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Pingyao Travel Guide

Located in central Shanxi Province and 100 kilometers away from Taiyuan-capital of the province, Pingyao is one of China's ancient town well known for its sound preservation of the urban landscape in China's Ming and Qing Dynasties. The City Wall itself, and the streets, buildings and shops are all preserved from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In 1997, when UNESCO decided to include this town on the World Heritage List, the comments read the Ancient City of Ping Yao is "an outstanding example of a Han Chinese city of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, retaining all the features of these periods. Pingyao presents a picture of unusual cultural, social, economic, and religious development in Chinese history."

Initially built during King Xuan of the Western Zhou Dynasty (827B.C.- 782B.C.), the ancient city of Pingyao has a history of over 2,700 years. Since the implementation of the system of prefectures and counties in China in 221B.C., Pingyao, as one of the primary cities in China, has been the seat of county government. The ancient city wall of Pingyao enlarged in the 3rd year of Emperor Hong Wu of the Ming Dynasty remains original.

The city wall was first built during the Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 256 B.C.) and was expanded in 1370, the third year of the reign of Ming Emperor Hongwu. Since 1997, it has been listed as a World Heritage Site. Now Pingyao city is the only one in China completely reserved as it was hundreds of years ago, no modern buildings, only narrow stone-plate street with many Chinese-style shops on the two sides.

The perimeter of this square city is 6.4km long and the city wall is the earliest and largest intact city wall in China. It is 12m high with an average width of 5m. The wall is rammed earth strengthened with a covering of bricks. Outside the city wall there is a moat, 4m wide and 4m deep.

The city has six gates, two each on the east and west and one each in the south and north side. All the gates project outwards and have two doors each. This has given the city the name "Turtle City" with the two gates on the south and north representing the head and tail of the turtle and four gates on the east and west as the four legs. The doors on the south and north stand opposite each other, like the head of the turtle extending out and two wells just beyond southern gate are like a turtle's two eyes.

Located on the trade route between Beijing and Xi'an, Pingyao developed into a merchant center where enterprising locals set up the nation's earliest banks. These institutions were the first in China to use checks, and business peaked in the 19th Century, when the city was the undisputed financial center of the Qing government.

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