Pingyao Ancient City
Pingyao Ancient City is one of the best preserved examples of a walled city in China and is located 100km (62 miles) south of Taiyuan. In 1997 it was named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The city was at its peak during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and the walls and design of Pingyao are typical of the symmetrical layout of cities of the era. The narrow streets, courtyards and rooftops are particularly attractive and are authentic examples of Ming and Qing dynasty (1644-1911) architecture. If the beautiful streets of Pingyao seem familiar it may be because Zhang Yimou’s "Raise the Red Lantern" was filmed here.
Pingyao’s square city walls are in excellent condition and were built in 1370AD as a final defence should invaders have overcome the Great Wall. Surrounding the city for 6km (4 miles), the walls are 5 meters (16ft) deep and 12 meters (40ft) tall and watchtowers located at every corner and at 50 meter (164ft) intervals ensured the security of the town.
Other sites of interest in the ancient city include the Rishengchang Bank. Established in the early 19th century, it played a key role in the development of China’s financial system and pioneered the use of paper checks as a form of payment. Pingyao’s Tian Ji Xiang Museum has a small collection of exhibits illustrating the city’s history and the Bell Tower is a good example of classic Han northern Chinese architecture.