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Overview

Pingyao emerged as a major cultural destination when Chinese director Zhang Yimou used an old courtyard complex here as the setting for his 1991 film Raise the Red Lantern. In 1997 the old town section of Pingyao made the UNESCO World Heritage list. Pingyao Ancient City is a Ming Dynasty walled city, finely preserved, its 600-year-old, four-mile-long city wall punctuated with six gates and 72 watch towers. Some 4,000 Ming and Qing dynasty residences are part of 30 major attractions, chief of which is the Rishengchang Exchange House, now a museum dedicated to Pingyao's legacy as China's main banking center. The old town also includes ...

Pingyao emerged as a major cultural destination when Chinese director Zhang Yimou used an old courtyard complex here as the setting for his 1991 film Raise the Red Lantern. In 1997 the old town section of Pingyao made the UNESCO World Heritage list. Pingyao Ancient City is a Ming Dynasty walled city, finely preserved, its 600-year-old, four-mile-long city wall punctuated with six gates and 72 watch towers. Some 4,000 Ming and Qing dynasty residences are part of 30 major attractions, chief of which is the Rishengchang Exchange House, now a museum dedicated to Pingyao's legacy as China's main banking center. The old town also includes the County Government Office (Yamen), its 300 rooms dating from 1346, and the Temple of the City God, decorated with graphic displays of Heaven and Hell. These two edifices lie on the east and west ends of Ming Qing Street (Nan Dajie), which is lined with shops, cafes, and old courtyard houses. Two nearby temples are also on the UNESCO list: Zhengou Temple, with its rare Five Dynasties architecture, and the massive Shuanglin Temple, with 2,000 Buddhist sculptures. Not to be misseed are the historic and well-preserved family merchant compounds just outside Pingyao. The Qiao Family Compound, with 300 rooms and 140 chimneys, is where Raise the Red Lantern was filmed. Other vast compounds now open to visitors include those built by the Wang, Qu, and Chang clans during the Ming and Qing dynasties when Pengyao ranked among China's most prosperous cities.

J.D. Brown
About the Expert

J.D. Brown is a contributor to Frommer's China and Frommer's Beijing, coauthor of Frommer's China: The 50 Most Memorable Trips, Berlitz Shanghai, Berlitz Singapore, and other books.

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J.D. Brown for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late spring and early autumn bring mild temperatures. Summers are hot and crowded with visitors, while winters are extremely cold.