Pingyao is a county in central Shanxi province in China, located approximately 80 kilometers from the provincial capital, Taiyuan. Pingyao is a popular tourist destination, mainly thanks to its well preserved part of the ancient city. During the Qing dynasty, Pingayo was a financial centre in China and its history dates back some 2,700 years back, being one of the best preserved ancient cities in the known world. The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it still inhabited by 50,000 residents. Although located quite far away from Beijing, Pingyao is easily accessible by plane, bus or train.
Pingayo has been retaining its city layout for centuries, from the Ming dynasty which ruled China for 276 years (1368-1644), conforming to a typical Bagua pattern. There are more than 300 ancient sites in or near the city, and the preserved Qing and Ming-style residences comes close to 4,000. The main attraction of the city remains the Pingyao Ancient City Walls built in 1370. The body of the wall was built of earth and was covered with bricks and stones. The city is locally known as “tortoise city” thanks to the southern and northern gates which look like the head and the tail of a tortoise, while the eastern and western gates look like the legs. Legends say that because of this unique design, floods from North West were actually prevented, but the shape may have been chose because the tortoise is an eternal symbol for the Chinese people.
The Ancient Ming-Qing Street is also a landmark because back in the days, Pingyao’s streets were the hub of trade. Of course, nowadays the trade business has been replaced by markets and souvenirs shop, as well as restaurant or food stalls. If your budget allows it, you might actually go home with souvenirs dating back 100 years ago. The city is also famous for its temples like the Shuanglin Temple, famous for its exquisite collection of more than 2,000 embellished clay statues dating back to the 12th century. The dragon hall in the Qing Xi Taoist temple is renowned for its remarkable shape, with suspended columns and beams. The Temple of Town God and the Temple of Guan Yu are some of the city’s most recent temples but that doesn’t make them any less remarkable.
The increase in tourism also has its downside because during high-season, the amount of visitors can reach up to three times its maximum capacity per day and that alone puts pressure on the ancient walled city. There are various programs working with the Pingyao County Government to protect the city against various problems like massive tourism and uncontrolled development, like The Pingyao Cultural Heritage Development Program which aims to preserve the vernacular architecture, revitalize and stimulate the traditional arts and establish special historic areas.