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Bell Watch Tower in Shanghai Old City

In the old city of Shanghai you can visit the Xiaonanmen Bell Tower. The structure of the tower is an interesting mixture of concrete and steel and looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower in Paris in France.

The Bell Tower was built in 1909 by Shanghai City’s fire department. At that time it was the highest in the old city (35,2 meters high).

There was always someone at the top of the tower who watched over the Old City and when they saw smoke or fire they rang the bell and firefighters rushed out to put out the fire. It was the oldest modern fire control system in Shanghai.


During the revolution in 1911 against the Qing empire the Bell Tower played an important role. The revolutionaries of the Tongmenghui group that was founded in 1905 by Dr. Sun Yat Sen in in 1905, used the bell to alert the members for their fight against the Qing Dynasty.

Very interesting is it to see that the architecture of the tower fully integrates with other buildings such as Shanghai typical residential houses. A real example of the well developed architectural skills that are typical for Shanghai in the early  19th century.
In 2005 the Bell Tower building was registered as protected architectural heritage.

Nowadays the once highest building in the old city is completely surrounded by high-rise skyscrapers and is fully integrated in the daily life in the old city.

Xu Jin

May 2020