Drum Tower (Gulou)
Many Beijing cultural tours include a stop at the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, as the structures are Beijing icons. Drum Tower tours often include a rickshaw ride through the nearby hutong alleyways and a live drum performance. You can visit independently easily enough, buying either a single ticket to the Drum Tower or a combination ticket that includes the Bell Tower for a moderate fee. At 154 feet (47 meters) high, the Drum Tower is slightly smaller than its sibling, but still offers sweeping views over the nearby hutong and across to Jingshan Park.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Drum Tower is a must for history buffs.
Plan to visit both the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower. They’re just 299 feet (91 meters) apart.
Wear flat, comfortable shoes for climbing the tower. The steps are steep.
If you want a photo of the Drum Tower, climb the Bell Tower for the best view.
The square around the tower is wheelchair-accessible, but the tower itself is not.
How to Get There
The Drum Tower stands opposite the Bell Tower on Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square, positioned directly on Beijing’s north–south central axis. It’s about 4 miles (6 kilometers) north of Tiananmen Square by road, and a 5-minute walk north of Shichahai subway station (line 8).
When to Get There
Many travelers plan their visit to the Drum Tower around the timing of the live performances on replica drums. These run hourly in the morning and afternoon, with a break for lunch, but only last for a few minutes, so aim to arrive early. Like the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower is open from morning until late afternoon seven days a week and can get extremely crowded over major Chinese public holidays.
Telling Time in Ancient China
Chinese officials had many ways of telling the time to ensure the city’s drums were accurate. Incense clocks measured time by burning incense, which was often elaborately shaped. It was even possible to set an alarm by, for example, fixing a bell to a smouldering incense stick so it would fall when the incense burned through. Water clocks, which measured time by the dripping of water, were first used around 5,000 years ago.
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- Yandai Byway (Yandai Xiejie)
- Prince Gong Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)
- Bell Tower (Zhonglou)
- Back Lake (Houhai)
- Back Lakes (Hou Hai)
- Confucius Temple
- Beihai Park (Beihai Gongyuan)
- Jingshan Park (Jingshan Gongyuan)
- Lama Temple (Yonghegong)
- National Art Museum of China (NAMOC)
- Forbidden City (Palace Museum)
- Temple of Earth (Ditan Park)
- Nine Dragon Screen at the Palace Museum