Pingyao is a county in central Shanxi province, China. It lies about 715 kilometres (444 mi) from Beijing and 80 kilometres (50 mi) from the provincial capital, Taiyuan. It is now renowned for its well-preserved ancient city wall, and, like virtually every other locality in the whole of China, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed in 1997. It is one of the most popular destinations for travel to China.
Pingyao still retains its city layout from the Ming and Qing dynasties, conforming to a typical bagua pattern. More than 300 sites in or near the city have ancient ruins. Preserved Ming- and Qing-style residences number close to 4,000. The streets and storefronts still largely retain their historical appearance.
Pingyao was the financial center of China in the late Qing Dynasty. During those times, there were as many as 20 financial institutions within the city, comprising more than half of total in the whole country. Among these is "Rishengchang," considered the first bank in China. Rishengchang controlled almost 50% silver trade when its scale reached the top in the whole Qing Dynasty. It continued to maintain its prosperity until going bankrupt in 1914 because lots of the modern banks were built up.
The city walls of Pingyao
Constructed in the 3rd year of the Hongwu Emperor (1370), the walls have six barbican gates. The north and south sides have one gate each. The east and west sides have two gates each. This pattern is similar to that of a turtle (the head, tail and four legs), earning Pingyao the moniker "Turtle City." The walls measure about 12 meters high, with a perimeter of 6,000 meters. A 4-meter wide, 4-meter deep moat can be found just outside the walls. Aside from the four structured towers at the four corners, there are also 72 watchtowers and more than 3,000 battlements. In 2004, part of the southern walls collapsed but were reconstructed. However, the rest of the city walls are still largely intact and are considered among the best-preserved ancient city walls on this scale. This makes the city walls the centerpiece of the Heritage Site.
ShuanglinMonasterya and Zhenguo Temple:
Outside the Old City, there are two temples worth visiting. One is Shuanglin Monastery which is about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) southwest of Pingyao Old City. It is famous for the over 2000 vivid painted sculptures created during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming, and Qing dynasties. The other is Zhenguo Temple. It is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Pingyao Old City. With a history of over one thousand years, this temple is famous for its wood-structured main hall. It is one of the three oldest wood buildings in China.
Qiao's Compound and Wang's Compound
What's more, most of the famous residences in Shanxi are clustered around Pingyao. About 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) to the north of Pingyao lies the famous Qiao's Compound which boasts a unique layout and various delicate carvings. Another one is the Wang's Compound, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) to the southeast of Pingyao. It is regarded as a Chinese architectural museum for its abundant artistic architectural elements such as the various elaborate sculptures.