One of the most popular ancient counties with tourists in China sits in the Shanxi Province and is named Pingyao. This northern Chinese area is steeped in ancient tradition and history. The county is linked back to one of the nation’s most prosperous times in history since it was a very important community in the Shanxi Province during both the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Pingyao County sits about 60 miles to the southwest of the city of Taiyuan, which is the largest and the capital city of Shanxi Province. The county is about 485 square miles in size and consists of 9 villages and 5 towns. While the county may not be overflowing with natural beauty like many locations that are located below the Yangtze River, it became an important economic site.
The community was home to a group known as the Jin Businessmen. This was one of two famous business groups in China which were successful in the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1644 as well as the Qing Dynasty between 1644 and 1911. Because the area was filled with experienced business people, it was home to China’s first exchange shop. It was so successful that Pingyao saw most of the country’s large exchange shops located there during the next 100 years.
To compare the importance of Pingyao as a business center in the 18th century would be like calling it the Wall Street of China. The county was a major reason that Shanxi Province developed economically and you’ll be able to see some fine examples of magnificent estates in Pingyao City today.
While Pingyao isn’t really prosperous anymore, it’s still a delightful place to explore. The county is home to walled old city of Pingyao, which has been a United Nations World Cultural Heritage site since 1997. The city was established over a thousand years ago and if you head to the top of the city wall, you’ll get a great view of it. You can travel back in time when walking down Ancient Ming and Qing Street since the homes and shops are built in the original historical architectural style of the area.
The old city area isn’t really large when compared to places such as London and Paris, but there are quite a few hotels to choose from. These establishments are also built and decorated in the ancient styles of the then Ming and Qing Dynasties. The main street of the old city is Nan Dajie and is one of the finest examples of the ancient architecture is the Yide Hotel. This magnificent courtyard residence was constructed back in 1736. It was owned by a rich merchant during Emperor Qianlong’s reign.
The government and economic centers have gradually moved away from the old city and have been replaced by shops and residential areas. You’ll find plenty of supermarkets, department stores, and entertainment centers in this vibrant city. Pingyao has done its best to hang on to the history and traditions of the area while adopting the modern way of life. This is what makes both the county and the old city ideal locations to explore China.