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Xi'an City Wall – The Xi'an City Wall is the only complete ancient city wall in China. It encloses the 36-square-kilometer old Xi'an city center in a rectangular circuit.
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Gate to the ancient capital – The 14-kilometer-long wall was built in the Ming Dynasty to safeguard Xi'an, a strategic capital for many Chinese dynasties. East Gate (pictured) is one of four original gates.
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Intricate military defense system – South Gate (pictured) is the oldest and grandest gate. Accessible only through a drawbridge across a moat, each gate consists of a multi-story archer's tower. Other structures like watchtowers and corner towers dot the city wall, making it one of the most impressive defense systems in ancient China.
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Bikes OK – You can't enter Xi'an's Terracotta Army pit and take selfies with the warriors. But you can run, walk and bike on the City Wall. A bike ride is the best and quickest way to explore the wall.
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First Lady was lovin' it – U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama danced with daughters Sasha (right) and Malia (left) during a trip to Xi'an in 2014. "There you stand, on top of a wall that's hundreds of years old -- a wall that has withstood war and famine and the rise and fall of dynasties," she wrote in her travel journal.
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Connecting wall – The top of the wall offers a unique view of the contrasting faces of this ancient Chinese city.
Celebrations and fun – The wall is now a place for recreation and celebrations. Lanterns adorned the South Gate of the Xi'an City Wall to mark the forthcoming lunar new year.
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Xi'an, China (CNN)For a city with a history of a few dozen centuries, and one that's also home to the 2,000-year-old Terra-cotta Army, Xi'an, China's 637-year-old city wall is a relatively new kid on the block.
Then again, it's a pretty impressive block.
At 12 meters high and 15 meters wide, the 14-kilometer-long Xi'an City Wall is the most complete ancient city wall in China.
It's also the most dramatic place to view one of China's most fascinating cities.
Standing in the city center of Xi'an -- capital city of Shaanxi Province in northwest China -- the ancient structure is the only fortification in China that still stands as an unbroken rectangular circuit.
While it may not get the accolades of that other famed wall -- the Great Wall commonly associated with Badaling near Beijing actually stretches for an estimated 21,000 kilometers -- it's rightly become one of the country's major tourist attractions.
Declared a major heritage site by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in the 1980s, the wall has withstood epic tribulation.
Surviving hundreds of years of wars and the vicissitudes of dynasties, the wall was nearly demolished during a social movement in the 1950s (to which historic city walls in places like Beijing and Hangzhou fell victim).
At the time, city walls were seen as a feudal legacy that impeded social advances promised by the Great Leap Forward.
Xi'an's City Wall was saved in part by a renowned historian who opposed the wall's destruction and successfully lobbied then Secretary-General of the State Council Xi Zhongxun, father of current Chinese President Xi Jinping, to spare the wall.
In 1983, it was refurbished as the closed-circuit network that exists now.
It takes about four hours to walk around the wall. Two-hour bike rental costs RMB45 ($7). Entrance fee is RMB54 ($8.50) per person.
Xi'an City Wall, Zhongxin District, Xi'an 710001 China;