Pingyao lies about 715 kilometres from Beijing and 80 kilometres from the provincial capital, Taiyuan. During the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was a financial center of China.
Pingyao Ancient Town is typically considered the best ancient walled city in China. However, as with most typical statements this may not exactly comply with reality, so do your complete inquiry from any other source and people you trust before hopping in a train or bus to here. The old walled city is 2.6 sq. kilometers, inhabited, mostly off-limits to cars, and constructed of cobbled streets and buildings almost entirely from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Picture a period film showing ancient China. Perfect for atmospheric wandering, this city is still off the radar of most foreigners.
Pingyao still retains its city layout from the Ming and Qing dynasties, conforming to a typical bagua pattern. More than 300 sites in or near the city have ancient ruins. Preserved Ming- and Qing-style residences number close to 4,000. The streets and storefronts still largely retain their historical appearance.
With a history going way, way back to the Spring and Autumn Period, Pingyao truly gained prevalence as China's financial heart in the late Qing dynasty, when its 20-plus financial institutions represented more than half of China's financial community.
During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, Pingyao's wealthy exchange houses gave rise to a powerful business class earning the moniker of "Shanxi" or "Jin" businessmen.
Of course, such wealth makes an alluring prize, and so the city had to be fortified. Pingyao's walls were first built in the 3rd year of the Ming Dynasty's Hongwu Emperor (1370). The wall's six barbicans, with their four-legs, head-and-tail-like deployment earned Pingyao its present nickname of "turtle city."
In 2004, southern sections of the walls collapsed but were hastily reconstructed. However, the rest of Pingyao's walls, with their 3,000 battlements and 72 watchtowers, are largely intact, and as such represent some of the best-preserved ancient city walls on this scale in China, earning Pingyao a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list today.