Facts About Ancient City Of Ping Yao: A UNESCO World Heritage Site | Kidadl


Facts About Ancient City Of Ping Yao: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

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The Ancient City of Pingyao, in the Shanxi region of North China, was founded in the 14th century and is an extraordinarily well-preserved example of a conventional Han Chinese city.

The property is divided into three sections; Pingyao's full city walls, Shuanglin Temple (3.7 mi or 6 km southwest of the county seat), and Zhenguo Temple (7.4 mi or 12 km northeast of the county seat). The Ancient City is a fine example of Han cities from the Ming and Qing dynasties (from the 14th to 20th centuries).

It has all of the characteristics of a Han city, providing a comprehensive picture of Chinese cultural, social, economic, and religious development, and is significant for studying dwelling form, traditional ethics, traditional thinking, religious beliefs, military defense, economics structure, and social form.


The ancient town is located in central Shanxi Province, southwest of the Taiyuan Basin and in the middle reaches of the Fen River, some 350 mi (563 km) southwest of Beijing. Taiyuan, the province capital, is 62 mi (100 km) away.

Pingyao, the home of Chinese banking, originally served as imperial China's financial center and was instrumental in Shanxi's economic development in the 18th century. That is why it is known as the Old Wall Street of China, because of its influence, which is similar to that of Wall Street in the United States.

Pingyao is surrounded by walls and contains dwellings and buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912), earning it the name, Turtle City. Its arrangement depicts the evolution of the Han cities' architectural style and city planning over the course of five centuries.

Today, the remains of its brilliant past survive and remain impenetrable to modern changes, showing the original majesty to visitors from all over the world.

The Ancient City Wall, Shuanglin Temple, and Zhenguo Temple are the three treasures of Pingyao that should not be missed. The city wall, which stretches over 3.7 mi (6 km), is regarded as one of China's best-preserved city walls.

History & Cultural Significance

Pingyao was founded by Yi Jipu, a senior general in the Western Zhou Dynasty, between 827 and 782 BC, during the reign of Emperor Xuan of the Zhou Dynasty. When they garrisoned the area, they created the town. The county was part of the Jin Empire throughout the Spring and Autumn Periods. During the Warring States period, it was a component of the Zhao kingdom. It was known as Pingyao County during the Qin Dynasty. It was renamed Zhongdu County during the Han Dynasty and served as the capital of noble rulers.

In the North Wei Dynasty, it was given the name Pingyao County. A city wall was constructed during the early Ming Dynasty to defend against foreign invasion. Since then, the city wall has been rebuilt and expanded numerous times, as well as gate towers and strongholds. When Emperor Kangxi passed through Pingyao on his way west in 1703, he ordered the construction of four great gate towers (towers over city gates), to make the county more spectacular.

construction of Pingyao was to withstand nomad assaults


During King Xuan of the Western Zhou Dynasty's reign (827-782 BC), the ancient city was gradually built. The original objective of King Xuan's construction of Pingyao was to withstand nomad assaults from the north. Pingyao was later developed into a multi-functional city, the origin of China's first primitive form of a modern bank, and the commencement of commercial commerce in Shanxi. The Qingxu Temple, Temple of Confucius, and a large number of residential buildings also maintain much of Pingyao's ancient beauty.

The Old Town of Pingyao was built in the Han ethnic group's traditional planning and building style and was developed according to the functions of its many portions. A tidy grid is formed with four big streets, eight minor streets, and 72 lanes. The private dwellings were built symmetrically along an axis, either in the style of manmade-cave houses or in the manner of courtyard houses, all with local peculiarities.

Pingyao still contains 3,797 courtyard houses, with 400 of them being particularly well preserved. In addition, the town is littered with ornately decorated temples and stores. These historic structures recreate the bustling town of Pingyao, which flourished as one of the most prosperous trade towns throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The Zhenguo Temple, in the northeast of the city, was founded over 1,000 years ago, and its famed Hall of Ten Thousand Buddha (also called Wan Fo Hall) is China's third-oldest wooden structure. Wanfo Hall's painted statues from the Five Dynasties period (907-960) are considered valuable sculptures. The Shuanglin Temple, which has 10 halls, is located in the town's southwest corner. During the Northern Qi Dynasty, it was reconstructed in 571 (550-577).

The temple is renowned as the Treasure House of Painted Sculptures, because it houses almost 2,000 painted clay statues dating from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), through to the Ming Dynasty. The Hall of Great Achievements (called Da Cheng Dian) within the Temple of Confucius, which was renovated in 1163, and the Qingxu Temple, which was built in 657, are two more treasures in Pingyao.

World Heritage Site

Mingqing Pedestrian Street & City Tower:

Strolling around the old city streets is one of the nicest things to do in Pingyao. Within the city walls, much of the area has pedestrians, so you can stroll down old streets, explore stores, taste foods, and unwind at a cafe with a cup of tea or coffee. There are several restaurants, most of which have English menus, so getting a meal on your own is simple.

You won't get lost because the ancient city is only around a square mile in size. The gorgeous city tower is in the midst of the main street, which, coupled with the old houses along the street, provides for the typical photo of Pingyao.

Confucian Temple:

Pingyao's Confucian Temple was formerly a school. People came here to take their exams during China's imperial testing period. The temple, which dates back to the 7th century, was reconstructed in its current form in 1163 and is surprisingly well maintained. The temple boasts magnificent gardens and architecture, making for a relaxing stroll. Even the desks, where students used to sit to take their exams, can be seen.

Ancient County Government Building:

In the heart of the Ancient City of Pingyao, lies the Ancient County Government Building (Gu Xianya in Chinese). It was originally constructed during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) and renovated in 1346. The well-preserved county government office is located on a north-south axis and encompasses about 26,000 square meters.

In feudal China, a county government office was a local branch of government, and the head of it was known as the local magistrate (Fumu Guan), which meant 'father and mother' to the locals. The county government worked similarly to a court. Today, a short court case is re-enacted every day, giving tourists a glimpse of historical court procedures.

Rishengchang Draft Bank:

Rishengchang was founded in 1823 and is known as China's first draught bank (traditionally known as Piaohao in Chinese), a forerunner to modern Chinese banks. China's currency was based on silver coins during the Qing Dynasty. Traders in China found it difficult and dangerous to transport currency from one site to another. The Rishengchang Draft Bank was a part of a larger network that provided a convenient way to transport money using a billing system. Traders could deposit money in one place and withdraw it from another.

While the exchange shop system eventually failed, Rishengchang had a significant impact on the Chinese economy over its 108-year existence. Despite the fact that the bank is not particularly large, it attracts a large number of people due to its historical significance.

Temple of the City God:

Within Pingyao Ancient City, the Shrine of the City God is a well-preserved Taoist temple. The temple complex has a historic feel about it, and many residents visit to pray and burn incense. Visitors to Pingyao will enjoy a visit to this bright and tranquil temple.

Qingxu Taoist Temple:

The Qingxu Temple, which now houses the Pingyao Museum, was a Taoist temple frequented by renowned people and intellectuals who came to learn and meditate on Taoist principles, well before it became a museum. Today, the temple houses a museum that covers Taoist civilization and Pingyao's history, as well as rare cultural relics.

Other Miscellaneous Facts

Wheat-based items, such as noodles and buns, are prominent in Pingyao's cuisine. One of the most popular traditional local snacks is Pingyao Wantuo, a sort of noodle, developed during the Qing Dynasty. It's commonly served cold and sauced because of its malleable and smooth texture. Visitors are generally lured to Mingqing Street, which is located within the ancient city, to sample the local delicacy. Various food establishments lining the street will certainly satisfy your hunger.

The Ming Dynasty built the wall of Ancient Town, which has six gates, four turrets, 72 guard towers, and 3,000 crenels. It is a core element of Pingyao Old City and one of China's best-preserved ancient city walls. The top of the wall is three to five meters broad, with a height of 10 meters and a circumference of 6,163 meters. Two gates are on the west and east sides of the wall, while one is on the southern and northern sides. Each gate has a barbican entry with an inner and outer door, as well as a tower on top. Along the top, 72 watchtowers were erected every 50 to 100 meters, and 3,000 shooting crenels were strewn around the two-meter-high wall. These figures symbolize Confucius' 72 disciples and 3,000 students.

The Maiden's Wall, or parapet, is named after a small girl who risked her own life to save a workman's. According to legend, the girl used to sit on the city wall every day, watching her grandfather work on the construction. She came up to push a tired worker back to a safe position when she saw him swaggering by the edge of the wall one day, but she fell off herself. To memorialize her, the builders constructed a miniature parapet on the wall.

The Pingyao bullet train station is roughly 5.5 mi (9 km) from Pingyao Ancient City. For guests who reserve rooms with them, most hotels in the historic city provide complimentary pickup and drop-off services. To get to the destination, you can take the high-speed train to Pingyao Ancient City Railway Station and then transfer to bus number 108.

Ancient residences have been turned into shops, restaurants, pubs, and guesthouses along Mingqing Street, the main avenue that runs through the old city. In the evenings, the street gets very busy, making it a terrific spot to wander, sample local cuisine, or shop. The shopping is good, although it is similar to that of other old towns in China.

In Pingyao Ancient City, inhabitants still live, and there are a variety of guesthouses where you can stay. Staying in the ancient city and getting up early in the morning when there are fewer tourists on the streets is a smart idea. That way, you can tour the city when the streets are quieter and watch inhabitants going about their daily routines, just as they have done throughout the city's lengthy history.

While admission to the ancient city is free, you must purchase a combo ticket to view the various historic buildings. The ticket is said to be good for three days, but each ticketed location can only be visited once. When entering any location, you must provide your ticket, so carry it with you throughout your stay in Pingyao.

You can visit the ancient city from 8:00a.m. to 18:00p.m. The fee is 125 Yuan ($17.70) per person. You can visit at any given time of the year and it would take a maximum of two days to visit the entire place.

Pingyao has a temperate climate. It's cold in the winter, with north-western winds, minimal snow, and thick fog. The temperature swings substantially between day and night in the spring, with considerable rain and winds. Summers are frequently hot, humid, and wet. Autumn days are crisp and clear with plenty of sunshine, lowering temperatures, and minimal rain.


What is Ancient City of Ping Yao famous for?

Pingyao Ancient City is known for its historical significance in China's economy, as well as its well-preserved Ming and Qing urban planning and architecture. It is administratively comprised of the town of Gutao in Jinzhong Prefecture's Pingyao County. It has a population of approximately 50,000 people.

What province is Ancient City of Ping Yao in?

It is located in Ping Yao County, central Shanxi Province. The property is thus divided into three parts; the entire land within the walls of Ping Yao; Shuanglin Temple, 3.7 mi (6 km) southwest of the county seat; and Zhenguo Temple, 7.4 mi (12 km) northeast of the county seat.

Who built Ancient City of Ping Yao?

The Ancient City of Pingyao was founded by Yi Jipu, a senior general in the Western Zhou Dynasty.

When was Ancient City of Ping Yao built?

It has a 2,700-year history, having been established during Emperor Xuan's reign of the Western Zhou Dynasty (827-782 BC) and expanded in the third year of the Ming Dynasty's Hongwu Period (1370 AD).

What is the significance of Ancient City of Ping Yao?

Pingyao is known not only for its antiquity but also for being the commercial town with the nation's first bank, which was formed in the 19th century, and for serving as the Qing government's financial headquarters. Several old courtyards, most notably the residences and offices of Pingyao's old tongs or banks, have been turned into museums.

The focus of the Pingyao tour is the ancient city itself and its building complex, which includes old walls, streets, alleys, stores, houses, and temples. The design accurately depicts the evolution of architectural style and urban planning in Han cities, over the course of more than five centuries. However, the majority of the structures you can see today originate from the Ming (1368-1644) or Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

When and why was the Ancient City of Ping Yao declared as a World Heritage Site?

Pingyao's Ancient City was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1997, along with the nearby Zhenguo Temple and Shuanglin Temple. Since then, it has served as a physical specimen for research into Chinese politics, economics, culture, art, and religious growth, owing to its importance as China's first banking center and as one of the country's few remaining intact ancient cities.

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