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Private Tour to Pingyao UNESCO Old Town:
3-day trip to Pingyao, Shanxi heritage site from Beijing

Highlights:

• Discover the ancient town of Pingyao, one of the only cities in China to maintain its ancient city walls and streets. Being here will transport you back in time to the China of yesteryear. The city is something of a living museum

• Tour the exquisite ancient Buddhist temples of Pingyao, which are haunting and captivating in their beauty, as well as being a gateway to the ancient traditions of China
• Your hotel will be in the style of a traditional courtyard, giving you a much more intimate and memorable experience than the normal hotel

(B=breakfast)

TOUR CODE: PY-07

Why Pingyao Deserves Your Tour

Pingyao is a Chinese city and county in central Shanxi province. It lies about 715 km from Beijing and 80 km from the provincial capital, Taiyuan. During the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was a financial center of China. It is now renowned for its well-preserved ancient city wall, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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.

The ancient city is in Pingyao County, Shanxi Province. The city wall was first built during the Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 256 B.C.) and was expanded in 1370, the third  year of the reign of Ming Emperor Hongwu. Since 1997, it has been listed as a World Heritage Site. Now Pingyao city is the only one in China completely reserved as it was hundreds of years ago, no modern buildings, only narrow stone-plate street with many Chinese-style shops on the two sides. 

  • "Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an exceptionally well-preserved traditional Han Chinese city. Its city walls, old temples and courtyard houses were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Located on the old trade route between Beijing and Xi'an, Pingyao was one of the flourishing trade centers in northern China. It was here, where China's first banks were set up in the early 18th century which rapidly developed into a widespread network of banks all over the country. After its heyday the city fell into decline after about 1850, and its streets stayed unchanged since then because of the lack of money for maintenance work. On this 4-day trip you will not only visit the old town with its old streets and courtyard houses complexes, but also Zhengguo Temple, Shuanglin Temple and Jinci Temple.

    DAY-BY-DAY DETAILED ITINERARY:


    Day 1 Beijing-Pingyao (by train)

    You will take the overnight train K603 (17:07-04:32) or 1163 (19:03-7:31) from Beijing to Pingyao. You will have a soft sleeper compartment, so you will sleep in comfort and peace during the trip.

    Day 2 Pingyao (B)

    Upon arrival at the train station, you will be met by your local English-speaking guide, and he/she will take you to your hotel, which is in the style of a traditional courtyard. For much of today’s touring, we will be walking within the ancient town of Pingyao, which is built in the style of traditional Chinese urban planning, which includes 4 main streets, 8 narrow roads, and 72 smaller lanes, all of which for a neat and logical grid.

    The three-story Market Tower is the center and joint point of the city streets. The buildings such as Ancient City Government seat, Town God's Temple, Confucius Temple, Military God Temple, Wealth God Temple and Lucky Fortune Temple are arranged symmetrically. With its main streets forming a "干"shape, there are altogether four main streets, eight branch streets and 72 lanes in the city area. Having stood a long time weather-wearing, all these buildings show no sign of dilapidation. In front of the gates of some magnificent buildings and grand shops, deep ruts on the ground are still there to be seen, reminding visitors of its ancient busy traffic and commercial situation. The streets in this ancient town are broad and very well arranged. Dotted with memorial archways and decorated gateways, stretching one after another and high and low, the old houses and courtyards flanking the streets and lanes remind visitors of the long past and their ancestral places. Walking along the ancient streets, you seem to have landed in a world beyond the present one. 18.5 meters in height, and situated in the town center, the Market Tower is the highest building within the main street from the south to the north running through it. it is said the marketing was going on around the Tower all day long, thus it was named the Market Tower. Belonging now to the historical sites protected by the provincial government, it was renovated in 1688 during the Emperor Kangxi Period of Qing Dynasty, but people still don't know when it was first built.
    We’ll come across the Ri Sheng Chang bank, which was the scene of China’s modern banking and commercial business. As early as in 1824, Ri Sheng Chang bank had begun its business. Within a few years of its founding, its branch banks were rapidly distributed to Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Liaoning Provinces. Branch banks were also set up in such big cities as Beijing. Today, people can still trace its great prosperity of the bank groups nicknamed as the "Asian Wall Street" from the remaining bank and shop buildings along the West Main Street in ancient Pingyao City.

    You’ll have the chance to walk along Pingyao’s ancient city wall, which is one of the only cities (along with Xian) in China to have its city wall intact. Built with rammed earth inside and brick and stone outside, the ancient city walls measure 10 meters high and 6162.7 meters long with 3-5 meters wide tops. Except the southern wall, which zigzags a bit according to the land contour, the other three walls all go straight, making the city area a square one. One city gate was built each to the southern to northern walls and two city gates were built each to the western and eastern walls. All six city gates have gate towers and inside gates attached to them. A watchtower was built on the wall top every 50-100 meters away, totaling 72 watchtowers in all along the four walls. From the wall you will have a great view of the ancient city center.

    After exploring the ancient town of Pingyao, we'll return to the hotel for the night, and you have the option of further walking around the town at your own leisure.

    Day 3 Pingyao-Taiyuan-Beijing(B)

    After breakfast in the hotel, we will continue our touring in Pingyao, with today focusing on the city’s numerous temples. Our first stop will be at the Shuanglin Temple, which is just a short drive outside the city wall, the Shuanglin Temple is reputed to be the 'ancient painted sculptures museum'. The temple houses more than 2,000 colorful sculptures reflecting the exquisite skills of the artisans of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Shuanglin Temple was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO as an important cultural site of Ping Yao City in 1997. Having a history of over 1,400 years, the Shuanglin Temple contains ten large and small halls, as well as the sutra chanting hall and the monks’ living quarters.

    Will then head over to the Zhenguo Temple. The history of the temple begins in 963, when it was recorded that Wanfo Hall was built. The date is written on a beam in the hall, and is also the date given by a local history of Pingyao county written in the 19th century. A stela written in 1819 also confirms this date. The temple contains two main halls and a gate, with two courtyards in between the three buildings. There is a wall surrounding the entire complex. The temple opens to the south, with the Tianwang Hall acting as the temple’s gate. The next hall, to the north, is the Wanfo Hall, and the final hall is called Sanfo Hall, which dates from the Qing Dynasty The northern courtyard also features two minor halls facing to the east and west called the Gaunyi and Dizang Halls, which both date from the Ming Dynasty There are also two bell towers located on either side of the Tianwang Hall.

    The most important hall in the temple is Wanfo Hall (Hall of 1000 Buddhas), one of China's oldest wooden buildings.
    It is a three-bay single-eaves hip and gabled hall that is nearly square in shape, measures 11.6 by 10.8 meters, and is 8.8 m high. Despite the building's small size, and features that would identify it as a regular hall (such as pillars that have been implanted directly into the floor instead of on a stone pedestal), the structure is quite complex. There are doors at the front and back of the hall. In addition, the front of the hall has two windows on either side of the door. There are twelve pillars supporting the structure. The corner and column-top brackets holding up the roof are of the 7th degree, the most complex and large type. These bracket sets are nearly 2.5 meters high – 70% the height of the columns. Inter-columnar brackets that occur between every two pillars are of the 5th degree. The hall has no ceiling, and the upper and lower set of rafters are exposed.

    Before your trip back to Beijing, we'll stop at one more temple, the Jinci Temple. The Jinci Temple was first built during the northern Wei Dynasty (386-535), the original name of Jinci Temple is Tangshuyuci Temple. Being one of the rare large-scale memorial temple gardens, it was built for memorizing Tangshuyu, the seigneur who founds Jin state. The scenery of the Jinci Temple Tourist Zone is beautiful. Palaces, pavilions and bridges set off each other. The water runs surround the pavilions, numerous cultural relics spot everywhere and the ancient trees go into the sky. It is the outstanding representative of the ancient gardens. Saint Mother Hall, the Figures of the Maidservants, Yuzaofeiliang and the Never Aging Spring are the pride of Jinci Temple. The Zhou Cypress, the Never Aging Spring and the Figures of the Maidservants of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) are regarded as “Three Great Things of Jinci Temple”, which have high historical, scientific and artistic values.

    Besides the natural scenery of the beautiful mountain and water scenery, the verdant ancient trees and the songs of the insects and birds, Jinci Temple also has resplendent and magnificent ancient architecture. The quality suggestive of poetry or paintings makes people do not want to leave. It is not only a component of the historical cultural heritages of our country, but also reflects the immense wisdom and creativity of the Chinese workers in ancient times. Jinci Temple is an ideal place for relaxation, entertaining, seeking for quiet places and exploring ancient relics.

    You will then be driven to the Pingyao train station, where you'll take a short train ride to the city of Taiyuan. At Taiyuan, you will transfer to the high-speed bullet train of D204 (19:11-22:28), and you will arrive in Beijing that night.

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