Pingyao's ancient city wall remains in splendid condition six centuries after they were constructed. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.COM/William Wang]
Pingyao in Shanxi Province, was China's financial capital back in the Qing Dynasty. But when modern banks stormed the scene, Pingyao fell out of favor and got left in the proverbial coal dust. Virtually forgotten by the masses for about a century, the ancient walled city is one of China's best preserved.
Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture are in view at every turn, the entire ancient city enclosed by a six kilometer ancient wall, also wonderfully preserved. The wall is made of earth, brick and stone, and for a fee visitors can climb atop it for views of the city within and without.
Of course, the burgeoning tourist industry is steadily chipping away at the city's authenticity, but the 30,000 local residents going about their business definitely keep things real. Sellers hawking cheap goods may be annoying to some, but tourists have also brought in some much desired amenities such as coffee. Visitors hoping to avoid the swarm, are well advised to go on weekdays, and to avoid national holidays.
A large number of preserved sites within the walled city are available for viewing, and a 150 yuan ticket will let visitors see as many as they want over a three day period. Sites include temples, banks, publishing houses and residences.A performance viewing is also included in the ticket, though frankly the performance is hardly worth writing home about. It's possible to ascend Pingyao's southern wall and a number of look out towers.
More and more residents have converted their homes into traditional style hotels. They range from very basic to very comfortable, so guests should decide if hot water and western toilets are a priority or not.
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