Exploring The Beijing Watchtower Which ‘Got The Cold Shoulder’

By Alistair Baker-Brian, October 21, 2022

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As we continue to make the most of Beijing’s “best season” before the cold sets in, we find ourselves exploring one of Beijing’s more recondite ancient watchtowers. 

Zuo’anmen Watchtower doesn’t have quite the same reputation as other more prominent Beijing tourist spots, but bear with us and you might just be persuaded to pay it a visit. 

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The Zuo'anmen Watchtower as seen from the outer side of the Hucheng River. Image via That's/Alistair Baker-Brian

The Watchtower lies on the Hucheng River at the southeast corner of Beijing’s second ring road. 

The spot on the opposite side of the river to the Watchtower makes for a great photo opportunity of a historical relic which was only restored within recent years. 

All throughout the year, you’ll find swimmers in the Hucheng River, just as we did during our mid-October visit. 

For Beijing geography nerds, this place is a dream. At the corner of the Watchtower on either side of the river, you’ll find a triple-sided boundary marker; the spot marks the meeting point of three districts, with Chaoyang to the east, Dongcheng to the west and Fengtai to the south. 

From top to bottom, the triple-sided boundary marker marking Fengtai, Dongcheng and Chaoyang districts, respectively. Image via That's/Alistair Baker-Brian 

The Zuo’anmen Watchtower was a crucial gateway into Beijing during ancient times. Prior to the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty, the area was economically prosperous, benefitting from trade brought by the Beijing-Hangzhou Canal. 

By 1967, the Watchtower had been all but abandoned and was torn down for safety reasons. People’s Daily asserts that compared with other more well-known historical gateways into old Beijing – including Yongdingmen, Qianmen and even Dongbianmen – Zuo’anmen was “given the cold shoulder.” 

READ MORE: What's so Great About This Spot on Beijing's 2nd Ring Road?

Eventually, the Watchtower was fully restored by 2015. In 2017, the Zuo’anmen Watchtower Library opened up inside the rebuilt structure. 

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The Zuo'anmen Watchtower Library. Image via That's/Alistair Baker-Brian

How To Get There

Nearby subway stations include: 

  • Panjiayuan (Line 10) – take exit A, and then walk or ride a bike west along Panjiayuan Lu until you reach Hucheng River

  • Fangzhuang (Line 14) – take exit A, and then walk or ride a bike north along Fangzhuang Lu and Zuo’anmen Nei Dajie until you reach Hucheng River

Via ride-hailing services, input 左安门角楼 to get to the Watchtower

See the exact location on the map below:

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Image via Gaode Maps with edits by That's/Alistair Baker-Brian


[Cover image via Instagram]

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