City Walls

City walls have long been a part of Chinese culture. Starting from the Zhou Dynasty, Chinese cities have often been enclosed by defensive walls. City wall building peaked during the Ming Dynasty, in terms of quantity, strength, and sophistication.

City walls unfortunately also presented economic barriers. Political problems followed. Once city walls were made obsolete by advanced weaponry, they became vulnerable to elimination. As a result, many of China's city walls have been mostly or completely destroyed.

Most Chinese city walls are rectangular or square. Exceptions are usually due to terrain constraints. City walls were usually sized with room for growth, enclosing significant amounts of unused space. Sometimes, cities were enclosed by inner and outer walls, providing greater security. Some city walls had moats for additional protection.

City walls and the Great Wall share many construction characteristics. Like the Great Wall, city walls were built from rammed earth, stone, or brick, or a combination of materials. Also like the Great Wall, tops of city walls often had crenellations on the outside and a parapet on the inside. The city walls typically had large towers at each corner and often had additional towers as well.

Of course, city walls required gates. Usually, a main gate was located at the center of the southern city wall. Barbicans often protected a gatehouse.

Although many city walls have been destroyed, the walls of some smaller cities have survived well, and portions of city walls of larger cities still stand today as well. Here are some of the most significant and interesting city walls that still exist.

Beijing city walls

Beijing Deshengmen city gate

Chengde city walls

Xi'an city walls

Nanjing city walls

Jingzhou city walls

Pingyao city walls

Italy city walls

Other city walls

Beijing city walls