The Bell Tower
Close behind the Drum Tower stands the Bell Tower, a 33-meter-high edifice with gray walls and a green glazed roof. Each face of the base of the building is pierced with an arched opening and each side of the Bell Pavilion, which stands on the platform, has an arched gateway as well. The Bell Tower first came into use during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, which it was converted, from the main hall of the former Temple of Eternal Peace (Wanningsi), which had been built during the Yuan Dynasty. The new Bell Tower was destroyed by fire after only a brief existence and it was not until 1747 that Emperor Qianlong undertook the reconstruction of an attractive durable stone structure. This building was so sturdy that he only damage that it suffered during the Tangshan earthquake of 1976 was the loss of a single stone animal head decorating the roof.
The Bell Tower originally housed a huge iron bell. But because its tolling was not loud enough, this was replaced by a massive cast bronze bell over 10 inches thick that is in perfect condition today. The iron bell was moved to the back of the Drum Tower where it has remained for over 500 years. As recently as 1924, the bronze bell could be heard ringing out the 7:00 p.m. chime from a distance of over 20 kilometers.
According to legend, an official named Deng tried unsuccessfully for over a year to cast the bell. On the eve of the final casting, his daughter, fearing that further delays and loss of working time would bring blame on her father, decided to sacrifice her life in order to move the gods to bring about a perfect casting, and threw herself into the molten bronze. Her panic-stricken father could only recover a single embroidered slipper from the flames. The casting was a success and the emperor, moved by the young girl's spirit of sacrifice, named her the "Goddess of the Golden Furnace" and built a temple in her honor near the foundry. By the ordinary people she was remembered as the "Goddess Who Cast the Bell."
After the bell was installed, the chimes could be heard clearly and resonantly all across the city. But on stormy evenings, the bell would emit a desolate moaning sound similar to the word xie, which means "shoe" in Chinese. Recalling the old legend, mothers would comfort their children with: "Go to sleep! The Bell Tower is tolling. The Goddess Who Cast the Bell wants her embroidered slipper back."
Address: Gulou Xidajie, Dongcheng District;
Traffic: Bus No.s 5 or 60, and Trolley-bus No. 107.