Ancient City of Ping Yao is a well-preserved ancient county-level city in China. Located in Ping Yao County, central Shanxi Province, the property includes three parts: the entire area within the walls of Ping Yao, Shuanglin Temple 6 kilometers southwest of the county seat, and Zhenguo Temple, 12 kilometers northeast of the county seat.
The Ancient City of Ping Yao is an outstanding example of Han cities in the Ming and Qing dynasties (from the 14th to 20th century). It retains all the Han city features, provides a complete picture of the cultural, social, economic and religious development in Chinese history, and it is of great value for studying the social form, economic structure, military defense, religious belief, traditional thinking, traditional ethics and dwelling form.
Within Ancient City of Ping Yao’s property boundary, the heritage information and overall material and spiritual values have been well preserved.
The urban plan and layout of the county-level cities of the Han people in Central China from the 14th to 20th century are well retained, the attributes carrying the heritage values including the city walls, streets and lanes, stores, dwellings and temples remain intact, and all the information that reflects the cultural, social, economic and religious development in this period have been well preserved.
The spirit and culture of the heritage property have been well inherited and continued. The Ping Yao region has been settled by humans since Neolithic times. There has been an urban settlement on the site since at least the Western Zhou dynasty, as it was fortified with earthen ramparts during the reign of King Xuan (827-782 BC).
In the Spring and Autumn Period, the county belonged to the kingdom of Jin. It was part of the kingdom of Zhao in the Warring States period. In the Qin Dynasty, it was known as Pingtao. During the Han Dynasty, it was known as Zhongdu County.
In 1986, the People’s Republic of China designated Pingyao as one of the Chinese Historic and Cultural Cities. The walls have six barbican gates. The north and south sides have one gate each. The east and west sides have two gates each.
This pattern is similar to that of a turtle (the head, tail and four legs), earning Pingyao the moniker “Turtle City.” The walls measure about 12 metres high, with a perimeter of 6,000 metres. A 4-metre wide, 4-metre deep moat can be found just outside the walls. Aside from the four structured towers at the four corners, there are also 72 watchtowers and more than 3,000 battlements.
Every street or building here has numerous stories to tell about the past one-thousand years. In the center of the Old City, the nearly 200 years old Rishengchang Exchange Shop is the first ‘bank’ in Chinese history and is known as the ‘Father of the Bank in China’. It tells of the prosperity of the Jin Businessmen in Chinese history.
The well-preserved County Government Office on Zhengfu Street (also Yamen Street) shows a complete picture of the solemn law court and prison of the Qing Dynasty while in Chenghuangmiao Street, the Temple of the City God and the Confucius Temple reveal a glimpse of local folk life.