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City Walls of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Date of Submission: 28/03/2008
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
State Administration of Cultural Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Shaanxi , Liaoning, Jiangsu, Hubei Province
Ref.: 5324

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


1. The City Wall in Xingcheng

Xingcheng City Wall is located at the west bank of Liaodong Bay of China, the middle part of Liaoxi Corridor and the central part of Xingcheng city.

Xingcheng City Wall was built during the 3rd year of Xuande Reign of Ming Dynasty (428), completed in the 5th year of Xuande Reign (430), meant to protect and safeguard the city from the intrusion of Wulianghabu from the north, a remaining noble from the Yuan Dynasty.

During the 3rd and 4th year of Tianqi Reign, Ming Dynasty (623 -624), Yuan Chonghuan, the national hero, restored the Ning Yuan City (then name of Xingcheng)in aim to strengthen the protection from the Jin Army.   It was a very important military town. Yuan Chonghuan fought off Nuerhachi, the leading army general of Jin, achieving the "Great Victory of Ning Yuan" during the 6th year of Tianqi Reign (626) with the powerful cannons set behind the strong walls.  The following year, he again drove off Huang Taiji, the army general of Jin and achieved the "Great Cictory of Ning Jin".

Ming Dynasty won its first victory via the Xingcheng City Walls 8 years after non-stop battles between them and Qing; the latter was seriously hurt at that moment. It was also the only city walls except for the Great Walls unoccupied by the Qing army forcedly during the 26 years' hot battles between the Ming and Qing.

2. The City Wall in Nanjing

The City Wall of Nanjing refers to the wall of the ancient capital city of Nanjing built in the early Ming Dynasty. Located by the southern bank of the lower Yangtze River, it is built to protect the only capital of ancient China that had ever been built to the south of the Yangtze River. As a piece of representative work created in the heyday of capital development in ancient China, it represents an important period of urban construction and development in human history. While carrying forward the traditional Chinese thinking about city development, the planners of the City Wall of Nanjing originally integrated the human creation with natural mountains and rivers, thus giving it an important position in China's long history of city planning and city wall construction. All the bricks, totalling nearly 00 million in number, are marked with Chinese characters recording their origin, the official in charge of their making, and the individual maker. They constitute the biggest group of brick records ever found in China. The extensive use of brick and stone structures in urban construction during the Ming and the Qing dynasties, including the use of bricks for the building of parts of the Great Wall, can be traced to the construction of the City Wall of Nanjing. Its total length is 35.267 kilometres. Only 25.09 kilometres of the wall still remains today. Still, it is the most ancient city wall still standing in China and in the world as a whole today. It is witness to the brilliant achievements of ancient China in the planning of urban defence facilities, craftsmanship of city wall construction, and overall development of feudal capitals.

3. The City Wall in Jingzhou

The present brick city wall was built in Ming Dynasty. It is 3.75 kilometres long from east to west and 1.2 kilometres wide from north to south with circle length 11.28 kilometres. Its total area is 4.5 square kilometres. The wall is 9 meters high. There are six Chenglou, three Dilou and 25 gun emplacements altogether.

The Chaozonglou among those buildings above the Arched Door was rebuilt in the eighteenth year of Qing Daoguang (1938).The Bing Yang Building above the Yinbing Door was rebuilt in 1987. All the parts of Jingzhou City Wall has been kept perfect without any damage except for Dilou.

4. The City Wall in Xi'an

The city wall of the Xi'an City is located at the urban district of Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province. It had been built from the 3rd to the th year of Hongwu period of the Ming Dynasty (1370-1378). It was extended on the base of Chang'an imperial city of the Sui and Tang Dynasty, as well as the Fengyuan City of the Yuan Dynasty.

In the year of 370, Zhu Yuanzhang sent out imperial decree to build Xi'an City. The city wall Xi'an then utilized the old ramparts of the imperial cities of the Sui and Tang Dynasties at the west and south parts, and extended about /3 to the east and north. It had lasted for eight years, which established the basic structure and scale of the Xi'an City wall.

Xi'an city wall had been maintained well through Ming and Qing Dynasties, with several times reparation, 1 of which were of relatively large scale. The original Xi'an city wall was only made of tamped earth. In the 2nd year of the Ming Dynasty Longqing Period (1568), blue bricks were laid on the top and external side of the walls. In the 46th year of the Qing Dynasty Qianlong Period (1781), the second large-scale maintenance was made. Drainage and crenels, etc were added at this time. The structure of the present city wall of Xi'an mostly came from this reparation. In year 1983, Xi'an's municipal government went through another comprehensive maintenance for the city wall. Part of the building was recovered, such as 1 Yangmacheng (tower where the late sheep and horses can rest at night), 1 Zhalou (the sluice tower), 1 Kuixinglou (the dipper tower), 3 Jiaolou (corner tower) and 3 Dilou (defence tower). The breaking parts of the rampart were changed into gates, and the moat was restored. In May 2005, the Xi'an ramparts were all connected.

On Mar. 4th, 1961, the State Council of the People's Republic of China announced the Xi'an rampart as one of the heritage sites under the national protection of the first batch.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (iii):

The architectural planning design and usage purposes of the City Wall in Xingcheng have retained the planning theory and military culture of a Chinese ancient city, the base of the external wall coatings are all very hard compound composed of white ashes, yellow soils, glutinous rice slurries, where huge longitudinal stones were laid on and followed by large black bricks.  The internal wall coatings were stuffed with irregular rocks and rammed with yellow soils. The city walls were solidly firmed and strongly fortified. Cannons emplacements were set at each corner of the walls, and large red foreign cannons were mounted on them, these cannons had effectively resisted the powerful besieges from the Jin army. Xingcheng City Wall provides the unique evidence of the past military culture of Ming Dynasty, and Xingcheng City Walls is the best conserved and the only Ming guarding city wall left in China.

The City Wall in Xi'an is the representative of the Chinese rampart architecture at the later stage of the Middle Ages and is the witness of the civilization of the Ming and Qing period with its large scale and well preservation.

Criterion (iv):

The architectural planning design and usage purposes of Xingcheng City Wall have retained the planning theory and military culture of a Chinese ancient city, the base of the external wall coatings are all very hard compound composed of white ashes, yellow soils, glutinous rice slurries, where huge longitudinal stones were laid on and followed by large black bricks.  The internal wall coatings were stuffed with irregular rocks and rammed with yellow soils. The city walls were solidly firmed and strongly fortified.  Cannons emplacements were set at each corner of the walls, and large red foreign cannons were mounted on them, these cannons had effectively resisted the powerful besieges from the Jin army.

The gate tower and the Jianlou of the City Wall in Xi'an at the gates of the four sides are the outstanding symbols of the rampart. Their scale and structure embody the characteristics of the ancient buildings in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The grandness of the main body of the rampart is of typical representativeness.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

  1. The City Wall in Xingcheng

According to historical literature records like the Shengjing Archives, the Xingcheng City Walls was completed in 1430 and restored in 1624, when its size, structure and layout were restored back to the same as the original walls. Thereafter, although Xingcheng City Walls had incurred many ammunition fights, disasters of wars, natural disasters and political upheavals, it did not suffer any substantial damage.  The Qing Dynasty did three maintenance renovates in the year 1779, 1817 and 1848; and apart from some partial damages, most of it was as originally intact as when it was first rebuilt.

The perimeter length of the Xingcheng City Walls is 3274 meters, its height are between 8.5 - 9.6 meters, base width 5.7 - 7.0 meters, top width 4.3 - 4.6 meters, the entire compound consists of the wall body, 4 gates, 4 crescent-shaped external earthen walls, 4 towers, 4 cannon emplacements,  and stalwart court.  The entire ancient walls is conserved according to the complete original appearance when it was first restored, apart from those 4 crescent-shaped external earthen walls where a 13-meter passage is required to be opened from the front side for the purpose of transportation and fire-safety, other parts of the architecture are 100% intact. 

On January 1988, the State Council approved Xingcheng City Walls as a national key cultural relics protection unit.  The State Cultural Relics Bureau sent specialists to Xingchneg City Walls to carry out full exploration, determine maintenance plan, and it had allocated appropriate funds to renovate the entire city walls.  During the renovating process, ancient architectural renovating techniques and standard materials were used.  Therefore, Xingcheng City Wall is still complete and real to date.

2. The City Wall in Nanjing

25.091 kilometres of the City Wall of Nanjing still stands today, with four original gates, one water pass, and eight gates conserved or newly built since 1911. With more than two thirds of the wall put into effective protection and display in their original shape, the wall now stands as a local urban landscape of great importance and a valuable symbol of Nanjing as a city famous for its history and culture. The moat, running 31.159 kilometres long, is basically intact and makes up an important component part of the water systems of Nanjing. In order to facilitate the protection of the wall, the local government has set up two permanent organs to take charge of its repairs, researches, and presentations, namely, the Administration of the City Wall of Nanjing and the Nanjing Museum of the History of the City Walls of the Ming Dynasty.

3. The City Wall in Jingzhou

The origin of the City Wall in Jinagzhou was earth city and was built by General Guan Yu in one of the three kingdoms named Shu. The latest archaeological excavating data indicated that the time of building Jingzhou City Wall lasted from Dong Nan Dynasty to Qing Dynasty with more than 1,800 years history and it lasted the longest time till today in our country. It experienced most dynasties and it was gradually developed into brick city from earth city. In 996, the State Council announced that Jingzhou City Wall as a heritage site under the national protection of the first lot.

4. The City Wall in Xi'an

The Xi'an rampart, the inner ring road for horses and the moat are regarded as a whole, which authentically preserves the ancient rampart architecture. With the superior construction of the wall body and the complete defence facilities of various types, it is at present a relatively complete rampart preserved up to now in China and even in the world.

As a result of renovation in successive dynasties, the complete features of the rampart architecture of feudal society is basically preserved in the Xi'an rampart.

The protection and management of the Xi'an rampart are strict. After several maintenances, the rampart has not been influenced by urbanization. The historical environmental styles and features have been preserved properly.

Comparison with other similar properties

1. The City Wall of Xingcheng

When compares with ancient city walls located in other regions of China in terms of location, Xingcheng City Walls has very strong obvious personality, which could be featured in the following three aspects:

1) The building form of the city walls:  Xingcheng City Walls is a square-shaped city wall.  Ancient Chinese architecture has distinctive ancient Chinese "philosophical thought". Traditional Chinese's universe concept deems that "the sky is round and the earth is square".  Square-shaped substance symbolizes the great earth, which should be steady and lasting in a long run. Xingcheng City Wall was built into a square-shaped meant to adopt the firmness and steadiness of the great earth, in the hope that nothing would destroy it. Pingyao Ancient City Walls is in the shape of a turtle, which symbolizes longevity; building a city in a shape of turtle meant to adopt its meaning in long governing and lasting peace, as well as an increasingly extended longevity.

2) The construction structural layout:  The 4 gates, towers, external earthen walls of Xingcheng City Walls are all set at the middle of every side of the walls, the drum tower is located right at the middle of the city, which forms into a very good symmetrical pattern that possesses military defensive function and it gives peoples an aesthetic feeling of wholesomeness.  The 6 gates, towers and external earthen walls of Pingyao Ancient are randomly laid, and the tower is located at the northeastern part of the city wall, its layout is largely different from the Xingcheng City Walls' layout.

3) Construction technique and construction materials:  There is a 1-meter glutinous rice slurries under the foundation of Xingcheng City Wall, which was further rammed with a proportion of 30% ashes and 70% soils mixture, and on top of it 3 layers of longitudinal stones were laid.  The external earthen walls were laid with large blocks of black bricks, which slots were filled with lime slurries.  The inner walls were laid with tiger skin and stones, using lime slurries to fill the slots.  The middle part of the walls were rammed with yellow soils, and glutinous rice slurries were used at the top level when ramming it with 30% of ashes and 70% of soils mixture.  Whereas in Pingyao Ancient City Walls' case, the external brick walls stand embracing the internal earth wall rammed by using lime and glutinous slurries, there is no brick or stone laid for the internal wall.  These two ancient city walls at the northern part of China show certain differences, Xingcheng City Walls was built firmly and stoutly to withstand war tribulations.

2. The City Wall of Nanjing

In China's 5,000-year history of city wall development, a total of about ,000 walls including the walls of capitals and other cities were constructed before 368 A.D. Due to influence from construction of the City Wall of Nanjing in 1368 A.D., the number climbed steeply and reached over 4,000 by 9. Of these walls, the City Wall of Nanjing, once the capital of a feudal empire, is the largest and stands as a milestone in the Chinese history of development of city walls.

In less than 100 years after the mid 950s, many city walls in China were pulled down, with those still kept intact accounting for less than 10 per cent of their total. Of the city walls that have been kept in their fairly complete shapes, the City Wall of Nanjing is of the highest grade because of its nature as the wall of an ancient capital city. All the other walls stand at lower levels. The wall of Xi'an, for instance, built in 1374 A.D. and running 13.74 kilometres long, is the wall of a prince's mansion in origin, while the wall of Xingcheng City, built in 1430 A.D. and running 3.274 kilometres long, is the wall of a county-level military satellite town in origin. Of the city walls built almost at the same time, the City Wall of Nanjing is the oldest, longest and highest in level. Moreover, all the bricks in the City Wall of Nanjing carry inscriptions, a unique character absent in all other city walls.

The City Wall of Nanjing is witness to the sternness and strictness of the system followed by an ancient power. Although there are many ancient capitals in China, most of their ground buildings were destroyed due to historic reasons. The City Wall of Nanjing is a rare and valuable material evidence of ancient capital cities in China.

Since its completion, the City Wall of Nanjing has suffered damages from wars, natural forces, and the modern move of urbanization development. Still, 25.091 kilometres of it has been kept intact. This is a rare case in all cities across the world. The ‘Carcassonne Metropolitan of Historic City Walls in France, for instance, is by no means a metropolitan its true sense. Instead, it is merely a castle serving as an imperial pass and runs just about two kilometres in circumference. The wall of the Italian city Luca, for another instance, was completed in 1645 with a circumference of 4.195 kilometres. It has never suffered any damages from wars. The relic of an ancient Indian city, about six kilometres in circumference, is in fact a town built in 1573 to mark the expedition to west India. None of the above is comparable to the City Wall of Nanjing in terms of the number of residents or the length of history. In one word, compared with other city walls, the City Wall of Nanjing has outstanding four major features:

1) The biggest scale and longest use

2) The most perfect planning

3) The largest group of brick inscriptions

4) The only city wall of an ancient Chinese capital still standing today

3. The City Wall of Jingzhou

Jingzhou City Wall has a long history. It has been kept integrated and has a unique constructive style. The craft technique is more distinctive than other buildings of the same kind. Jingzhou City Wall as ancient defending and flood control forces against wars owns high value of arts and historical studies.