Shanxi

Pingyao Ancient City of Shanxi Province – Travel Guide

Pingyao Ancient City is located in Shanxi Province with a history of more than 2700 years. It is the most complete ancient city in the Han nationality region of China. The city was founded on an existing settlement by Zhou Xuan Wang of the Zhou Dynasty sometime around 800 BC and during the Qing Dynasty, the city became the financial hub of ancient China containing more than half of the empire’s financial institutions from the 16th century right through to the late 19th century.

Pingyao Ancient City is known as one of the “four best preserved ancient cities” and one of the only two ancient cities in China that have obtained UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listing.

Highlights

County Government Office 平遥县衙

County Government Office is located in the center of Pingyao Ancient City. It was built in the Northern Wei Dynasty and was extended in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. The earliest preserved building was built in the Yuan Dynasty (1346).

Rishengchang Bank 日升昌票号

It was co-founded by Li Dajin, a wealthy businessman from Xi Da Pu Village, Pingyao County, Shanxi Province in 1823. It is the first of its kind in China’s national banking industry and was the economic lifeline of the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century.

The Temple of Confucius  文庙即孔庙

Pingyao Confucian Temple is located in the southeast corner of Pingyao County. It was built in the early years of Tang Dynasty. The large temple features a number of courtyards. It officially opened to tourists in 2004 and became one of the main cultural relics of Pingyao Ancient City.

Pingyao County Museum & QingXuGuan 清虚观

Pingyao County Museumis located inside the largest Taoist temple in the ancient city, Qing Xu Guan. It was built in the Tang Dynasty. The museum holds Buddha statues, artworks, and wood carvings from the Ming and Qing Dynasty eras.

City streets – Ming-Qing Street 南大街

The traffic veins of Pingyao Ancient City consist of four main streets (South Street, North Street, East Street and County Government/City God Temple Street), eight small streets and seventy-two lanes. Ming-Qing Street (South Street) is the central axis of Pingyao Ancient City, connecting the east and west streets in the north, and the South Gate at its southern end. A central highlight is the three-story Market Tower (see main image) and you can climb up and get a view out over the streets below.

Pingyao City Wall 平遥城墙

The Pingyao City Wall was built in the Western Zhou Dynasty Xuanwang Period (827 BC ~ 782 BC). During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it was repaired/rebuilt some twenty-five times. The wall is square in shape, with a perimeter of 6162.7 meters, a height of 10 meters, and a top width of 3-5 meters. It features six city gates with towers along with 72 watchtowers along its length.

Nearby

You can hire a taxi out to the nearby attractions or your hotel/guesthouse can also organize a driver for you. The two temples are a must-see.

Zhenguo Temple 镇国寺

Zhenguo Temple is located in Haodong Village, 12 kilometers northeast of Pingyao. It was built during the Northern Han Dynasty. The temple is divided into two parts, from the south to the north, including the Tianwang Hall, the Wanfo Hall, and the Sanfo Building. The northern courtyard features two smaller halls. The Wanfo Hall is the main building of the front yard. It is one of the oldest existing wooden structures in China. Although the scale of the temple is not large, it is majestic and imposing. There are 14 colorful sculptures in the temple. There are statues of Buddha in the middle of the temple. The two disciples of Jiaye and Ananda are left and right. These are some of the last remaining wooden Buddhist sculptures from the era.

Shuang Lin Temple 双林寺

It is located 10km from Pingyao ancient city. Shuang Lin Temple was built in the Northern Wei Dynasty, facing south, the temple complex covers about fifteen thousand square meters within two parts. The western part is a temple, and there are three courtyards along the central axis. It consists of ten halls. In the east, it is a Buddhist temple, a house, and so on. In the ten halls of the temple, there are more than 2,000 statues preserved from the Yuan Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty (AD 13-17). They are known as the “treasure house of colored art”.

Qu Family Compound 佢家大院

Located 22km north of Pingyao. It is also an ancient and opulent family home that was built in the late Qing Dynasty.

Qiao Family Compound 乔家大院

Located 20 kilometers north of Pingyao, the two-acre mansion was built in 1756 during the Qing Dynasty. The former family home is a museum and insight into the lives of the ancient Chinese elite.

Wang Family Compound 王家大院

Located 35 kilometers away from Pingyaoin in Jingsheng Town of Lingshi County of Shanxi, Wang’s Compound is another ancient family mansion that dates back to the mid-1600’s. The site covers a staggering 45,000 sqm featuring forts and temples in the Ming Dynasty architectural style.

Chang Family Compound 常家大院

Located in Chetun Village, Dongyang Town, southwest of Yuci, Shanxi Province. It is another massive, ancient and palatial family home.

Zhang Bi Old Castle 张壁古堡

It is located 40 kilometers southwest of Pingyao. It is a fascinating site featuring a labyrinth of underground tunnels and above-ground fortress. The site also features remains from the Xia and Shang Dynasties and is known as the astrological village for its construction corresponding with constellations from Chinese mythology.

Facts

  • Chinese name: 平遥古城
  • UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site listed in 1997
  • National 5A attraction
  • Location: Pingyao County, Shanxi
  • Ticket price: 150 RMB and valid for 3 days – Shuanglin Temple: 35 RMB – Zhenguo Temple: 25
  • Open hours: High season (April-October): 08:00 – 18:30; Low season (November-March): 08:30 – 18:00
  • Population: 50,000

Staying in Pingyao

The beauty of Pingyao Ancient City is that you can actually stay inside, and many of the ancient traditional courtyard homes have been converted into tasteful boutique accommodations. Note, you don’t need a ticket to go inside the ancient city, the ticket is only for entry to the key sights inside.

City Wall Old House. Ji Residence Pingyao – The ancient courtyard has been in the same family for over 400 years. Clean and peaceful with an onsite coffee shop, a restaurant serving Western-style breakfast, large open courtyard, rooftop terrace, and a short walk from all the key attractions. It is located near the southern gate.

Pingyao Dejuyuan Guesthouse – located right in the center of the ancient city near to the Rishengchang Bank.

Jing’s Residence Pingyao – the five-star boutique accommodation is located in the center of town just off East Street in a tastefully rustic ancient building fitted with the mod cons. They serve a popular breakfast and offer bar, wifi, courtyard, library, transfers to the rail station and bicycles.

Getting there

Pingyao is serviced by modern High Speed Rail and it is the recommended way to reach the city.

Pingyao Gucheng Railway Station (平遥古城站) connects the region to the nations High Speed Rail network with direct routes to Beijing, Xian, Taiyuan, Linfen, and Baoji. It is located around 4km from the ancient city.

A taxi from the train station is about 35 RMB. There is also the public bus #103/108 for 3 RMB and here is a Baidu Map of the bus routes.

There is also a Pingyao Station (平遥站) but this station and line only services older and slower K and T trains.

Climate characteristics

Pingyao Ancient City is a temperate monsoon climate with four distinct seasons and plenty of light. It is hot and rainy in summer and cold and dry in winter. The hottest in July of the year, the coldest in January, precipitation is uneven but mainly concentrated in the four months of June, July, August, and September.

Tourist Map

Click for larger image