The an­cient site of Pingyao

Matilda Hick­son vis­its the UNESCO World Her­itage site of Pingyao, in Shanxi Province, China and dis­cov­ers an an­cient city still very much alive

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Vis­it­ing the old town of Pingyao is one of those won­der­ful mo­ments when you feel as though you have stepped back in time - be­cause you have!

A UNESCO World Her­itage site, the orig­i­nal town is still sur­rounded by its city walls that were built more than 2,000 years ago and the town has been the lo­cal seat of gov­ern­ment since the Qin dy­nasty (221-206 BCE), the first dy­nasty of Im­pe­rial China. Pingyao be­came an im­por­tant eco­nomic cen­tre in the 16th cen­tury and in the 19th cen­tury it was the fi­nan­cial cen­tre of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1912). Dur­ing this pe­riod, there were 20 fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions in the town, half of those in the whole of China.

How­ever, in the 20th cen­tury the banks col­lapsed due to the rise of Shang­hai and Hong Kong as fi­nan­cial cen­tres, and so Pingyao went into de­cline. For­tu­nately for us, Pingyao was ig­nored dur­ing the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion (when many an­cient cities were de­stroyed) and then in the late 20th cen­tury it re-emerged as the per­fect an­cient city, dat­ing to the Ming (1368- 1644) and Qing Dy­nas­ties, with many of the streets and store­fronts still re­tain­ing their orig­i­nal char­ac­ter.

The an­cient streets are wide and for any­one who loves his­tory, it is won­der­ful to be able to walk along them, know­ing that not much has changed in hun­dreds of years. No cars can en­ter the old city but be­ware the golf carts that whizz around, bring­ing the tourists and their lug­gage to their ho­tels. The old town is filled with many tem­ples and mu­se­ums and here are a few of my favourite places and rec­om­men­da­tions to visit and en­joy.

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