Pingyao Ancient City Travel Guide
"The Pingyao Ancient City is an outstanding example of Chinese Han Nationality cities in Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), displaying all the features of those periods. Pingyao, in particular reveals a picture of unexpected culture, social, economic and religious development in Chinese history."
---UNESCO World Heritage Committee
Pingyao Ancient City is a well-preserved historic city and also a prototype of ancient Chinese cities. It occupies a total area of 2.25 sq km, has a population of 42,000, and largely maintains its historical appearance of the Ming and Qing periods(1368-1911).
Built initially in King Xuan´s reign(827-782BC)of the Western Zhou Dynasty, Pingyao has a history of over 2,700 years. Since the establishment of the "prefecture and county system" in ancient China in 221 BC, it has continuously been a county seat, a city at the lowest basic level.
The extant city-walls come down from the 3rd year, Hongwu reign, Ming Dynasty(1370 AD),in the original shape resulting from the then enlargement. Within them remain six temple complexes, county administrative offices and a city tower, all original structures from different periods; over a hundred of well-preserved streets and alleys are flanked by commercial shops mostly built in the 17th-19th centuries; and 3,797 residences of traditional style are kept intact, among which more than 400 possess great protection value for their embodiment of unique local features.
Plentiful Unique Cultural Remains
Pingyao as a walled city has existed for more than 2,700 years. Through this age-long developmental course, cultural remains come down to the present in a large number, great density and wide temporal coverage, for which Pingyao is praised as a "major preserver county of cultural relics" in Shanxi, a province rich in ancient Chinese buildings.
The substantial cultural remains preserved in the old city not only represent architectural styles, construction methods and material-using standards of ancient Chinese cities in various historical periods, but also mirror artistic advances and aesthetic achievements of ancient China´s ethnic groups in different regions.
Traditional Cultural Features of the Han People
The old city of Pingyao, constructed according to the traditional planning principle and building style of the Han people, embodies in a concentrated form the historical features of the Han culture around the 14th-l9th centuries and is of considerable referential importance in researching into the social formation, economic structure, military defense, religious beliefs, traditional ideology, moral concepts and dwelling patterns of that time.
Intact Dwelling Complexes of the Ancient Common People
As documentary records and material evidence show, the old city of Pingyao has practically been kept in its original pattern since its rebuilding in the 3rd year, Hongwu reign, Ming Dynasty(l370 AD)
The major residences of the Pingyao people were built in l840-19l1 AD. They feature neat and elaborate layout, symmetric arrangement along a precise axis, clear division between the principal and the subordinate, alternation between rising and falling outlines, enclosure to the outside and imposing deepness in compound structure. Adorned with exquisite wooden, brick and stone carvings and lifelike paper cut window designs with a strong local flavor, the houses constitute the best-preserved dwelling complexes of the ancient common people in the regions of the Han ethnic group.
A Developed Financial City
During the middle and late l9th century, Pingyao was one of the most developed cities in banking and became China´s most influential financial center, gathering numerous head quarters of money exchange and transfer firms and other financial institutions, and once manipulating the banking trade of modern China. For more than a hundred years when those firm flourished there, Pingyao had exercised a positive influence over economic development in modern China.
There are direct bus between Taiyuan and Pingyao Ancient City, or you can take Bus No.102 or taxi. By the way, there are only one bus line in the ancient city for travel.
Recommended time for a visit: two hours.