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  • Oct20

    The Two Towers

    October 20, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    On this site in Old Beijing, Emperor Kublai Khan erected two towers, a bell tower and a drum tower. Of course, both were used as observation posts from which soldiers might keep an eye out for approaching intruders. Yet the towers served another purpose as well. The bell tower sounded every two hours to broadcast the time. On sunny days a sundial kept time, but on cloudy days a water clock served as a backup. This tower remained in service until the eighteenth century when European clocks were imported to serve as the timekeepers for Beijing’s residents. The drum tower served a similar purpose. It signaled the population about special events or warned them of fires or other impending dangers. In some Chinese cities a curfew was imposed at ten o’clock at night. About a quarter hour before curfew, the drummer would begin very slow beats. By the 150th beat everyone was expected to be in their home. Between the towers we saw young children in an art class, drawing both towers under the instruction of their teachers. The two towers we saw today were not the ancient ones built by Kublai Khan. These are new ones constructed around the year 1200 AD. Today neither tower performs its original function, but the bell tower houses a lovely tea house where a charming young woman introduced us to the elaborate arts of Chinese tea. We sampled oolong and jasmine tea, along with a couple of other varieties. There were exquisite tea pots for sale, some made of semi-precious jade. One small jade teapot cost over $3,000. We learned that tea can serve as a relaxing beverage that offers a wonderful excuse just for hanging out with friends and getting to know new ones.Read more