We're famous!!!

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Flag of China  , Shanxi,
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

During the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was a financial center of China. Its history dates back 2,700 years, and is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the known world. It is still inhabited by 50,000 residents and is renowned for its well-preserved ancient city wall, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city is very popular with tourists; mostly Chinese but we have seen more Europeans in Pingyao than everywhere else in China combined. Despite the number of European tourists, however, we are famous in Pingyao... even more so that we were in Burma. Countless times we have been stopped as we stroll down the street or tuck into our lunch by Chinese tourists wanting their photos with us. 

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 city walls of Pingyao were constructed in the 3rd year of the Hongwu Emperor (1370) and are shaped like a turtle i.e. one gate on each of the North and South Walls and two gates on each of the West and East sides.  The wall is twelve metres thick at its base and twelve meters high.

Pingyao was the financial center of China in the late Qing Dynasty. During those times, there were as many as 20 financial institutions within the city, comprising more than half of total in the whole country. Among these is "Rishengchang," considered the first bank in China.

We splurged and paid 40 yuan (NZ$8) for an audio tour so we were able to make sense of the various historic buildings that we visited.  It was nice to actually understand what was going on for once!

We've stayed at two lovely guesthouses here, one with a traditional bed which was the width of the room (maybe the size of two king beds next to each other) and the other which was really cheap and when we checked in she told us had been fully booked prior to our booked, where we got a cell-like room on the top storey by ourselves which was lovely and quiet with a little window showing just how thick the walls were.

Today we headed to some attractions outside of town, the Wang Compound and the Underground Castle.

The Wang Compound was huge, spread across a small valley with a bridge between the two bits.  One of the bits had a huge wall around it.  Both were very old and extremely well preserved.  

We then had a lunch stop where we ordered a selection of random dishes off the menu for out table with the assistance of two Malay girls on the trip. Amazing pork dumpings!

The next stop was the underground palace which is a series of tunnels dug into the dirt up to 22 metres down!  It was cold going through the tunnels and odd to think that they weren't reinforced by anything!  Afterwards we had a tour of the town built on top of the tunnels which is built like a ying and yang symbol i.e. a town with an "s" shaped main street and two water pools at either end.

The temples in the town are built the opposite way from the rest of China due to the location of hills and gullys.  As a result they had to build up the ground to put a temple on to stop the fung shi coming of the mountains and flowing through town rather than staying in town.  They also have two peacock blue glazed tiles which are the only ones in China.  Apparently they no longer have the knowledge or skill to recreate them.

We have had a ball so far but we are really looking forward to arriving in beijing and settling down for more than 2 or 3 days. We plan on having 10 days to 2 weeks in beijing to organise our trip to Tibet, arrange our Iranian visas and do some sight seeing of course!
Now, its time to wave down a tuk tuk to go to the train station to grab our overnight train to Beijing. This time we couldn't get anything but hard seats as both hard and soft sleepers were sold out. It will either be a very productive night of reading or an uncomfortable night sleeping... time will tell!
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rosemary lewis on

Your trip sounds wonderful-so much to see & do. We are in Florida where it's not too hot, but quite sunny. Each afternoon we seem tot have a brief thunderstorm and lightning in the evening. A turtle has laid eggs on the beach in front of our apartment. Apparently they'll hatch in two months so there is s loose cordon around the spot.
It's great being with peter & Josie & the children. DAvid'd English is improving again and Sofia definitle knows how to ask for purple chocolates (Hershey's dark chocolate kisses). Love to you both.

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