is that you need subway and also a bus to get there. If you are not sure about the directions, you could always ask someone for help, of course. We thought we were sure how to get there, but we had little confusion about which bus we should take and where to get off, so a kind lady saw our confusion and helped us! We went on a Tuesday (as a recall reading somewhere, I think it is closed on Mondays, but you should double check), so there weren’t many people. And it was still very early, so a lot of the shops, restaurants and cafes were still closed. But we could get a nice, relaxed morning, walking around the buildings and enjoying the art. There are many galleries and little shops offering great pieces of art.

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Yes, this was the toilet:

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After that we went to the Bell and Drum towers. You can get there by Subway or bus, but you will have to walk a little. That is good, because this way you can enjoy the many Hutongs and the quiet and relaxed life around them. 🙂

The admission fee for both towers is 30 yuan combination ticket. However, it is less if you have a student card.

I am going to put some useful and interesting information that I found on the site www.travelchinaguide.com

“The towers were originally used as musical instruments in China. Afterward, however, they were used for telling time. As early as in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220), there was ‘a morning bell and a dusk drum’. Telling the time by them played an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time. As a result, they became public architectures, and were widely constructed in almost every city throughout the country since the Han Dynasty. In the history of their construction, they are the largest and highest.

Lying to the north of Beijing-south axis line in Dongcheng District, they are visibly prominent constructions and represent the symbol of this old city. They were built in 1272, and rebuilt twice after two fires. At one period in history they were the time-telling centre of the capital city during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties (1271-1911).”

This tower is the Bell tower.

“This brick and stone made building has two floors: there is an arched door on all four sides on the first floor, and you can go up to the second floor through stone stairs. The same exists on the first floor. An arched door was also built on the four sides of the second floor. Additionally, there is a stone window on each side of the four doors. Hanging on an eight-square wooden frame of the second floor, the bell in it is the largest and heaviest in China. It is 7.02 meters (23 feet) high including the pendants, with a weight of 63 tons (138,891 pounds). It was made of copper, and you can hear its round and clear sound from far away. The two 2-meter-long (2 yards) wooden logs hanging sideward are used to ring it.”

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This is the view from the Bell tower:

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Be careful, as the stairs are high and very steep! 

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This is the Drum tower.

“Located 100 meters (109 yards) south to the bell tower, it was placed on a 4-meter-high (13 feet) stone and brick base. It is 46.7 meters (153 feet) high, a little bit lower than the bell tower that is 47.9 meters high (157 feet). It is also a two-storey building; the first floor contains the China Committee for the Promotion of the Minority Art. The second floor contains the exhibition area. Originally, there was one big drum and 24 smaller ones, but only the big remains. The method of beating it is to beat it quickly for 18 times and then slowly for 18 times. Altogether there are three rounds and 108 tollings. People knock the bell and the drum 108 times, because 108 times represent one year in ancient times.

Telling time by them was abolished after Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, left the Forbidden City. Since the New Year’s Eve of 1990, the sweet sound of the bell that had disappeared for a long time began to ring out in the city. Being drowsy for nearly a century, the drum was also beaten again on the New Year’s Eve of 2001. It has been beaten four times a day, for 15 minutes at a time since January 1st in 2002. From then on, every New Year Eve, they are beaten together 108 times to send a blessing to the people.

Their location has been flourishing since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when they were just standing behind the imperial palace. It was the busy downtown district there then, full of storefronts and businesses. Thanks to the further developing of the businesses, the street in front of the drum tower became the busiest shopping street in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. During the Republican Period of China (1911-1949), many have-nots (impoverished people), along with merchants selling handcrafted items (handicraftsmen) and vendors selling snacks and local food items (snack stands) swarmed the place between them, which attracted people from all walks of life at that time.Today, when visiting, you can climb onto them to have a birds-eye view to admire the entire city, and even take part in the activity of knocking them, appreciating all kinds of folk-customs, such as the dragon and lion dance, and other folk-custom exhibitions.”

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Every day, they have drum shows at certain hours. We were very lucky, because we had the chance to watch one of them! It was truly amazing, the sound was great and it was a memorable experience. 

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This is the view from the Drum tower:

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After Bell and Drum towers, we went to park Beihai which was nearby. Because it was so cold, the lakes were frozen and there were a lot of people skiing! Even though it was freezing cold, the streets were bustling with people! ^_^

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I hope you enjoyed this virtual brief walk! Until next time! ^-^

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