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, the Ancient City of Pingyao is nowadays one of China's four best preserved old cities. Once the center of banking and trading in China, Pingyao was a powerful and rich town. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that was the birthplace of the Jin Businessmen (one of the two power houses during the Ming and Qing Dynasties).
What is unique there, is the well-preserved ancient city with a grand City Wall, traditional residences, former security guard companies, time-honored shops, and even the previous government office. For hundred years, it developed into the Wall Street of China and played an important role in the economic development of the country.
The Ancient City, with the nearby Shuanglin Temple and Zhenguo Temple outside the walled city, were together inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Walking in Pingyao, you may be surrounded by a historic atmosphere. You can spend a leisure time by losing yourself in this charming city.
「Climbing on the Old City Wall」
The Ancient City of Pingyao is also called 'Turtle City' because of its turtle-like city wall. The six-kilometer wall is in good repair and dominates the old city. 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 Southern Gate and Northern Gate resemble the head and tail respectively. Climbing up at the Fengyi Gate on the west side of the city, you get a bird’s eye view of the brown-tiled rooftops of the old city. The city wall of Pingyao was originally constructed 2700 years ago, which showcases the great combination of the defending works with the cultural functions. The square-shaped ancient city wall, about 6.4 km, is about 10 meters high and 3-6 meters wide on the top. If walking around the wall in the early morning, you may see how the locals are going their daily lives in their courtyard homes. You can also wander or bike around down the bottom of the walls inside and outside.
「Wandering on the Ancient Ming-Qing Streets」
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. Shops along the street are all built with bricks and stones completely in the style of Ming and Qing architecture, displaying traditional furniture, calligraphy, or some other local household utensils. While wandering along the street, you may like trace back to the former bustle bazaar in the old days.
「Visit Ri Sheng Chang (The First Draft Bank of China)」
Pingyao is the center of finance in North China at various times, and Ri Sheng Chang in Pingyao ancient city perfectly presents the first banking system with drafts, where You can learn how the basic banking level worked many hundreds of years ago.
The nearly 200-year-old Ri Sheng Chang Former Bank, located near the center of the Ancient City, is the first 'bank' in China's history. The museum is a maze of rooms within a courtyard that housed one of China’s first exchange shops, therefore having an enormous influence on early banking in China. Founded in 1823 during the Qing Dynasty, rooms show displays of things used in banking in early times.
It is now an ancient bank 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.
「Visit The Courtyard of Family Wang」
The Courtyard of Family Wang is considered as the Forbidden City in Shanxi. It looks like a "喜喜" （double happiness）from the upper. The stone carvings, wood carving and brick carvings in this courtyard show strong human feelings.
「Experience The folk-custom tavern」
The folk-custom tavern is a highlight in Pingyao town. Getting inside, you can not only taste all kinds of delicious snacks but also taste the culture and charm of architecture that is Ming and Qing style. Visiting the ancient city at night is an important step for visitors from all over the world. It is quite a romantic thing to go outside and enjoy the amazing night sight.
「Enjoy Night life in Pingyao」
The most modern place in Pingyao ancient town is all kinds of bars. Maybe it is the only place where you may feel that you are in the modern world. For most people who travel to Pingyao ancient town, their purpose is to look for a feeling that is in ancient time. But when they are in bars, with soft music, they may feel that they are in the real world. Maybe it is the petit-bourgeois life of young people.
「Eating in Pingyao」
Most buildings along Mingqing pedestrian street, the main street of the city, have been converted into restaurants, shops, bars, and guesthouses, so it is easy to find quality local restaurants along the street. For local fares, you can try Pingyao beef, which is the most famous local specialty and can be found in a wide array of varieties.
Night is the busiest time in Pingyao Ancient City. Strolling down Mingqing pedestrian street, sampling some local food and doing some souvenir shopping is a popular way for visitors to spend the evening.