The history of Pingyao dates back about 2,700 years ago. During the reign of the Hongwu Emperor, in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the city was expanded and the city walls were constructed. Pingyao was the financial centre of the country during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). There were more than 20 financial institutions in the city, comprising more than half of the total number of financial institutions in the whole of China. Now it is considered the best preserved ancient city in China, in that it illustrates perfectly what a complete and typical city from the Ming and Qing Dynasties looks like. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Pingyao was built according to the typical layout of ancient Chinese towns. According to this layout, the temples and government offices were located on both sides of the central axis, while the markets and residential houses were in the town centre.

The layout of the city also conforms to Bagua theory (the Eight Trigrams). Inside the city walls there are more than 300 historic sites and around 4,000 houses that were built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The most important historic sites in Pingyao City:

pingyao wall02The City Walls

Construction of the City Walls of Pingyao began in 1370 (during the Ming Dynasty). Pingyao is often described as a tortoise-shaped city. There are six barbican gates on the City Wall, which represent the tortoise’s four legs, head and tail. There are also four corner towers, 72 watchtowers and 3,000 battlements. The City Wall has a perimeter of approximately 6,200 meters and is 12 meters high.


Rishengchang is thought to have been the first bank in China. Rishengchang controlled nearly half of the silver trade in the whole country during its peak period. It made a huge contribution to the economic development of China. (For more information about Rishengchang, please read the article about the Jin Merchants.)

Shuanglin TempleShuanglin Temple

Shuanglin Temple is located in the southwest of Pingyao. It was built in 571 AD. There are more than 2,000 coloured clay statues there that were made from the 13th century right through to the 17th century…[read more]



Pingyao Ancient Town is one of the many wonderful stops on our Cultural Tour in Shanxi.