Drum Tower, Bell Tower, Shaanxi History Museum, and Big Goose Pagoda

For centuries, ever since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), bell towers and drum towers have appeared prominently in many cities throughout China. The tolling of the great bells and the beating of the drums kept time for the city each day, and could also be used to sound alarms. The bell in the Bell Tower announced the time every morning, and the drum in the Drum Tower gave the time every morning; therefore, they were well known as the "morning bell" and the "dusk drum". Eventually, the practice of using the drum in the evening was discontinued, and the drum was reserved solely for warning the people of emergencies in time of war. Though many Chinese cities have bell towers, no where is such a structure as spectacular, or as significant a symbol of the town, as in Xi'an. Xi'an's Bell Tower is taller than any other in the country and was built earlier. The Bell Tower was first erected in 1384, in the Yingxiang Temple, which was then located at the city's geographic center. By 1582, the city had expanded, and so the tower was moved to its current location at the city's new center, where the north, south, east, and west streets meet. The entire structure is 36 meters high. In the base are four arched doorways, each six meters square. The first floor is beautifully appointed with ornate Qing furniture. The Ming and Qing designs are found on the ceiling and roof. Two grand flights of stairs lead to the top of the Tower. The climb to the second-storey balcony is rewarded a magnificent view over the whole city of Xi'an. It has been repaired three times since 1949, to keep it in perfect condition.

The Drum tower is located a short distance to the northwest of the Bell Tower. The building is 36 meters tall, made of bricks and wood. Although its interior is only two stories high, there are three stories of eaves on the exterior. The eaves are supported by brackets mounted on the tops of the columns and cross-beams--a unique Chinese architectual style known as dougong. The tower sites on a square-shaped base of blue bricks, 8.6 meters high and 35.5 meters across. Legend tells that after an enormous dragon caused a series devastating earthquakes in the plains of Shaanxi Province, the governor of Xi'an ordered the construction of a giant chain to imprison the dragon beneath the city. He then had the Bell Tower constructed to weigh down the dragon and prevent its escape. Though metaphorical, the legend may have some basics in fact. The first Ming emperor was born into a poor family and later became a monk. When he ascended the throng, he may have feared being deposed by someone of royal blood, or "real dragon". Therefore, he ordered bell towers built all over China to repress the "dragon spirits".

The Shaanxi History Museum is situated on Yan Ta Road in Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province. It covers 65,000 square meters, with a building area of 60,000 square meters. The newly built modern building recreates Tang-dynasty architecture and successfully symbolizes the great extent of Shaanxi history and its remarkable culture.Exhibited in the main exhibition hall are 2,700 works of art, with an exhibition line that extends 2,300 meters. The exhibition space is divided into an introductory hall, permanent exhibitions, special exhibitions, and temporary exhibitions, as well as one that has been named the National Painting Hall.

Representative pieces from all periods have been selected to show the development of civilization in this region. The exhibition space of this display is 4,600 square meters. It includes three exhibition rooms, divided into seven parts (Pre-history, Zhou, Qin, Han, Wei-Jin-North and South dynasties, Sui-Tang, and Song-Yuan-Ming-Qing). The superlative 2,000 selected objects include: painted Neolithic ceramics reflecting early people's living conditions and their pursuit of vibrant art forms, bronzes reflecting the rise of Zhou people, bronze weapons including swords, and statuary of horses and soldiers, reflecting the way in which Qin unified all under heaven, Tang-dynasty gold and silver objects and Tang sancai ceramics, reflecting the most flourishing period of feudal glory. All of this is accompanied by models of archaeological sites, and drawings, and photographs.

The Shaanxi History Museum contains 115,000 objects in its collections. The more representative of these include bronzes, Tang-dynasty tomb wall paintings, terracotta statuary, ceramics (pottery and porcelain), construction materials through the dynasties, Han and Tang bronze mirrors, and coins and currency, calligraphy, rubbings, scrolls, woven articles, bone articles, wooden and lacquer and iron and stone objects, seals, as well as some contemporary cultural relics and ethnic objects.

Situated inside Ci'an (Thanks-giving) Temple, four kilometers south of Xi'an City, is one of the famous Buddhist pagodas in China. Sponsored by Tang emperor Gaozong (628-683, reigned 650-683), the temple was first built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty as a symbol of thanks-giving to his mother for her kindness who had suffered an early death.

Xuan Zang (602-664) was both a great translator and traveler. At the age of 28 in 630 A.D., he went to study Buddhism in India. He spent 17 years doing research in Buddhism in various places. Later inspite of many hardships, he covered a distance of 15,000 kilometers and returned to Chang'an (Xi'an) in 1645 A.D. with 657 volumes of Buddhist scriptures. His "travels in the western regions" was based on what he had witnessed about 128 countries and regions. He recorded their geographic locations and customs. His works provided an important source of information for the study of the history and geography of these regions.

To protect the scriptures and statutes he brought back from India, Xuan Zang, a famous Tang monk, made a proposal to the court for a pagoda to be built in side the temple. The proposal was accepted and a pagoda, named the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, was first erected in 652 during the Tang Dynasty. The pagoda experienced many vicissitudes in the past centuries. The present structure boasts five storeys with 60 meters in height and base of the pagoda is 4 meters totalling 64 meters in height. Legend relates that one day a group of big wild geese flew over, suddenly one of them dropped from the sky and died on the ground. Monks were at a loss and did not know what to do. They said that the dead wild goose was a buddha. They buried the goose and the pagoda was erected, hence the name the Big Wild Goose pagoda.