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City Guide -- Pingyao

Travel Guide of The Pingyao Ancient Town in Shanxi Province



The Pingyao Ancient City lies in the Pingyao County in the middle of Shanxi Province, facing the middle reaches of Fen River, 100 km away from Taiyuan City. The county seat is rich in valuable and various cultural relics and historic sites, which has brought reputation to this county among so many county towns in China.


The Pingyao Ancient City was built in the year of Hongwu 3nd (1370 AD), Ming Dynasty with a girth of 6.4km as the early built and the largest scale ancient cities well preserved in Shanxi Province. Though it had been repaired in Ming and Qing dynasty, it has kept the original look of the early Ming dynasty. The whole city takes a quadrate shape with walls of 12 meters high. The city walls were built by laying rocky bricks and have a moat of 4 meters deep and 4 meters wide surrounding them to strengthen the defense of the city. It is said that there are 3000 battlements and 72 watchtowers on the top of the walls according to the number of disciples and elitist students of Confucius.


The city wall of Pingyao has two gates on each side of the east and the west. The city gate stands out the wall and has outer and inner gates forming an urn look. As there are 6 "urns", people think that the south gate and the north one are like the head and the tail of a tortoise, and the four gates of the east gate and the west are like its four feet. For the south gate, the inner gate and the outer one are connected straightly like the tortoise's exserted head. And there are 2 wells out of the south gate which provide people with the imagination of the eyes of the tortoise. The way of the north gate is crooked and perfects the pattern of the whole city as a tortoise crawling forward. The city walls, streets, houses, shops, temples etc. in this city have all been standing still as if they were in the past. The original architectural style and featuresviews have never been changed to this day. In early time there were 94 watchtowers on the wall, towers were built on the top of the gate and even the four corners have corner towers. But now most of these buildings have been destroyed except the city wall. And almost all the ancient buildings inside the town and in the outskirts have been kept in good conditions, which have contributed to the historical wealth of the Pingyao Ancient City.


The Pingyao Ancient City is one of the four ancient cities well preserved in China and it was evaluated as the most outstanding heritage in the world by UNESCO in December 3 rd, 1997. The heritage council of UNESCO reported that the Pingyao Ancient City was a masterpiece of the city architecture done by the Chinese Han nationality. The city has kept all the ethical characters and has displayed an unusual complete picture in the development of the histories of culture, society, economy and religion in China. We are very proud to recommend this city to you and look forward to your contact for visiting this beautiful place.


The construction of Pinyao City named Ancient Tao then started very early as the feod of Emperor Yao. The ancient city wall was made of earth at first starting in the period of King Xuan, Western Zhong dynasty (827 BC ~782 BC). In the year of Hongwu 3 rd, Ming dynasty, the rocky brick made city wall on the basic of the ancient city of the Western Zhong dynasty was augmented and came into being under Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang's policy that encouraged building city and forts to meet the defense requirements.


In the year of Daoguang 3 rd (1823 AD), Qing dynasty, the first bank of China known as Rishengchang was born in Pingyao city, which has set up a historic milestone in the history and the finance development of China. It has indicated that China had begun to transit from the agricultural society to the society mixed by agriculture, industry and commerce.


The middle region of Shanxi has been famous for its abundant natural sources and elites since early time. Now it has gained both local and outer good conditions and has civilization and all kinds of trades prospering. During the history of economic development in China, the Jin merchants (merchants from Shanxi) have been playing the most important roles. Among them, the pioneers devoting to commerce and finance from Pingyao, Taigu and Qi had spreaded their business all over the country and prospered for several hundred years gathering large wealth. And now these accumulations of history can still been seen in the Pingyao Ancient City.


Pingyao Ancient Town, in the middle of Shanxi Province, is the best-preserved among the four ancient towns in China. It is the assembly place of folk houses in north China where rows upon rows of buildings in the Ming and Qing Dynasties stand in well-preserved conditions. The earliest bank in China, Piaohao (a firm for exchange and transfer of money) was born here. During the fairly long period of late 19th century and early 20th century, merchants from Shanxi Province nearly dominated all finance in China. While playing an outstanding role in business circles, they painstakingly built the eye-catching courtyards one after another, thus came into being the typical house culture of Shanxi. On December 3, 1997, the town, with over 2700-year history-Pingyao was formally added to the list of World Heritage by the UN.


Pingyao Ancient Town is famous for the ancient wall, built in 1370. It is 3-6 meters wide across the top, 9-12 meters wide at the bottom, 10 meters in height and more than 6 kilometers in length. The wall body was first built of earth, rammed layer upon layer and then covered by bricks and stones outside. The wall pattern was planned according to this policy: to suit measures to local conditions and make use of dangerous positions in order to control the fortress. The walls in the east, west and north are vertical and the south wall winds with the Zhongdu River. Pingyao is also called the Turtle City--long-living and as solid as a rock. The outer wall stands with 3000 crenels and 72 ramparts. The number 3,000 stands for Confucian’s 3000 followers while the number 72 stands for the 72 worthies.

Location: E112°18′ N37°2′

Population: 500000

Area: 2.25 Sqk

Average altitude: 1000m (3280.8 ft)

IDD: 86 – 0354

Average temperature: 10.1℃ (50℉). 

Average annual rainfall: 450mm

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