One of the less commonly visited historical sites in Beijing is the Drum Tower (or Gulou). Originally built in 1272 during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Drum Tower has undergone repair on several occasions during the Yuan and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties, remaining largely unchanged through its current state. The drum tower was used to mark the time, with a total of 24 drums. As a tourist attraction, the tower still marks the time with drum performances by three drummers who perform every half hour. The tower ceased to have a practical function when the last emperor evacuated the city in the 1920’s.
The video is of the every 30 minute performance in the Drum Tower.
The climb to the top where the drums are stored is not for the physically impaired – the steps are incredibly steep and treacherous. The view of the city, in a full 360 degrees is one of the best places to get a sense for the surrounding hutong.
Also in the tower is a water clock, which precisely marks time.
Across the way from the Drum Tower is the Bell Tower (or Zhonglou), which housed bells also used for audible announcements throughout the city.