Pingyao, in the Shanxi province of Northern China, combines two of my favorite things: a walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Normally we don’t go walking around on city walls because HOB has a fear of heights. However, Pingyao’s wall, which was built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, is low with a wide walkway so HOB didn’t have any problems going up there.
Walking around the perimeter of the ancient city on the wall gives a good sense on how well preserved Pingyao is. The town’s heyday was during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and is the only place of it’s kind left after the communist’s rampage of cultural destruction.
Should you also find yourself walking Pingyao’s walls, please bear in mind that parabolic wouding is strictly prohibited.
While the tourist office will give you a list of Pingyao’s sights, I wouldn’t take that list too seriously.
The town itself is the sight.
I made HOB take the elderly passageway…
While entering the town is free, you have to purchase an all access pass, good for three days, to go inside of the buildings and to climb the city walls.
Pingyao has a gazillion museums, all of which are deadly boring, but I’m glad we went in them just to see the layout and furnishings of the structures (and the bathrooms were handy too).
Pingyao developed as a banking town, so if your going to visit a museum, a logical choice would be the Rishengchang Financial House. This bank turned museum is inside the original location of the first draft bank in China, established in 1823. Now I personally don’t need to view 100 rooms about checks but if that’s your jam the Rishengchang is for you.
Hey! Get off of there, that’s my spot!
After all the museums of bank manager’s houses we were relieved to pop into a few fine temples with lovely sculptures. I think this is the goddess Guanyin, revered for her mercy and her ability to balance a newborn on the palm of her hand.
As it turns out, HOB was also famous in Pingyao.
We eventually abandoned the museums and criss-crossed the town, taking in as much detail as possible.
I believe much of the décor was terracotta.
After traipsing through museum after museum showing traditionally furnished rooms, it was rather fun that we got to sleep in one. Our guest house room had a Kang bed, which if you can’t tell from the picture, is a huge bed which is basically a thin matt on a brick platform. The bed was extremely firm—I preferred the pillows which were small and filled with some sort of grain.
As with every town blessed with robust tourism, Pingyao was most magical at night, with the day-trippers back on their buses. Lamps glowed, playful dogs shimmied on the streets, and we strolled without purpose, happy that the banking museums were all closed.