18 Fascinating Facts About PingYao

Did you know that ……

1. Pingyao is one of only two Chinese cities listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site;

2. The city wall was originally built in 1370 under the reign of Emperor Hongwu and is said to be one of the best preserved in China with a total length of over six kilometers;

3. The city wall has six barbican gates and the pattern resembles the shape of a tortoise earning Pingyao the nickname "Turtle City" with the two gates on the South and North representing the head and tail of the turtle and four gates on the east and west the four legs;

4. The ancient town had four major streets, 8 lesser streets and 72 lanes. The main street runs from north to south with the Market Tower located in the middle and was the center of banking and trading in the old days;

5. Pingyao was the most important trading and financial center in China in the late Ming and Qing dynasties;

6. China's first commercial banks were established in Pingyao;

7. At its heydays, there were as many as 20 financial institutions within the city comprising more than half of the total in the entire country;

8. The Rishengchang Exchange Shop is considered to be the first bank in Chinese history and was established in 1823 during the Qing Dynasty. It had 35 branches in China and its business covered Europe, America and Southeast Asia;

9. The first checks/bank drafts in China were issued in Pingyao;

10. At the height of their influences, Pingyao merchants had branches all over China and connections in Japan, Singapore, Moscow, Calcutta, Paris and London;

11. Following the Boxer Rebellion, Empress Dowager Cixi came to Pingyao and asked rich bankers and merchants to advance the sum of 200,000 taels of silver (traditional silver currency used in old China) to pay the indemnity demanded by foreign powers. This sum that would amount to hundreds of millions in today's currency was never repaid;

12. Today approximately 40,000 residents live in the old city and bicycles are still the main means of transportation as cars are restricted inside the old city;

13. It is said that old Pingyao courtyards are some of the best-preserved traditional Han architecture in the whole of China;

14. There are several famous and well preserved residences clustered around Pingyao within a 25-mile radius including the 313-room Qiao's compound that was the set for Zhang Yimou's famous "Raise the Red Lantern" movie that put Pingyao in the international spotlight when it was released in 1992;

15. Similarly important cultural sites such as the 1,300 years old Shuanglin Temple and the 1,000 years old Zhenguo Temple are also within easy access from the city;

16. There is no charge to enter the old city but a joint ticket/entrance pass must be purchased for RMB 120 to visit the 19 main historical sites as they do not sell individual entrance tickets. The pass can be purchased at the gates of the old city;

17. An international "Photography Festival" takes place every year in mid September in Pingyao and attracts thousands of visitors, Chinese and foreigners alike;

18. The Olympic torch passed through Pingyao on July 8, 2008 ahead of the Olympic Games. It was an occasion of joy, pride and celebration for the local residents.

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