The ancient city of Pingyao in Shanxi was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO on December 3, 1997.
Pingyao Ancient city is an outstanding example of cities of the Han people in China during the Ming and Qing periods, it mirrors the cultural, social, economic and religious development in the course of Chinese historical progress.
On November 29, 2005，the Pingyao International Photography Festival was awarded “One of the Ten Most Internationally Influential Festivals and Events” by IFEA.
Pingyao Ancient City
One hundred kilometers from Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province, the ancient city of Pingyao is located in the southern rim of the Jinzhong basin, in the middle of loess plateau of Shanxi, China. Its history dates from 2,700 years——the period of King Xuanwu of the Western Zhou Dynasty (B.C. 827-B.C.782). At that time the garrison had built a fortified adobe city in order to resist aggression. Starting from the Shiguang Year of the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D.424), Pingyao has been the site of the county government until now. The ancient city of Pingyao had been expanded in the 3rd year of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty (A.D.1370). Having a long history, Pingyao was the place where mankind multiplied and lived as early as the Neolithic Age. It is said that Yao and Shun (legendary sage kings in ancient China) feoffed the area to Tao. Therefore Pingyao is also named as "Ancient Tao" or "Ping Tao." During the Spring and Autumn Period, it was an ancient county of Jin State; during the period of the Warring States, it was under the control of Kingdom Zhao; in the Qin Dynasty it was called as Ping Tao County; in the Western Han Dynasty it was known as Zhongdu County and the Jingling County; at the beginning of Northern Wei Dynasty it was changed into Pingyao County. Over the past more than 2700 years, although Pingyao has been a county seat, it has witnessed its splendor and glory in the fields of politics, economy and culture.
The 2.25 square kilometres enclosed by the city wall is crisscrossed by over 100 streets and alleys lined with two-storeyed shop fronts, residential houses and imposing temples dating from the 15th century. There are also many old buildings and priceless cultural relics dating from the 10th century. They are important parts of the history and culture of the ancient city of Pingyao, which are highly valuable artistically and scientifically for the study of city architecture in China since the Ming and Qing periods, mankind’s housing style and the development of traditional culture.
There are altogether 71 watch towers.1 Tower of the God of Literature and 3,000 battlements. At each of the four corners is a corner tower. A gate tower is built on each of the six city gates. At the foot of the Ming and Qing city wall is the moat of three metres wide and deep with transparently clear in it The moat is spanned by a draw bridge at each of the city gates. The draw bridge to go in and come out of the city amd raised at night for safety. The scenery along the city wall is enhanced by willows planted along both banks of the moat.
Studies by specialists show that the city wall of Pingyao built in the shape of a regular square embodies the traditiond "rites" of the Han people, and the length of three li (1.5 kilometres) on each side of the city wall is in conformity with the ranking system of cities and towns. Only the southern side is slightly curved in the shape of a turtle’s back. The crisscrossing of the streets and alleys in the city is like the pattern on a turtle’s back. The ancient city of Pingyao is, therefore, also known as the Turtle City, which symbolizes impregnable defence, good luck and longevity.
The structures on the city wall also have their symbolic meanings. It was said that when Confucius toured the states, he recruited 72 prominent scholars and 3,000 disciples. The 3,000 crenels on the city wall stand for his 3,000 disciples, and each watch tower stands for a prominent scholar. There are, however, only 71 watch towers. This is because Zi Lu, one of the 72 prominent scholars, worshipped military force and was excluded from the list by Confucius. Later, people bulit the Tower of the God of literature on the bastion for the 72nd watch tower.
The Deep House with the Old Courtyard
Most of Pingyao’s dwelling houses have basically preserved the style and features of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, with a charm and flair all their own. Among the traditional dwelling houses of Pingyao, 3,797 quadrangles are worth protecting (including a small part of non-dwelling houses), and of them more than 400 quadrangles are well preserved. Pingyao's local-style dwelling houses, a carrier of history and culture, are not only of historic, cultural, ethnic and architectural value, but of functional value. So far, urban residents still live there. At present, these houses have already become cultural heritage in Pingyao.
The First Exchange Shop Rishengchang
Founded in the fourth year of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty (A.D.1824), Rishengchang, the first draft bank in China, was the banking center in China. Its branches could be found in over 30 cities and commercial ports in China, and even in Europe, America and Southeast Asia. It was famed for “World-wide Remittance.” Since its establishment, Jiexiu City, Taigu County, Qixian County had followed suit and set up draft banks. Its establishment and development was conducive to promoting the national finance circulation and accelerating the capital turnover, thus making an outstanding contribution to the national industry and commerce at that time and opening a new chapter in Chinese financial history.
A Treasure House of Cultural Relics
The Chinese nation has a long history, so Pingyao has been left with a rich collection of cultural relics. At present, there are over 300 historical and cultural sites, among which 99 are under various government protection; 3 sites are under state protection: Zhenguo Temple (Five Dynasties-Qing Dynasty), Shuanglin Temple (Ming Dynasty), the Pingyao City Wall (Ming Dynasty); 6 sites are under provincial protection; 90 sites under county protection. The Pingyao Old City was built according to "rituals" of the Han ethnic group. It fully reflected the historical cultural characteristics of the Han in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Weituo (Skanda), the Protection God of Buddhism
The statue of Weituo stands at 160 centimeters, with his waist stretching to the extreme limit of human capacity. The sculpture does not give any impression of exaggeration and artificiality, but instead exudes a dynamic energy, which is exhibited by the S shape curve starting from the head to the toe. This elastic and flowing curvature shows off masculine beauty and projects an air of strength and integrity. The statue is indeed of very high artistic value.