Built with rammed earth inside and brick and stone outside, the
ancient city walls measure 10 meters high and 6162.7 meters long
with 3-5 meters wide tops. Except the southern wall, which zigzags
a bit according to the land contour, the other three walls all go
straight, making the city area a square one.
One city gate was built each to the southern to northern walls and
two city gates were built each to the western and eastern walls.
All six city gates have gate towers and inside gates attached to
them. A watch tower was built on the wall top every 50-100 meters
away, totaling 72 watchtowers in all along the four walls.
The parapets measuring 2 meters high each were built along the
outside edges of the walls with 3000 mouths left open for defense
shooting. It is said that Confucius once had 72 disciples and 3000
students, therefore 72 watch towers and 3000 parapets’ openings on
the top of the four walls were built.
There were another four grand watch towers originally built on the
four corners of the squared walls, but they all disappeared long
ago, with only one Great Scholar Tower and one Nameroll Calling
Platform on the wall tops left today. Dug around the walls is a
defense ditch measuring more than 3.3 meters in depth and 3.
3 meters in width with trees planted along it. A drawbridge is
built in front of each gate.
- View Mia's travel story in Shanxi with pictures
Pingyao City is called "Tortoise City" by local people, because the
southern gate and the northern gate look like the head and tail of
a tortoise, respectively, while the two gates in the eastern wall
and two gates in the western wall look much like the four legs of a
tortoise. With the outer gate extended a bit out of the inner
southern gate and two wells dug outside on either side, the
tortoise city seems, to have its own head and its two eyes.
What's more, the northern gate curves a bit towards the east, the
four gates in both the western and eastern walls curve a bit all
towards the south. This design shows as if a tortoise is crawling
forward. Some people say it was for preventing the flood coming
from the north-west that the city walls were built in such a
But there is no definite proof for this saying except the symbolic
meaning of eternity given by the shape of a tortoise according to
the Chinese mentality.
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