Bell and Drum Tower was the public pavilion building which told people the time in ancient China. It is the center of time service in Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The Bell and Drum Tower was built on the mid-axes, because the national standard time should be announced via the sound of striking the bell and drum.
This Bell and Drum Tower was established in 1420, and originally separated into Bell Tower and Drum Tower. The management system of this tower was brought into 24 governmental departments and it mainly took responsibility of telling time to all the citizens in the city. At that time, each day was divided into 12 time sections, namely: mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig time. Each one was on behalf of 2 hours. In general, mouse time meant the time between 23 o'clock to 1 o'clock of the next day. The other time could be analogized following the order and subsequence of next 11 time sections.
In the old days, there was no bell in ordinary families. Therefore, the time of social life was totally defined by the Bell and Drum Tower. It was significant and meaningful to emphasize the Bell and Drum Tower in old days. According to the original regulations of Qing Dynasty, the Bell and Drum Tower was used for telling time day and night. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, people were only informed of the time twice at night, which was implemented by two special persons. They firstly rataplanned the drum and then stroke the bell. The night-time was analogized by ancient rules. They divided the night into five time sections. Each section means two hours. 19 o'clock is the first time section, 21 o'clock the second time section, 23 o'clock the third time section, 1 o'clock of the next day the fourth time section, 3 o'clock of the next day the fifth time section. After the fifth time section, it will be the daytime.
Bell Tower is built on the basis of high brick foundation. Deanmen Avenue can be seen from this tower. It is said that the mid-axe through the Bell Tower goes directly through the throne of the emperor. The bell in Bell Tower is the heaviest and earliest one in China. The Drum Tower has been opened officially since New Years Day of 2002.
Nowadays Bell and Drum Tower has shifted off its responsibility of telling time because of the rapidly developed modern science. The melodious sound of the bell and drum at dawn and dark can't be heard any more in daily life. However, during the Spring Festival, the vigorous sound of bell and drum could be enjoyed. It is another attraction of Beijing city.
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