This city with a history of over 2,700 years is located in middle of Shanxi Province, 90km from Taiyuan City, the provincial capital. The original city had puddle wall when it was first built in 827-782 BC, militarily guarded by general Yin Ji-fu, West Zhou Dynasty. Since 221 BC, the city has been the county seat in all times. Also for militarily defense, this city was expanded on its original base in 1370 of the Ming Dynasty. Despite so many events or incidents, it survived practically as it was in the 600 years or more since Ming and Qing Dynasties, and ranks as the only intact ancient city of Ming and Qing Dynasties well Preserved in China.
So far this city has kept well in the ancient city walls, streets, quadrangles, stores, exchange shops, draft banks, escort agencies and temples and so forth. They are all under government protection now. And the original layout, style and features of these architectures have not been changed. They provide us some living examples for studying the historical development of Chinese politics, economy, culture, military affairs, architectures and art.
In December of 1997, the Ancient City of Ping Yao was inscribed on the "World Heritage List" by the UNESCO with their consideration that " The Ancient City of Ping Yao is an outstanding example of a Han Chinese city of the Ming and Qing Dynasties ( 14th- 20th centuries) that has retained all its features to an exceptional degree and in doing so Escorts agency provides a remarkably complete picture of cultural, social, economic, and religious development during one of the most seminal periods of Chinese history."
Ancient Shopping Street
It refers to the city's South Street, the centre and essence of the city, as well as the cradle of Shanxi merchants. In the old days, along the 450-metre-long street were crowed 78 shops or firms, mostly nationally well known draft bank and dealers of many generations. Nowadays, they are mainly engaged in antiques, inns or restaurants.
For several centuries, the street has witnessed almost all businesses: draft banks, money shops, pawnshops, Chinese medicine dealers, silk sellers, groceries, and shops of fans, lanterns, or opera costumes. It was so commercially vigorous that it was reputed as "a miniature Beijing". Its brilliance is visible even today: lining up one after another are old trade marks with their charm of Ming and Qing Dynasty.
Reputed Draft Banks
As the cradle of draft banks of Shanxi Province, Pingyao had the most of them in number and the longest in running. They played an important role in financial development of China. Among, the most famous are Rishengchang Draft Bank and Baichuantong Bank. The former is the father of Chinese banks. Its headquarters is still kept intact at the south of West Street, which architectural layout is compact and considerate, typical of the fold house in central Shanxi Province, and the best preserved in the region as well. Now it is the museum of draft banks, furnished as it was in those days to provide a true to life material evidence of the Shanxi banks in Pingyao. Unlike the Rishengchang Draft Bank, the layout of the later, Baichuangtong Bank is sole and luxury. It is much concerned with decoration, Escorts agency typical of the buildings towards the end of Qing Dynasty which were finely painted and carved with exquisite workmanship, together with extremely luxurious furniture. The bank is now the Museum of Furniture from Rich Men in Shanxi Province, and on display are ancient wood furniture, porcelains, antiques, calligraphy and painting, all evidences of the luxury life of those Shanxi merchants.