If it is towering mountains, pristine waters and a beautiful landscape you seek, give Pingyao a miss. It is its historic value that attracts people here.
You will find this ancient treasure in the Shanxi province, saved from development when this previous financial hub of China was moved to other centres. This was fortunate as Pingyao has preserved its character; a character identified by the UNESCO and now considered a world heritage site.
Named ‘Turtle City’ because of its well preserved layout, Pingyao’s Old City is a good representation of the period it was created. The surrounding wall was first built around 800BC made out of clay, then enhanced in 1370 with bricks and stones. The wall also sprouts structured towers at each corner and 72 watchtowers. Although over the many years the wall has collapsed in parts, it has been well reconstructed and often considered among one of the best preserved. Beyond the walls lie its moat, a four meter wide and four meter deep trench stretching around the perimeter.
While the wall itself is a fascinating piece of history, what lies within is an ancient city, largely untouched by modern society. Some might find it dull in comparison to the buzzing cities of modern China, but history-buffs will have a field day. The streets are dotted with traditional buildings, portraying the Ming and Qing architecture style.
There is no fee for entering Pingyao’s Old City, however visiting some its main attractions can cost. They don’t usually sell separate tickets to each museum or residence, so a joint ticket is the way to go. This joint ticket usually includes Rischenchang, the Furniture Museum and the County Magistrate’s Residence. Other Pingyao attractions include the fantastically decorated Bell Tower and the Kuixing Tower with its unusual eight sides.
You will notice that there are no cars within Pingyao’s walls, and that is because it is a car-free town. However it is a small area that can easily be travelled by foot. Some choose to rent a bike which can be a fun way of seeing the area.
Getting to Pingyao can be slightly challenging as there isn’t an airport servicing the area so many will arrive at Taiyuan then take a train or bus to Pingyao which usually takes approximately two hours. While many visit Pinyao as a day trip destination, others stay on in the many guesthouses available. If you are in search of a more comfortable stay, there are several hotels nearby. The Pingyao Hongshanyi Hotel, Kylin Grand Hotel and the Fengyan Jianguo Hotel are some choices.
Travelling further than the Old City, seek out Qiao’s Family Compound and Wang’s Family Compound for a further excursion.