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Ancient City of Pingyao

Pingyao Old City map
Pingyao Ancient City Map (Click to enlarge)

The past prosperity of Shanxi lies in Pingyao, while the soul of Pingyao lies in its Old City. Founded during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 BC) and rebuilt in 1370, Ancient City of Pingyao is nowadays one of China's four best preserved old cities, together with Lijiang Old Town, Huizhou Ancient City and Langzhong Ancient City. There is no charming landscape, green mountain or clear waters. What's unique there is the well-preserved ancient city with grand City Wall, traditional residences, former escort agencies, time-honored shops, and even the previous government office.
 

 Ancient City Wall

Ancient City of Pingyao is also called 'Turtle City' because of its turtle-like city wall. There are six gates along the wall. Four of them are symmetrically set on the east and west sides, looking like the four legs of the turtle. The other Southern Gate and Northern Gate resemble the head and tail respectively. Looking down from the top, it is exactly like a giant turtle with the crisscrossing lanes forming the patterns on its shell.

 Ancient Ming-Qing Street (South Street)

If you want to have a glimpse of the past prosperity of the Pingyao Ancient City, you should not miss the Ancient Ming-Qing Street. Serving as the central axis, it has been the busiest commercial block of the city for hundreds of years. This 450-yard-long street gathers around 80 antique stores, including exchange shops, pawnshops, escort agencies, and other handicraft workshops. Walking along the Ming-Qing Street must feel like being brought back to the crowded bazaar in old days. Not only can you view quaint buildings, but also also buy specialties, snacks, and souvenirs there.

Pingyao City Wall
City Wall
Ancient Ming-Qing Street, Pingyao
Ancient Ming-Qing Street

 Rishengchang Exchange Shop

The nearly 200-year-old Rishengchang Exchange Shop, located near the center of Ancient City, is the first 'bank' in China's history and is known as the 'Father of the Bank in China'. It once controlled the lifeblood of the nation's economy in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), with more than 30 branches throughout the country. It is now an Exchange Shop Museum, displaying historical items and local architecture style. There, you can know the development of China's banks and Jin Merchants, a renowned business group in Shanxi Province.

 Escort Agency

The escort agency can be counted as the earlier delivery agency, but only convoyed silver, gold, and other valuable items for exchange shops and richmen. Brimming with a lot of escort agencies is another highlight of the old city. You may drop by the most famous one near the northern end of the Ancient Ming-Qing Street. Here, you can have a better understanding of this organization by viewing the distinctive carriages, cases, and other escort tools. There is also a special training court for escorts to practice martial skills. With various weapons as the backdrop, why not pose a Kung Fu movement and take a picture there? 
 

 County Government Museum

The well-preserved County Government to the west of the Ancient Ming-Qing Street is the largest one in China with an area of 31,000 square yards (25,920 square meters). 149 magistrates in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1911) had worked and lived there successively. The core spot of the site is the solemn law court. If you are lucky enough, you may see a show performing the old trial at the law court. In the deep of the building is the prison. The low-light environment there may make you feel creepy. You may even find shabby beddings and prisoners' uniforms as well as rusty torture equipments there.

County Government Museum
County Government Museum
City God Temple, Pingyao
City God Temple

 Temple of the City God

Located to the east of the Ancient Ming-Qing Street, the Temple of City God is a sacred place for people to pay homage to the City God, God of Wealth, and Kitchen God. Eminent officers and ordinary person who did great contributions to local people are also worshipped here. With an area of 8,800 square yards (7,340 square meters), this traditional temple is studded with exquisite pavilions and towers. The colored glaze decorations of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are still shining under the sun, making this place even grander.

 Temple of Confucius

It was a place for people to show their respect to the Confucius, a renowned educator who founded Confucianism. With an area of 10,000 square yards (8,361 square meters), it is the best preserved Confucius Temple in China. This temple was also a state-run academy in old days. At that time, the dream of most scholars was to serve as an official. Taking the imperial examination was the only way to gain the title. There is an exhibition in fifth court of the temple, introducing the development and procedure of the old examination.

 Shuanglin Monastery & Zhenguo Temple

Outside the Old City, there are two temples worth visiting. One is Shuanglin Monastery, which is about four miles (six kilometers) southwest of the city. It is famous for the over 2,000 vivid colored sculptures created during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties (1271 – 1911). The other is Zhenguo Temple with a history of over one thousand years, located 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) northeast of the city.
 

Qiao's Compound
Qiao's Compound

 Traditional Residences Nearby

Around the ancient city also cluster many famous old style residences. About 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the north lies the famous Qiao's Compound, which boasts a unique layout and various delicate carvings. Another one is Wang's Compound, which is about 22 miles (35 kilometers) to the southeast. It is regarded as a Chinese architectural museum for its abundant artistic features like various elaborate sculptures and carvings.

Other residences, such as Cao's Compound, Chang's Compound, and Qu's Compound, are all not very far and worth visiting.

In addition to the ancient folk residences, Mt. Mianshan is the only mountain close by the ancient city, boasting for beautiful natural scenery and abundant Buddhist and Taoist temples.
 

 Transportation

Taiyuan is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) away from the ancient city, you can take coaches or trains to get there. With the opening up of the Datong-Pingyao-Xian High Speed Railway, a quick transfer from Beijing and Xian also comes true.

 From Taiyuan:
Take buses from Jiannan Bus Station to Pingyao. Duration is about 2 hours. Get out of the station and walk west along East Zhongdu Street. Turn left at the first corner to Beiguan Road. Then walk south to the North Gate of the city.

 Take trains from Taiyuan Railway Station to Pingyao Railway Station. Get out of the station and walk south along Shuncheng Road to Xiaxiguan Street. Go down the street to the Lower West Gate of the city.
    Alternatively, take a bullet train at Taiyuan South Railway Station. The train ride should only take around 40 minutes. Upon arrival at Pingyao Ancient Town Railway Station, get on bus no. 108 to Kuixingyuan Xiaoqu Station. You will see the southern gate of the city.

 From Beijing or Xian:
Take a high speed train from Beijing West Railway Station or Xian North Railway Station to Pingyao Ancient Town Railway Station. Upon arrival, follow the above instruction to the city.

 Click to check the real-time China Train Schedule

Admission Fee CNY 150, including City Wall, County Government Office, Temple of the City God, Rishengchang Exchange Shop, Ancient Ming-Qing Street, and almost all the spots inside the old city.

 Note: If you just wander around inside the city and don't enter the scenic spots, the ticket is not required.
Opening Hours Old City: All Day
Spots inside the city March to November: 8:00 – 18:30
December to next February: 8:00 – 17:30