Pingyao (平遥; Píngyáo) is a small city whose old town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is in Shanxi province, China.
One of the larger/more commercial Pingyao streets during a rainstorm (i.e. dispersed crowds)
Pingyao's old town is typically considered the best ancient walled city in China, and is on many lists of the best walled cities in the world.
The old walled city is 2.6 sq. kilometers (1 sq. mile), inhabited, mostly off-limits to cars, and constructed of cobbled streets and buildings almost entirely from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Picture a period film showing ancient China - and you won't be far off. Perfect for atmospheric wandering when tour groups are not present (i.e. only before 8am), this city is still off the radar of most foreigners. As such, the tourist hordes tend to be over 99% mainland Chinese on any given day.
Pingyao has no airport. The closest major city and airport is Taiyuan, 90km (55 miles) away. However, frequent bus, train and even, many willing taxis or hotel pickpus, can complete the last leg of your journey.
By far the fastest way is using the D trains which now serve Pingyao at a new station southwest of the city (Pingyao Gu Cheng). It takes about 4 hours from Beijing or 3 hours from Xi'an. Tickets are often booked out so plan well in advance if you want to travel during the day. Taxi from the high speed station is about ¥35. The public buses is ¥3; there is one that goes to the north gate and one to the south gate, but they have the same bus number, so you have to ask. It is too far to walk to the walled city.
Some of the slow train services (especially night trains) serving the old Pingyao railway station directly next to the city are also still available. From the train station, you can either take a good walk (~1-2km) to old town or take a tuk tuk (¥5-10; at ¥5, they will probably try to get a commission by driving you to a hotel).
From Taiyuan: Approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
From Guangzhou: These trains are making 2 minute stops in Pingyao. Check details for each train to avoid missing the station. All of these trains are overnight.
From Xi'an: Approximately 12 hours, though tickets on night trains are often available, and thus can alleviate the inconvenience.
From Datong: There are various trains a day including one overnight train (leaving Datong 11 pm, arriving in Pingyao 6.20 am). Travel times from 6-8h depending on the train.
A bus terminal is located a ten-minute walk north of the old city's north gate.
From Taiyuan: As the nearest major city, frequent buses run back and forth between the two. Theoretically the last bus to Pingyao leaves at 6:30pm. Though if you plan on leaving late, booking ahead, or simply showing up early, may be smart to avoid a sold-out bus. Approximately 90 minutes.
October 2016 update: A morning bus from the Pingyao bus terminal (located near the north gate) to Taiyuan bus terminal (located roughly halfway between Taiyan Railway Station and Taiyuan South Railway Station) took 2 hours 40 mins and cost around 26 RMB.
From Xi'an the trip takes approximately 7-8 hours, costing 130 RMB (August 2014). Departs at 9:30AM from the bus station directly south of the railway station, inside the walls. This bus will drop passengers off at the toll plaza 3km from the town, from which you may wait for another bus or negotiate with the non-marked taxi drivers for a ride into town.
Given China's low taxi rates, some opt for this from Taiyuan. For instance, if you find yourself at the bus or train station with no other option that day- seek out other travelers until you have a total of ~4. Nearby taxis will be glad to negotiate. Try not to pay above ¥400, regardless of the # of passengers. Many have paid less (prices circa 2011). To get to the walled city though，you should only pay about Y10。
Additionally, if booking Pingyao accommodation in advance - check if your hotel/hostel offers airport pickup (surprisingly many do, given this is the nearest airport), and at what price.
As the old walled city is only about 1 mile by 1 mile (or 1.6km by 1.6km), walking is the by far #1 way around. Most of the old walled city is also off-limits to taxis/cars. However if you are feeling lazy, you can hire golf carts that wander the streets. Pay around ¥5 for a ride if a single person, around ¥15 for four people. It is also possible to rent bikes for ¥10 per day, though the streets crowded with Chinese tourists may make this not much faster than walking.
If navigating by map - know that there are several interior towers/wall sections that look very much like part of the city wall proper. The first day, many map-wielding tourist become confused in placing themselves, thinking they are seeing the nearby city wall, when they in fact are not.
Scuplture at Shuanglin Si Temple
The main attraction in Pingyao's walled city is - well, the city itself. i.e. - simply wandering the streets. Nearly every building dates from the Ming (1368-1644) or Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. The car-free status and ancient street plan adds to the strong atmosphere.
- Ming-Qing Street. This street, named for the Ming and Qing Dynasties, has been the main commercial avenue in Pingyao for centuries. Hundreds of shops line this busy street, most of them built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Also called Nanda Jie, or South Street, Ming-Qing Street houses many courtyard houses--one-story compounds with rooms built around a series of courtyards--and a number of the main tourist sites. Today, many traditional-style shops line the street and sell food, snacks, specialities, paintings, furniture, calligraphy, and souvenirs. edit
Sites covered by the Pingyao combination ticket
Entry to the walled city is free. However, admission to any of the 30 specially-designated attractions inside the city requires a common ticket that can be purchased at one of the many ticket booths spread all over the old town. Tickets are ¥150 as of winter 2018/19, ¥65 for students with valid student ID, senior citizens over 60 get a free ticket (bring your passport to the ticket office). The tickets are valid for 3 days, during which every of the individual attractions/museums can be entered once, although staying in Pingyao for one night should be enough to see most of the sites as well as soak up the general atmosphere of the place.
The specially-designated attractions can be divided into three categories: the City Wall, a handful of large public building complexes (such as temples), as well as a large number of private Ming/Qing dynasty courtyard residences which have been converted into small museums dedicated to the buildings' former owners or businesses.
City wall from outside East Gate
City Wall. Pingyao was originally established some 2700 years ago, during the reign of King Xuan (827-782 BC) of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The original walls were made of tamped dirt and were located to the northeast of the present location. The current wall--faced with bricks and stone--was started in 1370, making it over 600 years old. It is often said that the city wall is shaped like a tortoise--a traditional Chinese symbol of longevity--with the south gate and north gate representing the head and tail respectively. The east and west walls each have two additional gates, representing the tortoise's feet. A series of 72 watchtowers are distributed around the wall, and a moat, now only filled by rain, encircles the city. Since summer 2018 large sections of the wall are undergoing maintenance work, which means that only two rather short sections (accessible from the North and South gate respectively) can be walked at this point, although they are well worth the birds-eye view of the old town (and are also the least overrun of the city's sights). edit
Temples and other public building complexes
- Temple of the City God. Visitors enter the temple, which consists of several courtyards and halls, through a magnificent three-gate wood archway. The main hall of the Temple is still very much in its original state and is clearly still in regular use. Elsewhere in the Temple visitors will also see a re-creation of heaven and hell, with every manner of torture shown in hell, from being cut to bits and being boiled to death, with happy families painted on the walls of heaven above. Unlike most City God temples, this one honors not just the City God but also the God of Wealth and the Kitchen God. The Temple of the City God was originally built in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1227) and has undergone two major renovations due to fire in 1544 and 1859. edit
- County Government Office ''(Yamen)''. While the Temple of the City God ("Chenghuang Miao") ruled the "yin" of the spiritual world, the yamen ruled the "yang" of the human world. These two sites were situated so as to balance each other, with both on the same street and placed equidistant from Qing-Ming Street (South Street), with the yamen to the west and the Temple of the City God to the East. Pingyao has been a county seat ever since the establishment of the prefecture-county system in the Qin dynasty, and the city has a well preserved yamen, or county government office, a large complex which houses the home and office of the magistrate sent to act as mayor, judge, and senior official. This yamen consists of an archway, ceremonial gate, various offices, a prison, a court, meeting rooms, a residential area, and a garden. This yamen compound was built in 1346, during the Yuan Dynasty, but only one building remains from the Yuan period, the rest having been built during the Ming Dynasty. There are altogether over 300 rooms in the complex. edit
Ming/Qing dynasty courtyard museums
Most of the attractions, especially those clustered along South Street, are simply private Ming/Qing dynasty courtyard residences which have been converted into small museums dedicated to the buildings' former owners or businesses, such as a Martial Arts School Museum, a Martial Arts Bodyguard Escort Company, or a museum dedicated to traditional furniture making. There are hardly any English descriptions in these museums, meaning the best way to appreciate them is simply as examples of traditional Chinese architecture and interior design that happen to also contain lots of glass cases showcasing various objects from imperial China (the 'themes' of the individual museums and corresponding objects won't be particularly interesting if you can't read Chinese and/or already have a background in Chinese history).
- Rishengchang Exchange House. By far the biggest designated attraction contained in a former private courtyard. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Shanxi merchants developed extensive trade routes throughout China and overseas, with Pingyao at the centre of this trade. In those days, traders paid for their goods with silver coins, and in those dangerous times it was unsafe for a merchant to carry large sums in silver from one city to another. In 1823 the first piaohao (alteratively translated as "exchange house", "draft bank," or "remittance shop") was opened, and these piaohao provided remittance services, accepted deposits, and made loans. Named Rishengchang, or "Sunrise Prosperity," this first exchange house established branches in different cities in China and abroad and used bank drafts to move money from one city to another. Subsequently, Pingyao became the center of the nation's banking industry, with over 50% of the country's piaohao headquartered within Pingyao's ancient walls. This original head office of the Rishengchang Exchange Shop--consisting of a series of rooms built around several courtyards--was restored and converted to a museum in 1995. Rishengchang Exchange House had a total of 43 branches located in key Chinese cities as well as in Japan, Singapore, and Russia. Altogether some 22 piaohao were headquartered in Pingyao, and they oversaw a network of 404 branches. Rishengchang survived for 108 years before collapsing in 1932. A number of other piaohao based in Pingyao have been restored and opened to tourists. edit
- Lantern Festival. See the town decked out in red lanterns, as well as a parade. It is held on the 8th month of the Lunar New Year, which is usually in September. edit
- Walk on top of the city walls, (Accessible from North & South gates). Closes at sunset. Since summer 2018 only two relatively short sections (starting from the North and South gate respectively) are accessible, yet well worth the trip. Not particularly popular with domestic tourists, it's refreshingly non-crowded. Entrance included on the Pingyao combination ticket. edit
- Massage shops. Many massage shops in town, especially along South and West street. 30-100¥ depending on if full/facial/feet/etc.. edit
Most of the Ancient City, at least the areas near the major attractions and along the busiest streets, is lined with shops that cater toward tourists. Standard Chinese bric-a-brac is for sale, at relatively high prices. This includes antiques although an alert shopper should beware of the preponderance of forgeries. Bargain hard and keep an eye out for stalls that sell handmade crafts right in the places where they make them. The city makes excellent cloth shoes, which you will see the locals wear as they march up and down the dusty streets. Pingyao also has a large lacquerware manufacturing industry.
If one is looking for nearby modern shops, then outside of west gate is one's best bet.
- Pingyao Supermarket, (On west street, on left side of street when facing the city walls.). The only supermarket inside the old city walls. edit
ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) has a branch just outside the West Gate--they have an ATM that accepts foreign cards (Visa and Mastercard). When you go through the gate, it's to the right and across the street. (checked Oct 2015). ATMs/Banks inside the old town only accept local cards (UnionPay).
There's an ATM of the Agricultural Bank of China a few meters out of the south-western gate of the Ancient City. Foreign Maestro cards accepted (checked June 2013).
For other options, the nearest modern shops and presumably ATMs will be located outside of West Gate.
Pingyao's speciality is Pingyao Beef. The speciality consists in cold Beef (looks like slices of prepared ham) with no other dishes than soy sauce. It has an acquired, strong taste, somewhat similar to corned beef.
Be careful in some of the more touristic restaurants: outrageous bills of ¥100 or more are not uncommon for a meal that appeared to be quite cheap. ¥50 the meal seems to be an average price in the city but still feels like a "Pingyao Beef scam".
Be sure to ask about the price of any chef's specialties, and take a look at the prices as you are ordering your food.
Choose your restaurant carefully.
Food within the city walls mostly caters to tourists and is overpriced and underwhelming. Going outside of the city walls usually results in better prices and quality. Outside the West Gate in particular are many nearby dining options. You eat well, plain and simple food, surrounded with Chinese people sharing the same meals. ¥2/skewer, ¥5-10 a meal.
- Petit Resto, In the middle of the south street, on your left if your are heading south. A great chinese restaurant already acknowledged by "Le Routard" and the "Lonely Planet". You eat very well for a cheap price compared to the other restaurants. Picky persons should be happy as all the meals are very tasty and yummy. Don't give the meal's pictures menu too much credit outside the building, just follow your "appetit".They serve you big meal portion, enough to give up if your are a mild eater. In any case you have to give it a try. ¥20-40/meal. edit
- Dico's, Intersection of Yamen St. and Nan Street (the main North-South street). One of the most popular fast food chains in China. Why mention it in an article about an amazingly historic city? Because it's the same setup as elsewhere in China. This means it lacks the inflated prices, and often deflated quality, of elsewhere in old town. One of the by far cheapest places for a meal within the old walls. edit
There aren't too many clubs or bars, but you can sip a brew until midnight at many guesthouse restaurants. Domestic & foreign beers, Chinese hard liquor (typically 50% or stronger), and Chinese whiskey (~ 35%) are additionally available at most shops.
there are also various bars along the main streets with live music and fancy light shows. They are quite nice.
However, one place of particular interest to Westerners is Sakura, situated in the centre of the East/West street. Western food, music and drinks are available at a reasonable price.
The ancient city is full of Ming/Qing-era compounds converted into hotels and hostels. Staying in one is often thought of as part of the experience. The small size and distributed sights of the old city mean location is not particularly important. On the main street a bed can go for as much as ¥400. Poke around backstreets and this price can easily quarter. Accommodation in modern buildings is mostly located outside the old city wall.
Courtyard of traditional accommodation
- Harmony Guesthouse (平遥和义客栈), 165 Nan Dajie, ([email protected]), . This guesthouse is very popular with Western travellers. Dorms about ¥60, doubles ¥75-90 (May 2013). edit
- Yamen Hostel (平遥衙门官舍), Yamen Street, ☎ +86 354 5683539, . You can call them to arrange a free pick up from the train station. The staff speak English, many fluently. They have a dedicated travel desk to make bus/train ticket bookings, tours, etc. . Probably the most popular hostel with foreigners. Expect to pay about ¥35 for a dorm bed, and maybe ¥80 for a double. Discounts for HI members.. edit
- Zhengjia Hotel & Hostel, 68 Yamen Street, ☎ +86-354-5681362, . A few doors down the street from Yamen Hostel, this is actually two buildings next to one another. The hostel has private rooms on the ground floor and dorms on the 2nd. The hotel is all private, and has perhaps slightly nicer private rooms. You have access to both facilities whichever one you stay in. General consensus is that Zhengjia has the nicer rooms, but unless the owner is around to do things himself, Yamen has significantly superior service. Some opt for staying here, while booking tickets at Yamen's travel desk. Rooms average ¥60 (single) to ¥75 (triple). edit
- Fly by Knight Pingyao Courtyard, No. 16, North Street (a five minute walk from the north gate towards the pedestrian street). A new hostel, close to the north gate. The rooms are sunny and spacious, everything is brand new since it just recently opened, and there is a traditional courtyard to hang out. But, most importantly, they just opened a cute coffee shop on the grounds, with great coffee and so many books it makes for a great place to chill. 100 ¥ (dorm). edit
- Pingyao Water Hotel (Water Hotel, Pingyao), No.188, South Street Pingyao, Shanxi, ☎ +86 17703549990, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Set in Pingyao, 300 metres from Ming and Qing Street, Water Hotel, Pingyao features a restaurant and free WiFi throughout the property. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. The hotel also offers car hire. Pingyao Ancient Government Office is 400 metres from Water Hotel, Pingyao, while Lei Lutai Residence is 400 metres from the property. The nearest airport is Taiyuan Wusu International Airport, 72 km from Water Hotel, Pingyao. edit
- Pingyao Yiguan Folk Custom Inn (平遥驿馆民俗客栈), No.33, Xihujing Street, ☎ +86 3545970888, . Offering a terrace and views of the garden, Pingyao Yiguan Folk Custom Inn is set in Pingyao, 100 metres from Pingyao Ancient Government Office. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Every room comes with a flat-screen TV. You will find a kettle in the room. Rooms include a private bathroom. Extras include bath robes, slippers and free toiletries. Pingyao Yiguan Folk Inn features free WiFi throughout the property. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. Ming and Qing Street is 400 metres from Pingyao Yiguan Folk Custom Inn, while Rishengchang Former Bank is 500 metres from the property. edit
- Pingyao Cheng Jia Hotel, No.125 Bei Da Street, ☎ +863545680222, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Located at 125 North Street of Pingyao Ancient City, which is listed as World Heritage. It is located downtown and has good transport facilities. Furthermore the hotel is only located 100 metres from the North Gate of the anciet city. It is an excellent starting point to visit Rishengchang, Xianya, Chenghuang Temple, Qingxuguan Chengmenlou and many other main tourist attractions. The yard is grand, there are 17 rooms which include principal room, boudoir, xiulou, wing-rooms and south hall. Every room has an earthen bed, there is no problem to supply accommodation for 40 people at a same time. The surroundings of this hotel are excellent and the service is outstanding – the hotel is ideal if you want to experience traditional life in Pingyao and feel the charm of the ancient city. Pingyao Cheng Jia new hotel is located in the ancient city of two 40 Hazel Street Pingyao . Tukang inn features folk , carved wooden beds , more than 25 various types of rooms , can accommodate more than 130 people stay , more than 150 people dining . The house neat and clean, spacious and bright , straight-backed chair , square table , celebrity pictures , edit
- Pingyao Dejuyuan Guesthouse, No.43 West Street, Pingyao, Shanxi, China, ☎ +863545685266, . Pingyao Dejuyuan Guesthouse which locates at NO. 43 West Street in Pingyao town, consists of shops, yards and attics is the oldest yard in the ancient town. The hotel is across from Rishengchang which is the former residence of the first bank in China, close to Ming Qing Street in the east and adjacent to ancient town wall. It’s a superior quality folk-style hotel, where you may taste delicious food, have a good rest, go shopping and enjoy yourself. Dejuyuan Guesthouse aims at “guest first, service first, reputation first”. The service ideas are “Nicety, precision , carefulness”, “Welcome guests from all around of world happily”. Mr Yuan Zhenfu with the whole staff of the hotel welcome and expect your presence with the best service. edit
- Pingyao Yiguan Folk Custom Inn (平遥驿馆民俗客栈), No. 33, Xihujing Street Pingyao, Shanxi 031100 China, ☎ +86 3545970888, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Offering a terrace and views of the garden, Pingyao Yiguan Folk Custom Inn is set in Pingyao, 100 metres from Pingyao Ancient Government Office. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. From 300 RMB. edit
- City Wall Old House.Ji Residence (平遥城墙老宅冀府), No.16, Luohanmiao Street Pingyao, Shanxi 031100 China, ☎ +86 3545682959, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Located in Pingyao ancient city, the building itself has over 280 years history, where you can easily reach main attractions while enjoying a quiet and authentic atmosphere. 17 cozy rooms were all furnished in a traditional Chinese style, and a beautiful courtyard where you can take a sip of coffee or home made local cuisine. BBQ facilities are available in the courtyard as well. They also provide free ticket service and tour desk, and for guests who have made reservation in the hotel they offer free pick-up service from both Pingyao Railway Station and Pingyao Ancient City Station. 200CNY. edit
- Pingyao Baichanghong Hotel (平遥百常宏客栈), No. 47, South Street Pingyao, Shanxi 031100 China, ☎ +86 3545683023, . edit
- Pingyao Hong Shan Yi Hotel (平遥洪善驿客栈), No.18 Ma Juan Road , Pingyao, Shanxi, 031100, China, ☎ +863545689000, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Pingyao Hong Shan Yi Hotel is located in the center of old city, only 200 meters from the most prosperous street, where is full of beauties, good wine, local flavors and traditional aircraft, such as pillow with holes, press cake as thin as paper, folk craftsmen who portrait the passers-by, specially wonderful cultural and professional drama performances. 350CNY. edit
There is a small post office near Hui Wu Lin and Wei Tai Hou, crossing west/east/south streets.
- Beijing - Through night train from the convenient station near town, or D high speed train, from the new high speed station southwest of town.
- Xian - At least one or two buses depart daily. May 2013, tickets cost ¥160 when buying directly from bus station. Buying from the hostel adds about 30-40 ¥ service fee. Such accomodation-booked tickets typically include free transport from the accommodation to the bus stop itself. Ideally book at least a day in advance. Travel time is approximately 6 hours. Keep in mind the bus may only make one bathroom/food break in that time. Anecdotal experience - the bus was modern, clean, and hawad AC. Trains (including night trains) also run this route, and are also bookable from hotels/hostels - but take almost twice as long. Sleeper seats are especially hard to come by, so book ASAP. The D high speed train takes about 3 hours, from the new high speed station southwest of town.
- Taiyuan - Regular buses depart from the Pingyao bus station (near north gate). One can generally show up and purchase a ticket for a bus departing in the not too distant future. The price is ¥26 (Aug 2012) and it takes about 2 hours.
Pingyao Ancient City shares its UNESCO World Heritage Site listing together with Shuanglin Temple and Zhenguo Temple, both located just a few miles away. In addition, Pingyao can also serve as a good base for visiting the nearby Shanxi merchant family compounds.
- Shuanglin Temple (双林寺), (In Qiaotou Village, about 7 km southwest of Pingyao Ancient City.). This Buddhist temple complex was founded 1500 years ago and contains over 2000 colorful sculptures of various gods, warriors, Buddha, and other characters, some over 1000 years old. Construction on Shuanglin Temple started during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) at about the same time that the Yungang Grottoes in northen Shanxi were being sculpted. The existing buildings in the complex--ten halls arranged around three countyards--date from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. As distinctive as the architecture may be, the highlight of this temple, however, is the amazing collection of terracotta and wood sculptures, over 2000 in total. The clay sculptures were made with wooden molds and generally were produced in the Ming Dynasty. Together they form one of the most impressive collections of Ming sculptures, noted for their vivid colors, fine workmanship, and expressive postures. Key buildings in the temple complex include the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Sakyamani Hall, the Hall of the Bodhisattvas, the Wusheng Hall, and the Hall of Arhats. One sad points are most sculptures are under bar which almost kill the scenes. No inside photo allowed (enforced by video camera). Entry fee NOT included in Pingyao ticket ¥35 + transport (~¥40 shareable between multiple persons up to 6, both way, ask hotels or take bus 108 southbound from the bus station at the Northern Gate of the Ancient City (¥1 per person)). edit
- Zhenguo Temple (镇国寺), 12 km northwest of the Ancient City of Pingyao (Can be reaches by bus or taxi from Pingyao.). Zhenguo Temple is a 1000-year-old Buddhist Temple located to the north of Pingyao. It is the only remaining temple in China built in the architectural style of the Five Dynasties Period (10th century). It shares the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation together with the Ancient City of Pingyao and Shuanglin Temple. Zhenguo Temple was first constructed in 963, during the Northern Han Dynasty, when it was known as Jingcheng Temple. The name changed toZhenguo Temple around 1540, in the Ming Dynasty. This impressive temple complex is divided into two sections, built around front and back courtyards. At the center of the front courtyard is the most noteworthy building in the temple, the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddha, one of the oldest wooden buildings in China. Orginally constructed in 963, this square-shaped hall was restored in 1815 when the brick walls were added. Inside the hall are 11 statues. The plump-looking sculptures, all with distinctive facial expressions, date from the Five Dynastive Period and are considered to be important works of art. The intricate roof design is also considered a noteworthy feature of this historical building, with the tall bracket sets considered a rarity in an ancient temple. In the back courtyard is the Hall of Three Buddha, with the Guanyin Hall and the Hall of the King of Hell on either side. They contain noteworthy sculptures and frescoes. edit
- Qiao Family Compound (乔家大院), Qi County (Approximately 30 km north of Pingyao and 54 km south of Taiyuan. There are buses from Taiyuan to Qixian; one should ask the driver to let you off near the Qiao Family Compound prior to getting to Qixian. From here it is a short taxi ride to the entrance. From Pingyao get on a bus to Taiyuan and ask to be dropped at Qiao Jia Da Yuan - around 26 RMB, or alternatively try to find a taxi which will take you there for around the same price (October 2016: I took a share taxi there for 30RMB).). This extensive compound was originally constructed in 1756 by Qiao Guifa, who made his fortune selling tea and bean curd in Inner Mongolia. He returned to his hometwon in Qi County and built his dream house, which was then expanded by later generations of Qiao's. This magnificent complex is laid out in the shape of the Chinese xi character, meaning "double happiness." After entering through the main gate, one finds oneself on a long path leading to the main hall, which is the family's ancestral hall. This path divides the compound into southern and northern sections. Both halves have three courtyards each, and these six courtyards in turn include 20 smaller courtyards, 313 rooms, and a number of gardens spread out over a two-acre piece of land. The compound impressed visitors not just for its size but also for the exquisitie craftsmanship displayed in the brick carvings, woodwork, murals, and inscribed tablets. The wide variety of different roof styles is particularly interesting to see, and there are over 140 chimneys in the compound, each having its own design. Zhang Yimou's popular film, Raise the Red Lantern, was filmed here, as was a famous Chinese drama - so expect lots of Chinese tour groups from 8:30am. Opens at 8am. edit
- Wang Family Compound (王家大院), Near Lingshi Town (Buses from both Taiyuan and Pingyao connect with Lingshi,which is the nearest large town. From Lingshi one can take either a bus or taxi to the Wang Family Compound.). With 54 courtyards and over 1000 rooms, this massive compound is one of the largest of the residential complexes built by successful Shanxi merchants. It is, for instance, four times the size of the Qiao Family Compound. The Wang family started in farming and expanded into trading, then became officials. As the family grew in size and as they prospered, more and more coutyards were added to this residential complex, which was first constructed in the mid 1600s. Just as important as the scale of the complex is the distinctive architectural style and artistic finishing. As one moves from courtyard to courtyard, one can see an impressive collection of decorative lattice screens and windows, shaped openings between rooms and courtyards, and graceful roofs. The houses and courtyards feature carvings everywhere--in stone, brick, and wood--from the eaves of the houses and ridges of the roofs to window frames, timber joints, and doorways. Paintings, calligraphy, and Qing Dynasty furniture also decorate the houses. edit
- Qu Family Compound (佢家大院), Qi County, Dongda Street. (North of Pingyao and slightly north of the Zhenguo Temple.). The Qu Family Compound is another extended family residence built near Pingyao Ancient City by a successful Shanxi merchant clan over a number of generations. This 300-year-old compound was very unusual in having five layers of courtyard, and the entire compound has 8 large courtyards, 19 smaller couryards, and 240 rooms overall. One enters the compound from a street built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties and which still retains the architectural feel of that period. Despite its great size, it is said that what is seen here represents only about one-fifth of the Qu family's estate. The Qu family was a very successful example of the Shanxi merchant, and their estate used to occupy most of the eastern half of Qi County. Overall, they owned 10 compounds containing over 1000 rooms. During the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese occupied the compound, and the family had to temporarily relocate their head office to Chengdu. A Japanese observation post built above the roof of one of the buildings in the complex still remains. A few blocks away from the main compound is the Changyuchuan Teahouse, which also belonged to the Qu family. The ticket to the Qu Family Compound also includes entrance to a series of six museums in the area, including those dedicated to rulers, scales, mirrors, and vessels for measuring rice. The most interesting one is an abacus museum which includes a pagoda built completely from 668 abacuses. edit
- Chang Family Compound (常家大院), Dongyang Town, southwest of the Yuci District in Jinzhong City. (It is located about 40 km southwest of Taiyuan). Like the other family compounds, the Chang Family Compound was built over several generations by a wealthy merchant family to house the many branches of this successful clan. The Chang Family Compound is the largest of the Shanxi merchant family manors; despite its impressive size, however, what remains today is just one quarter of the original 600,000 square-meter compound, which contained over 1500 rooms. As the family prospered and grew in size, the Changs placed a great emphasis on education. This academic focus produced many scholars, painters, and calligraphers, and for this reason this compound is more interesting artistically than some of the other compounds in the region. Each of the courtyards, which are laid out along a 1 km long road, is somewhat different, but the themes throughout are very similar, with grey buldings, archways, smaller courtyards, and gardens in each one. The courtyards are filled with carvings in brick, stone, and wood, and there are many examples of carving which are of very high quality. The garden in one of the courtyards contains a collection of carved stone lions of various shapes and sizes. Originally there were 108 lions in the collection; today only 50+ remain. Behind these couryards is a large garden, designed in both the northern China and southern China styles, purportedly because the Chang family had to entertain visitors from both north and sourth. A 29-meter tall Guanji Tower in this garden is the tallest structure in the compound and offers expansive views over the entire compound from the top. edit
- Zhang Bi Old Castle (张壁古堡), (It is located about 10 km southeast of Jiexiu city, hostels in Pingyao often makes daily trip there together with Wang Family Compound). Zhang Bi Old Castle most famous by it's long and well preserved underground passages, which were serving as place to hide and a secret camp during local wars at Imperial China, and later during Civil war. It has been said that early construction of these passages dates back to Tang dynasty. Now total length of restored part reached 1.5 km, consist of 3 levels and several dozens underground service rooms, such as stable, command post, sleeping place for guards etc. On surface are located inhabited mountain village with several old temples, which interesting to stroll around, since it's didn't become a hot tourist spot yet. 60 yuan(March 2012). edit
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