The town Pingyao is China’s best-preserved walled town and a must-see for all the right reasons: Throughout the centuries it has morphed into a unique blend of Chinese history and an excellent example of architectural prowess in Imperial China. Pingyao’s charming walls hold no secret; they don’t have to. They have changed by only a painting-coat or two throughout centuries of scenic developments and the town’s captivating narrative can be read on its walls like a ready-made storybook. An ancient China travel experience you can’t miss.
Pingyao’s laudable safeguarding of their culture is so significant that it has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Pingyao was founded in the 14th century and, even now, it is alive with townspeople. The hustle and bustle of daily living carry on to this day as if no time has passed at all, though the illusion is abruptly broken by picture-taking and denim.
Still, Pingyao retains its centuries-old charm. The locals stir new life into an already breathing city and make the Ancient China’s essence truly present. They have kept ancient practices going, such as the making of the ancient ‘Yellow Liquor’ which is still produced today using traditional techniques. But they also liven the town quietly in the way they guide their donkeys and carts up the street, ride their bicycles joyfully through the paved streets of the town and talk with their neighbors in the marketplace.
Visit The Wall Street of the East
For those of us that travel with history in the forefront of our minds, Pingyao will not disappoint. Not only does it still maintain its traditional Bagua patterned layout but it is also the birthplace of China’s first bank, Rishengchang Exchange Shop, which was created in the 1800s and established itself in Pingyao’s colorful streets. Ping Yao grew to be the major banking center for the entirety of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries and eventually became known as ‘The Wall Street of the East.’
Rishengchang (which means ‘Sunrise Property’ in Chinese) at one point controlled nearly half of the Chinese economy. It is now a museum. The eye-catching building showcases these new bankers ingenuity in the excellently maintained banking methods of the day. You can go inside the groundbreaking exchange-shop’s underground vault and have a look at perfectly preserved accounting tools dating back to 1823. Coupled with the period-dressed mannequins that seem to await new customers, Rishengchang bank promises to be an unforgettable experience fit to transport anyone to another time.
Walk Through The Ancient Streets of Pingyao
But perhaps what makes Pingyao so particularly attractive is its 225 hectares of ancient streets, lanes, shops, homes, and temples. There are nearly four thousand still active shops and traditional accommodations which bear witness to Pingyao’s prosperity and elegance. These age-old style shops sell food, souvenirs, calligraphy and bright paintings.
At night, the streets show just how much they’ve retained their foregone beauty when red street lamps, exquisitely made, light up the night. This is a perfect time for a much needed atmospheric walk, where the rhythmic sound of cobblestone streets and mystic-looking alleys will doubtlessly convince any travel lover that Ping Yao has kept its stunning past intact and ready to be enjoyed.
To travel to Pingyao, you can take the daily high-speed trains from Beijing. It lies Pingyao 60 miles southwest of Taiyuan. An ancient China travel experience you’ll never forget.