A Guest Blog by Holly Melton:
We had three delightful days in the ancient city of Pingyao, Shanxi Province. Reminding us a bit of Rothenberg, Germany, it is a walled city enclosing 3,750 well-preserved buildings. It survived the destruction from the Warring States period, due to a particularly strong warlord and from the Cultural Revolution due to a strong local government.
So fun to stay in our hotel – Tian Yuan Kui Guesthouse. A local hotel made from several traditional courtyards put together, the pathways through the courtyards were lovely and our room oozed quaintness. Below is the outside of the hotel at night, our room, and a shot down the street from the hotel front door. If you are tall, be sure to stay her – the bed was so big that I couldn’t touch both ends at the same time. We also enjoyed having the best wifi connection since we left Vancouver – able to Skype with my daughters(when our times aligned) and poke around on Pinterest.
Among Pingyao’s several claims to fame, are the earliest temple of Confucian learning (built 1,300 years ago) and the site of the first draft bank in China. The draft bank was interesting – below is the “vault” where the valuables were kept. A bed was placed over it and someone slept there every night – literally guarding it with his life.
Vault in the floor of the Ping Yao Draft Bank:
While pretty during the day, Pingyao was magical to wander around at night. I didn’t buy one of the lamps, but boy was I tempted.
Commerce is alive in Pingyao – mostly directed at the Chinese tourists, as it is not on the radar of most European and American travelers. I am including this photo for my dear neighbor, Maryann Lange. Many shops had these looms out front and where selling their hand-woven shawls for 15 yuan (about $2.50 U.S.). Colorful and intriguing, the small food stores had these large urns filled with vinegar and local liquor – you would bring your container from home to have them filled from the urns. Our guide told us that the liquor was similar to Kentucky White Lightening
Outside of Pingyao, we also visited the Wang family complex. Built over many years, it is huge – here’s a photo with only 1 of the 3 enclosed areas – all connected by bridges. Ancestry worship was a huge theme here – something I knew little about. China has 3 – 4 family names that dominate last names. If you have 5 people together, at least one of them will be named Wang.
Finally, we visited the Zhangbi Underground Castle. It is a walled fortress with underground tunnels used for military defense. (See Mark in the lookout Pagoda) The military could retreat into the tunnels. There were rooms (small niches really) for sleeping, storage, offices, horses, and traps for any aggressors who dared to enter the tunnels. So nice and cool in the tunnels during our visit, but must have been awful without the added electric lights to see around you.
Our guide, Johnny, showing us a map of the tunnel system
A local tour guide had to be hired to take us through the caves, to prevent us and our general tour guide from becoming lost in the tunnels. Here I am with the local tour guide.
A lovely 3 days in Pingyao!