Pingyao Ancient City is located in the middle part of Shanxi Province, and is 85km from Taiyuan City. As one of the four well-preserved ancient cities in China, Pingyao is the only one which succeeded in bidding for the world heritage site as the whole town. It’s an outstanding example of city during Ming to Qing Dynasty. Pingyao emits its quiet and restraint style everywhere: lofty ancient city wall shows the profound depth of the city; the streets, stores and residential buildings in the city still retain the traditional layouts and appearances; rich Shanxi merchant’s culture and simple and sincere folkways are full of the whole city.
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Ancient City Wall
The Ancient City Wall of Pingyao was originally constructed 2700 years ago. Built in 1370 with an overall length of 6.4km, it’s now the one of the four well-preserved ancient city walls. The square-shaped ancient city wall is about 10 meters high and 3-6 meters wide on the top. Standing on the Ancient City Wall and look down, the layout of the city will reveal its true face to you. It’s the only place you can get the panoramic view of Pingyao Ancient City.
Rishengchang Former Bank
Pingyao was once the financial center in the old times, while Rishengchang in Pingyao is the first and the biggest bank in its own time. At present, Rishengchang has become a museum where people can learn the glorious history of the ancient banking industry. In Rishengchang, you will see how to exchange tickets in the past, and the layout of Rishengchang shows the neat and precise of Pingyao residential buildings.
Ming and Qing Dynasties Street
Located in the central axis of Pingyao Ancient City, Ming and Qing Dynasties Street completely preserves the store sites of Ming and Qing Dynasties. It’s the most important and prosperous commercial street in Pingyao. The street is over 400m and 78 ancient stores are standing here. Shops along the street are all built with bricks and stones completely in the style of Ming and Qing architecture, displaying traditional furniture, calligraphy, or some other local household utensils. It’s a great place to shoot the former bustle bazaar of the old days.
Near from Pingyao Ancient City, there are two temples also deserving your visit. Zhengguo Temple lies in the north gate of the city. The Wanfo Hall in the temple has a history over a thousand years. The painted sculptures of the Five Dynasties in Wanfo Hall are the treasures in Chinese sculpture art. Shuanglin Temple is located at the southwest of Pingyao Ancient City. Built in 571 AD, the temple has over 10 halls where preserve over 2000 painted sculptures. People call Shuanglin Temple the “Treasury of Painted Sculpture Art”.
Side Trip to Qiao’s Family Compound
Located on the way between Taiyuan and Pingyao, Qiao's Family Compound is one of the best preserved and most interesting merchant family compounds in Shanxi. The entire compound looks like the Chinese character "囍"for ‘double happiness’. It has 20 small courtyards and 313 rooms in total. Qiao’s Family Compound incarnates the unique construction style of northern residential building in Qing Dynasty. The Qiao's Family Compound impressed visitors not just for its size, but also for the exquisite handiworks of the brick carvings, woodwork, murals, and inscribed tablets. This is also the location for Zhang Yimou’s famous movie, ‘Raise the Red Lantern’.
Located at the north of Shanxi Province, Datong was once the military and strategic outpost. It’s a rather influential city in history. Until today, there are still many historical relics left here. Most famous ones are Yungang Grottoes, which was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage in 2001 and Hanging Temple, the only temple that mixes Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
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Located in Datong City, Shanxi, Yungang Grottoes is one of the four big grottoes in China. Dated back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), Yungang Grottoes was listed as a world heritage in 2001. At present, Yungang Grottoes has 45 caves with over 51,000 Buddha stone statues, which are from a few centimeters high to more than 17 meters high. All those magnificent statues show you the profound grottoes art history of 5 to 6 century. Except Buddha stone statues, there are many dance and acrobatics carvings in the cave, which are the reflection of the social life in Northern Wei Dynasty. The most beautiful caves of Yungang Grottoes are from Cave No.5 to Cave No.13.
As the name implies, Hanging Temple is a temple built into a cliff (about 75 meters above the ground). With a history more than 1500 years, Hang Temple is famous not only for precipitous location, but also for it’s the only existing temple which combines three Chinese traditional religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Enter inside, you will find 40 halls and cabinets, containing about 80 sculptures made of copper, iron, terracotta, and stone, all with vivid features. The best location to shoot the panoramic view of the temple is from the cliff foot under the temple.
Best Season for Photography
Due to its temperate continental climate, Pingyao’s temperature difference is large between summer and winter, and it’s dusty in winter. The best time for tour is spring, summer and autumn. In September, Pingyao will hold an International Photography Festival, and this is a good chance to see some famous photographers’ works. Morning and night are great time to shoot the unique ambience of Pingyao Ancient City.
Tips from Our Experts
1. Recommended equipment
To shoot the panoramic view, wide angle lens is necessary when you travel.
2. How to shoot the magnificence of the Ancient City of Pingyao
To shoot a grandeur ancient city, you may shoot the city from a diagonal angle. This is because no matter how wide you lens is, you can’t cover the whole city shooting from the front angle. Besides, shoot from the front angle may cause the picture rather rigid.
3. Street photography
Little stores in the ancient alley provide various goods for the tourists, from bronze wares to chinaware, from calligraphy to Chinese paintings. Use these goods as front view and shoot from a low angle can show the visual impact of the picture.
4. Living tips
Shanxi is very dry and dusty. Remember to drink more water when you travel. Wear sunglasses and hat to protect you from the blowing sand.
5. Transportation advice
The nearest airport to Pingyao is Taiyuan Wusu Airport, which is only 90 kilometers away from the old county. There is also a high speed railway station in Pingyao – Pingyao Ancient City Railway Station, which is only 10km to the southwest of Pingyao Ancient City.
Yungang Grottoes is located at Datong City. Datong Yungang Airport is 17km from Datong Downtown. While Datong Railway Station is just located at the downtown, so it’s very convenient to get to Datong.