Bells and drums to most people are merely musical instruments. This is in fact what they were until the Han Dynasty when the people of China began using them as a method to tell time.
In Beijing, China, stand two towers, 100 meters apart, known as the Gulou (drum) and Zhonglou (bell) Towers. The towers provide a stunning view of Central Beijing.
The Drum Tower came into existence during Kublai Khan’s reign in 1272. There have been many renovations to it since then, the last major one being in 1924. Throughout the years, the tower has achieved a museum status with artefacts from the invasion of the Allied Forces and Massacre of 1925 on display. The structure itself is a four meter high square terrace with arched openings on all four sides. The second story is an impressive red walled, yellow glaze multi-eaved roof structure. Originally the tower also housed 4 bronze water clocks which were intricately connected to a large gong which sounded every 15 minutes.
Only one large drum of the original 24 is still in existence. This drum is made from a single ox hide which measures 1.5 meters across.
The towers are now tourist attractions but the drum has been beaten for 15 minutes four times a day at New Year’s Eve since 2001. This is done to invoke blessings upon the people.
The bell too is rung during New Year’s Eve each year. This bell, which was at first an iron one but was later changed to a copper one so as to carry sound better, is situated in a green glaze roofed, gray- walled tower. It first operated under the Ming Dynasty but the new structure was not built until 1747.
The 10 inch thick copper bell still tolls out clear vibrant tones that can be heard 20 kilometres away. The original iron bell too can be seen as part of the museum artefacts in the Drum Tower.
Visitors to Beijing should mark the Bell and Drum Towers as part of their itinerary. For visitors seeking alternative accommodation, there are apartments in Beijing all across town. Those looking for an Apartment Beijing, especially on business travel, should look to Luxury Serviced Residence, Beijing of Somerset Serviced Apartments. This provides some of the best accommodation, facilities and services in the city.