Pingyao Ancient Town

Inside the magnificent ancient city walls of Pingyao lies the Ancient City of Pingyao. With a history of around 2,700 years it is most famous as one of the few fully walled cities left in China and also as the country's first main financial center. These are part of the reason it was added to the World Heritage List in 1997.

Although there are records of a city wall made of earth as far back as the Western Zhau Dynasty (1100-771BC), the current wall was constructed in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) by Emperor Hongwu. The 6km long wall has a gate on the north and south sides and two on each the east and west which has given Pingyao the Turtle City nickname because of the resemblance from above. Its 12m height, 9-12m width on bottom, 3-6m width on top, four corner towers and 72 watchtowers make the wall a very impressive sight indeed, along with its 4m wide and 4m deep moat.

Inside the walls the city is designed in an orderly fashion with four main streets, eight smaller streets and 72 lanes, most of which run east to west and north to south. Good preservation of the city's buildings has made it an excellent place to see some great Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture which is found in most places. Most of the residences are built in the siheyuan style which is famous to Beijing's hutongs, consisting of four houses around a courtyard.

The ancient city's most famous building is the Rishengchang Exchange Shop which was founded in 1823 during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). This is regarded as the first proper bank in China as it was the first to issue bank drafts and stopped the need to carry currency everywhere. Its founding was the start of Pingyao becoming China's financial center at that time with about 20 banks.

Other popular attractions include the Temple of the City God which is one of the best preserved temples in China. Ming-Qing Street is the old main business street from when Pingyao was at its most prosperous and now has shops, restaurants and museums noted for their architecture. The Government Office, Confucius Temple, Qingxu Temple and many other places are to be seen as you wander around this historic ancient city.