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平遥古城 Pingyao Ancient City

05-24-2010 15:59 BJT

There is a well-preserved ancient city in northern China.

It keeps all the features of the cities of Chinese Han nationality during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, displaying a complete picture of the unusual cultural, social, economic and religious development.

The city is the Pingyao ancient city which has been formally named as “World Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO.

Pingyao ancient city is located in the middle of Shanxi province, 650 kilometers away from Beijing.

It is a famous cultural city with over 2,700 years of history, and it was first built between 827 BC and 782 BC.

Overlooking this old city from the sky, you may find that the shape of the Pingyao ancient city is like that of a tortoise.

The southern gate of the city is like the head of a tortoise. The two wells outside the gate symbolize the two eyes of the tortoise.

The northern gate of the city is the tail of the tortoise. It is the lowest spot of the whole city, where all the water in the city flows.

There are four barbican entrances in the east and west of the city, facing each other like the paws of the tortoise.

The ancient Chinese people worshipped tortoises, and regarded tortoises as animals of longevity.

Thus the way Pingyao was constructed carried the profound meaning of making this ancient city as firm as a rock and last for ages with the reliance on the power of the tortoise.

The circumference of the city walls is 6,163 meters. The walls are about 12 meters high. The top of the walls is 3-6 meters wide.

The eastern, western and northern walls are square and straight, and the southern walls wander along the moat.

There are 72 towers on the city walls to watch out for the enemies.

There are 3,000 crenels in the exterior of the wall top.

It is said they are the symbols of Confucius’ 3,000 followers and 72 virtuous people.

The city walls divide Pingyao, a city with an area of around 2.25 square kilometers, into two completely different worlds.

Inside the city walls, the streets, shops and residences all keep the style of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The basic layout of the city reflects the urban planning style between 1368 and 1911 during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Outside the city walls is the new city with serried tall buildings.

The Pingyao ancient city was built completely in accordance with traditional urban planning style and layouts of cities of the Chinese Han nationality.

In the closed city, four avenues, eight side streets and seventy-two lanes interweave with one another.

They have clear functions and good-ordered layouts.

The residences are all Siheyuan (quadrangles) made of black bricks and grey tiles with clear axes and bilateral symmetry.

In addition, there are temples, big and small, and rows upon rows of old-fashioned shops.

This three-storied wooden-structured building is called Ancient City Building. It is the tallest building in the ancient city and also the center of the ancient city.

Because there is a “Gold Well” downstairs, it is also called “Gold Well Building”.

You may hardly realize that Pingyao was a commercial center in the northern China 300 to 600 years ago.

The first bank in China —RiShengchang Draft Bank was built here.

Nowadays, this quadrangle-shaped structure is a “Museum of China’s Bank Draft” with over 20 exhibition rooms.

The big stones in the middle of the courtyard are in fact a currency in ancient China —Yuanbao.

Later, they became the symbol of wealth.

You see Yuanbao not only at any draft bank in Pingyao, but also in many Chinese traditional folkloric articles.

Such a famous ancient city certainly has its famous food and specialties.

Pingyao Beef and Immemorial Pies are the most famous snacks in Pingyao.

It was said that the emperor dowager Cixi spoke very highly of these snacks when she passed Pingyao and tasted the food.

Pingyao’s lacquer ware and embroidered cloth shoes are handmade articles with strong local flavor, and are good choices as souvenirs.

Ancient City

Yuan Bao (ancient Chinese currency)

Editor:Shi Taoyang |Source:

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