Bell Tower

Bell TowerTo the north of the Drum Tower stands the Bell Tower, which was first built in 1272. Later it was burnt down. In 1420 it was re-built, then burnt down again. In 1745, Qing Emperor Qianlong ordered the Bell Tower to be rebuilt. For fire prevention, the tower was built with bricks and stones this time. A stone tablet with an inscription by Emperor Qianlong was erected in front of Bell Tower.

Bell Tower stands 47. 9 metres in height and covers an area of more than 6,000 square metres. It is double-eaved with black glazed tiles. A 25-ton iron bell was originally hung in the tower but it was later replaced by a much louder giant bronze bell, weighing 42tons. The bronze bell, 5.4 metres in height, 3.4 metres in diameter and 0.27 metre in thickness, was cast in a foundry west of the Old Drum Tower Street during the period from 1403 to 1424. Made of “sound bronze”, the sound of its tolling reaches dozens of kilometers away Together in regular harmony, the drum and bell were “beaten” every morning at five o’clock to mark the day’s beginning and beaten once again at seven o’clock every evening to mark the night watch time. High-ranking civil officials and military officers in the imperial court, soldiers in the militia and the common people worked and rested in accordance with the chronometry of the drum and bell system. Famous for its resounding tone, the bell also had a legend surrounding it. When the bronze bell was being cast in the foundry, the workers spent more than a year on the work, but all in vain. The Emperor had set a date after which all the workers would be put to death. To help her poor father finish the work, the young daughter of old supervisor Deng attempted to “move heaven” by sacrificing herself and jumped in-to the molten bronze. Her father tried to stop her but was able to save only one of his daughter’s embroidered shoes. The dead girl was honoured by the Emperor as the Female Deity of the Gold Furnace, and a temple was set up in her honour before the furnace.

After the bronze bell was cast and hung, its melodious sound could be heard far and wide on fine days, but on rainy and windy days, its tone would turn sad. Then mothers would tell their children that the plaintive sound was the voice of the Goddess of the Gold Bell asking for her missing shoe.

For more than seven hundred years, the Drum and Bell towers have experienced many vicissitudes, the ups and downs of life’s for-tunes. The surface of the bronze bell in the Bell Tower shows a “scar” left by the bayonets of foreign invaders.

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