Located in Shanxi, Pingyao is famed for its importance in China’s economic history and its well-preserved Ming and Qing architecture. It is also a Unesco World Heritage Site. The city is easily navigated by foot or bicycle, though taxi and bus options are also available.
What to Do
A large Buddhist temple, Shuanglin is located southwest of Pingyao. Founded in the 6th century, the temple has a large collection of more than 2,000 decorated statues giving it the nickname the museum of colored sculptures. These sculptures are lifelike in form and are considered to be the finest examples of Chinese colored sculpture. They are typically religious in nature and relate to daily life.
The first bank in China, Rishengchang is now a museum. Established in 1823, it was the forerunner for organizing China’s early financial system. It handled money exchanges, deposits, loans and remittances (money sent in payment). By the 19th century, the bank controlled almost half of China’s economy and its branches were widespread throughout the big cities.
Definitely don’t miss the underground vault in which account books, abacuses and bank operating procedures are displayed.
Located about an hour outside of Pingyao, the compound consists of 313 rooms within 6 large courtyards and 19 smaller courtyards. The former residence of well-known financier Qiao Zhiyong, it was opened to the public in 1986. Now a museum with many period furnishings, it has featured in many films such as Raise the Red Lantern.
What to Eat
Wantuozi is a traditional snack made from a batter of wheat or buckwheat flour and mixed with salted water and rapeseed oil. This batter is put in a saucer and steamed for around 12 minutes. Found on Pingyao’s streets it is often stir-fried with yam or potato shreds or mixed cold with vinegar, garlic and sesame oil.
Pingyao braised beef is a famous dish that has been around since the Ming Dynasty. Made from old ox, the beef is divided up into sixteen blocks depending on the structure of the ox. The beef is salted with local salt for up to three months and then stewed with alkaline well water for around twelve hours.
Huangjiu, also known as yellow wine, is made from water, cereal grains such as rice or wheat and a starter culture. It is not distilled, typically contains less than 20% alcohol and is usually pasteurized, aged and filtered before being sold. The color of the wine varies from clear to beige, yellowish brown or reddish brown. It is either drunk directly after being cooled or warmed or can be used in cooking.
Want to travel to Pingyao and explore one of China’s most well-preserved walled cities? Start planning your visit by first checking out China’s tourist visa requirements here.