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Top 4 Ancient Cities in China

With thousands of year’s long history and culture, China gives tourists great opportunity to know about the authentic ancient social environment and lifestyle through presenting well-reserved old cities located in different areas of China. The following Top Four Ancient Cities of China, Lijiang Old Town, Pingyao Ancient City, Huizhou Ancient City and Langzhong Ancient City built in early ancient dynasties with strong ethical style and local characteristics are part of splendid Han culture heritage. Each one embodies its distinctive regional feature and certain period historical style, and it is of great significance to research the architecture, history, inhabitant, custom and culture of Han Chinese.

In-depth travel to these ancient cities gets you a glimpse of past history and culture during the ancient dynasties, namely, you can closely look the original landmark buildings which show the development and prosperity of Han Nationality, meanwhile, watch some local performances and folk traditions.

1. Lijiang Old Town - Popular Minority Residence City

TripAdvisor Impression: Old Town Magic, Impressive Architecture, Lively and Quaint, Touristy, Well Preserved

Type: Historical Walking Area, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Sights & Landmarks

Recommended Rating:

Location: No.57, Xuetang Rd, Dayan Township, Gucheng District, Lijiang, Northwestern Yunnan Province; about 500km of northwest Kunming .

Best Travel Time: all the year round

Open Hours: Full Day

Ticket: Free (every tourist have to pay 80RMB for maintenance of the old town)

Recommended Visiting: half a day ~ one day

Elected as World Culture Heritage, Chinese National Civilized Scenic Area, AAAAA National Tourist Attraction and State Level Historical & Culture City, Lijiang Old Town, also called Dayan Ancient Town, is one the popular destinations among both domestic and foreign travelers.

Lijiang Old Town is known as “Gongben Zhi” in Naxi Language, Gongben means rice warehouse and Zhi for market, so it used to be a rice distribution center. With over 800 years history, the town was initially built during late Song Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty (late 13th century) and covers about 7.279 sq.km.

As a habitat of Bai, Yi, Han nationality in southwest China and northwest Lijiang City, Lijiang Old Town not only are endowed with beautiful scenery but also is a large cluster of preserved ancient buildings which stands for the prodigious construction achievement of China. Tourist can meander through the central Square Market (四方街 - heart and central plaza of Lijiang Old Town with over 800 years history, which is used to be a bustling market since late Song Dynasty), experience the grandiose Mufu Mansion (木府-Forbidden City in Lijiang Ancient Town as a glorious symbol, it is the palace for leader of minority groups for 470 years from Yuan Dynasty), overlook the whole landscape of Lijiang Ancient Town and view the far Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from Wangu Tower (万古楼 – the 33 meters high wooden architecture is the best viewing point ), passing the Great Stone Bridge (top of the over 300 bridges, where has chance to watch the reflection of the stunning Jade Dragon Snow Mountain ), visit Lijiang Dongba Cultural Museum(丽江东巴文化博物馆- the first county museum in Yunan where exhibits 10,000 precious relics) and enjoy local customs and activities like Naxi ancient music and dance, etc.

Highlights: MufuMansion, Wangu Tower, Great Stone Bridge, Lijiang Dongba Cultural Museum, Fangguyu’s Former Residence, Square Market, Folk Culture of Naxi Nationality

Activity: Square Market Beat & Jump Dance, Naxi Ancient Music

Nearby Attractions: Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shangri-La, Shuhe Old Town, Lashi Lake, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lugu Lake


The Maintenance fee was revised to be collected by authorized hotels, hostels and inns, instead of the service point of Lijiang Old Town since June, 2017.

>> 4 Days Lijiang Cultural & Natural Tour
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Lijiang Old Town
Chinese Water Wheel at Entrance of Lijiang Old Town Lijiang Old Town
Panorama View of Lijiang Old Town Architectures Lijiang Old Town
Shops in the Walking Alley Lijiang Old Town
Relaxation Bar in Lijiang Old Town Lijiang Old Town
Naxi Dance - Local Minority Performance

2. Pingyao Ancient City - World Culture Heritage over 2700 Years

TripAdvisor Impression: Interest Walled Town, Historic China in Microcosm, Traditional & Gorgeous, Authentic Ancient Town

Type: Historical Sites, Sights & Landmarks

Recommended Rating:

Location: Pingyao County, Central Shanxi Province, China; about 100km of Southwest Taiyuan.

Best Travel Time: all the year round

Open Hours: Full Day
(Scenic Spots Visiting Time: Mar 1 ~ Nov 30 08:00-18:30/Dec 1~ end Feb 08:00-17:30)

Ticket: No Entrance Fee (130RMB for through ticket of 22 scenic spots visiting)

Recommended Visiting: two ~ three days

Rated as one of the 41 valuable destinations in global by New York Times in 2011, the Ancient City of Pingyao in middle Shanxi Province is China's best-preserved ancient city and one of the two World Culture Heritage Sites with declaration of the whole city in China (another one is Lijiang Old Town), and an outstanding scroll to discover the ancient culture, society, economy and religion of Northern China.

Originally built in more than 2700 years ago during Western Zhou Dynasty, Pingyao City was suffered burning in Northern Song Dynasty and expanded with a defense wall to resist aggression from northern in 1370AD of Ming Dynasty, observation towers from later emperors. The city wall is about 12m high and 6163m in circumference, divides the 2.25sq km large Pingyao City a two different style worlds: the inner primeval Ming and Qing Dynasty style and the outer modern and new looks.

Preserved more than 300 historical sites, the following major spots in Pingyao Ancient City are the best way to know its profound history: Rishengchang Draft Bank (日升昌票号 - the first private bank in China), Pingyao Ancient Government Office (平遥县衙 - the largest ancient county government office in China with over 600 years histoty), the square Pingyao Ancient City Wall (平遥城墙 - one of the four best-preserved ancient city walls with Xian Ancient City Wall in China of over 600 years history), 750 meters long Ming and Qing Dynasties Street (明清街 - essence in Pingyao Ancient City where lots of Ming & Qing Dynasties Style store and dwellings locates) and etc. Tourists can also view a vivid spectacle of ancient architectures complex in orderly arrangement and some houses decorated with delicate carvings and paper-cut window grilles

Highlights: Pingyao Ancient City Wall and Government Office, Rishengchang Draft Bank, Mingqing Dynasty Street, Qingxu Guan, Pingyao Confucius Temple

Activity: Impression Pingyao (directed by partner of Yimou Zhang) - a large interior scene paly telling the Pingyao people’s heroic rescue and sacrifice for friend’s offspring during October Revolution in Russia; street performance

Nearby Attractions:Qiao’s Family Compound (a magnificent building complex presenting the folk custom in Shanxi with 5,000 valuable exhibits), Wang’s Family Courtyard, Shuanglin Temple (treasury of over 2,000 well-preserved painted sculptures), Zhenguo Temple (ancient temple with over 1,000 years history and Wanfo Hall inside is one of the earliest and most precious wooden architecture in China)


1. The best view is the overlook of whole ancient city from the wall.

2. The ticket is valid for three days after collection and each spot is allowed to visit once only.

>> 3 Days Pingyao Discovery Tour
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Pingyao Ancient City
Snow Covered Pingyao Ancient City in Winter Pingyao Ancient City
Casher's Office in Rishengchang Draft Bank Pingyao Ancient City
Pingyao Ancient Government Office Pingyao Ancient City
Ming & Qing Dynasties Street Pingyao Ancient City
Qiao’s Family Compound

3. Huizhou Ancient Town - Witness of Huizhou Culture & History

TripAdvisor Impression: Very Nice, Straight out of A Movie

Type: Ancient Ruins, Sights & Landmarks

Recommended Rating:

Location: Huicheng Town, She County, Huangshan City, Southeastern Anhui Province, China; about 25km of Northeast Mount Huangshan

Best Travel Time: all the year round

Open Hours: Full Day
Scenic Spots Visiting Time: about 08:00am-17:00pm

Ticket: 100RMB

Recommended Visiting: three hours

Listed as Chinese famous historical and cultural city, Huizhou Ancient City (also called She County Ancient City) in southern Anhui Province is the place where Hui Culture (one of the top three local schools) and Peking Opera are originated and the important headstream of Hui Merchant and producing area of Huizhou Inkstick and Inkstone, a marvelous living museum featured in distinctive Huizhou Culture and Huizhou style architectures.

With an area of 24.7 sq km with over 2000 years history, it was erected in Qin Dynasty and served as government seat from Tang Dynasty, renamed into Huizhou from Shezhou in Northern Song Dynasty, hence left many old buildings like barbacane, streets and alleys, city wall and over 400 memorial archways, houses even people living in now.

Among the seven scenic spots, Xuguo Stone Archway (许国石坊/大学士坊 - the only octagonal memorial arch of 500 years history in China, which was built to honor the merit, filial piety and righteous in feudal society ), Huizhou State Office (徽州府衙- a typical Huizhou style architecture in large scale), Hui Garden (徽园 – antique spot displaying the ancient archway, residence, ancestral hall, top 3 carvings of brick, wood and stone of Huizhou ), Doushan Street (斗山街 – a long and secluded ancient alley where groups of Huizhou Merchants residences gather ), Yuliang Ancient Dam (渔梁古坝 - a major waterage wharf and an ancient river dike existing for nearly 1400 years), Tao Xingzhi Memorial Hall (陶行知纪念馆 - patriotism education base to honor the great patriot Tao Xingzhi) are the top popular sites to visit to explore Huizhou cultural and historical background and development from multiple sides.

Highlights: Xuguo Stone Archway, Huizhou State Office, Hui Garden, Yuliang Ancient Dam, Taoxingzhi Memorial Hall, Taibai Tower

Activity: folk-custom activities in peak season

Nearby Attractions: Mt. Huangshan (25km), Hongcun Ancient Village (80km), Xidi Ancient Village (65km), Tunxi Ancient Street (30km)


Almost all architectures were kept from ancient dynasties, except the Hui Garden which was newly built in 2000.

>> 4 Days Best Huangshan Tour with Hongcun & Xidi Ancient Villages
>> 4 Days Huangshan Tour to Huizhou Culture Exploration

Huizhou Ancient City
Huizhou Nanqiao Building Huizhou Ancient City
Xuguo Stone Archway Huizhou Ancient City
Huizhou Ancient State Office Huizhou Ancient City
Folk Custom Performance in Huizhou Ancient City

4. Langzhong Ancient City - Quintessence of Sichuan Culture

TripAdvisor Impression: Wonderful Old City, Beautiful Preserved Place, Laid Back China, Authentic Old Town

Type: Historical Sites, Sights

Recommended Rating:

Location: No.33, Middle Langshui Rd, Langzhong City, Nanchong City, Northeastern Sichuan; about 300km of Northeast Chengdu.

Best Travel Time: Spring and Autumn
(Better avoid Chinese peak travelling Weeks during May 1st and October of National Day.)

Open Hours: May 1 – October 7 (High Season): 08:00~18:30; October 8 – April 30 (Off Season): 08:00~18:00

Ticket: 120RMB for through ticket (including 6 scenic spots)

Recommended Visiting: one day

Lies in northeastern Sichuan, Langzhou Ancient City embraced by Jialing River is the only ancient city built based on geomantic culture in China, a major military outpost during ancient Shu Kingdom and a key throat to southern Sichuan areas. And the long history and abundant Bashu Culture, geomantic and astronomic culture, culture of Three Kingdoms and Imperial Examination are the unique characters in this 2300 years old city.

Known as the hometown of famous Baoning Vinegar in China, the first impression of Langzhong leaves to you must be the special smell of vinegar suffused in the whole city. Temple of Marquis Huan (汉桓侯祠 - Zhangfei Temple, a memorial hall to record Zhangfei’s lifetime story and family) is a best site to know more about the history about Langzhou for the great general Zhang Fei of Shu Kingdom once guarded Langzhou for seven years. Former Examination House (川北道贡院 - the only ancient provincial examination scene well kept in complete appearance in China) shows you how the royal court collecting talents through test in ancient dynasty. Museum of Geomancy (风水博物馆 - the exclusive spot themed in geomancy of architecture) leads you to unlock the mysterious Chinese Geomancy. Ancient streets and alleys, courtyards, window paper-cuts present the unique architecture pattern of Tang & Song Dynasties and feature of Ming & Qing Dynasties. Huaguang Tower (华光楼 - the highest building inside) and Jinping Mountain (锦屏山- opposite of ancient city ) are the best viewing places of the whole Langzhong Ancient City.

Highlights: Temple of Marquis Huan (Zhangfei Temple), Former Examine House (Gong Yuan), Confucius Temple, Huaguang Tower

Activity: Lang Garden Fairyland – large outdoor moving live performance by the Jialing River and on the back ground of Langzhong Ancient City showing the classic Bashu culture, Zhangfei Parade Performance, Jialing River Cruise

Nearby Attractions: Jianmen Pass (important strategic pass in Sichuan), Mt. Jinping Scenic Resort (best viewing site of Langzhong Ancient City)


1. The ticket is valid for three days on the date of the payment.

2. No motor vehicle driving is allowed in the inner town but the tour bus.

3. The Show of Zhangfei Cruise in the streets is fixed in 9:00 am, 10:00am, 15:00pm and 16:00 pm. Ancient examination show are held in the Former Examination House. And there are more local activities you can view in the old town.

>> 4 Days Ancient Three Kingdom History Tour
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Langzhong Ancient City
Langzhong Ancient City Lies beside Jialing River Langzhong Ancient City
Han Huanhou Ancestral Hall -Zhangfei Temple Langzhong Ancient City
Zhangfei Temple - Han Huanhou Ancestral Hal Langzhong Ancient City
Geomancy Museum - Exhibition of Chinese Geomancy Culture Langzhong Ancient City
Zhangfei Parade Performance

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