Pingyao---The Representative of Ancient China


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Pingyao is a tiny ancient town located in central Shanxi Province, 100 kilometers away from Taiyuan-capital of the province. Originally built in the West Zhou Dynasty, it boasts a long history of over 2,700 years. As its sound preservation of urban landscape in China's Ming and Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was added to the UNESCO's World Heritage List in Dec. 31st 1997.

"Pingyao ancient city is the outstanding example of Chinese Han nationality cities during Ming and Qing Dynasties, remaining all features of such periods, Pingyao ancient city reveals a picture of unexpected cultural, social, economic and religious development in Chinese history." -World Relics Committee of UNESCO.

Pingyao was called the Ancient Tao before the Dynasties of Qin and Han. According to the Records of Pingyao County, it had been the manor of Yao, who was the king of a union tribe in ancient China. In the Period of Spring & Autumn, the Ancient Tao belonged to the Jin Kingdom and to the Zhao Kingdom later. The county system replaced the manor system when the First Emperor of Qin unified the whole country. The Ancient Tao was then set as the county location and changed name to Ping Tao. In early Northern Wei Dynasty, Ping Tao was renamed as Pingyao to avoid the pronunciation Tao, because the temporal Emperor was named as Tuoba Tao. According to ancient rules, name of emperor, high official, head of a family, or elder of a clan was regarded as taboo by his subjects or juniors.
There are three Key National Relics Protected Units in Pingyao, namely Pingyao City Wall, Shuanglin Temple, Zhenguo Temple.
Pingyao City Wall
With a total length of six kilometers, the city wall is about 12 meters tall and 3 to 6 meters wide on top. The wall is of compacted earth covered by bricks and stones. From a bird's eye view the rectangular wall resembles a tortoise. There are six city gates, one each on the north and south walls, and two each on the west and east walls. The south gate is the head of the tortoise, the two wells outside being the two eyes of tortoise. The north gate, the lowest place of the city, is the tail of tortoise. Traditionally the tortoise was considered a symbol of longevity, so through ancient times the hopes were that Pingyao Ancient City would be permanently secure. There are 72 watchtowers on the top of city wall and 3,000 external battlements.
Shuanglin Temple
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 temple consists of ten large and small halls, and the sutra chanting hall and the monks' rooms. The ten halls include the Heavenly Kings' Hall, the Arhats' Hall, the Mahavira Hall (Da Xiong Bao Dian), and the One-Thousand Buddha Hall, the Sakyamuni Hall, the Bodhisattva Hall, the Ti-tsang Bodhisattva Hall, the Guan Yu's Hall and two other halls.
Zhenguo Temple
Zhenguo Temple is famous for its building technique and the color-painted sculptures of the Five Dynasties. In terms of its building technique, the most representational is the Ten-Thousand-Buddha Hall, which is one of the three oldest timberworks in mainland China. In order to protect the Ten-Thousand-Buddha Hall from degradation under the eaves, a certain kind of large eave that is far longer and wider than the room itself was adopted when it was built. 'Dougong', a kind building technique, was applied to support the large eave.
The ancient city of Pingyao, lasting for more than 2,700 years, is almost as old as legends before the recorded history of Chinese nationality.

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