Category: Pingyao.

Ping Yao Ancient Town :: About

Justification by State Party

Several thousand urban complexes like Ping Yao were built over the course of Chinese history. However, only a very few have been preserved to the present day. Ping Yao has the integrity and the typical characteristics of an ancient Chinese city, and is outstanding because of the degree of preservation of its historical features. It is representative of the development of Han structures and constructional techniques during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) in the central plains of China and illustrates the development of the society, economy, culture, art, science, technology, and industry.
~Criteria ii, iii and iv

A large number of densely packed remains from the 2700-year history of Ping Yao are still in evidence. They play a significant role in the built heritage of China, representing not only the different styles of building over that time but also the artistic and aesthetic evolution, with contributions from different
nationalities and other parts of China.
~Criterion v

Ping Yao accurately and comprehensively reflects the town-planning and building traditions of the Han people over the period from the 14th to the 19th Century.
~Criterion ii

In the second half of the 19th century Ping Yao was the centre of banking in China, and as such had a profound effect on the modem economic development of the country.
~Criterion vi


The Ping Yao region has been settled by humankind since Neolithic times. There has been an urban settlement on the site of the nominated property since at least the Western Zhou Dynasty, since it was fortified with earthen ramparts during the reign of King Xuan (827-782 BC). With the implementation of the system of prefectures and counties in 221 BC, Ping Yao became the seat of a county administration, and continues to play that role.

In 1370, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Hong Wu, the city was greatly extended. It was fortified with a massive new defensive wall in masonry and brick and the internal layout was greatly altered, reflecting the strict rules of planning of the Han

Since that time it has evolved steadily as a Han city during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It emerged as one of the leading commercial cities in northern China during the 16th century, and retained that status well into the present age. In the second half of the 19th centmy the banking community of Ping Yao dominated Chinese financial life.


Ping Yao city is located at the end of the alluvial fan resulting from the confluence of the Hui Ji and Liu Gen rivers. The land slopes slightly from south-east to north-west.

The circuit of walls built in the late 14th century measures 6km in length, the precise dimension for a city of this grade according to Han prescriptions. It is 1Om thick at the base and tapers to 3-5m at the top; the height varies from 6m to 1Om. There are six fortified gates and 72 massive bastions along its lenghth.

The area enclosed is 2.25km^2, comprising six large temple complexes, administrative offices for county and municipal administrations, and other public buildings as well as office buiidings. especially those of the draft banks for which Ping Yao was famous, shops, and domestic architecture from all the periods of the city’s six centuries of history.

The internal street layout is symmetrical and rectilinear: there are over a hundred streets and lanes in the city. The main cross-streets are lined with shops built in the 17 & 19th centuries which effectively preserve the historic townscape.

Ping Yao contains a number of cultural monuments protected by national, provincial, or county designation. The 10th century Ten Thousand Buddha Hall of Zhen Guo Temple is a fundamental reference for the study of early Chinese painted statues, as well as for its architecture. The 12th century Main Hall of the Confucian Temple is a classic example of this form of structure, where large oblique beams are used to bear the main roof timbers, instead of the more conventional technique using brackets. The Shuang Lm Temple, founded in the 6th century, is also renowned for its collection of over two thousand decorated clay statues dating from the 12th-19th centuries. The Qing Xu Daoist Temple, founded in the 7th century, consists of ten main buildings covering nearly 6000 m^2. Its Dragon Hall is noteworthy for the rare constructional technique used, a system of suspension beams and pendant columns.

There is also a group of more recent temples, of equal architectural value and quality. These include the 19th century Temple of the Town God, the Auspicious Temple, and the Temple to General Guan Yu.

The County Administrative Building is a complex that contains elements from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The two-storey wooden City Tower is, at 18.5m, the highest structure within the historic city. It owes its present appearance to a reconstruction in 1688. From the same period comes the Hui Ji Bridge, built in stone with stone balustrades on either side.

The prosperity deriving from trade, and later from the draft banks, resulted in Ping Yao being endowed over the centuries with many high-quality, well built private houses, and these have survived to a large extent. They follow the feudal and hierarchical Han tradition closely, with distinguishing local features. They are built round four sides of an open courtyard, and fall into three main groups.

The first are conventional single-storeyed structures in wood and brick, with tiled roofs. Next come the below-ground structures in brick with corridors lined with wood and extended eaves. The third group are two-storey buildings, in which the underground structure is surmounted by a wooden second storey. These underground structures owe their origins to prehistoric caves dug in the Loess of the middle reaches of the Yellow River basin.

Category: Pingyao