The Pingyao ancient town is one of the four largest ancient cities in China. Located in the Pingyao county of Shanxi province in China, it can trace its roots back to the Zhou Dynasty (827BC-782BC).
One of the most important landmarks in Pingyao is the Rishengchang Exchange Shop, located in the center of the city. It is the first “bank” in China's history, and also known as the ”Father of Chinese Banking”. It was once the lifeblood of the nation's economy in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), with more than 30 branches throughout the country. This bank used privately issued bills of credit or exchange notes instead of gold and silver, allowing it to be used for business transactions.
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.Mark Twain
The history of Pingyao beef dates from the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-8 A.D.). In the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) Dynasties, Pingyao beef became the symbol of Pingyao. In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911), Dynasties Pingyao beef really hit its stride. The most famous brand is "Guan Yun". The chairman of the Pingyao Beef Group said that the essential ingredients of Pingyao beef are slice of beef and a handful of salt, no other seasonings matter. It is said that the origin of Pingyao Beef began when a stingy butcher had some beef that had gone bad. Unwilling to just throw the meat away, he added a lot of salt to it and boiled it. He was shocked at how wonderful the beef had become. Originally beef that had gone bad was used in creating Pingyao Beef, but today only fresh beef is used.
Another famous dish in Pingyao is Wantuozi. It was created by the famous cook Dongxuan. Wantuozi is made from wheat or buckwheat flour which is mixed with salted water until it becomes a dough. More salted water and rapeseed oil are added to thin the batter. The batter is then steamed. It can be served cold, or stir-fried with potatoes or yams.
Kao Lao Lao
Not to forget my own personal favorite, Kao Lao Lao, which are large noodles, and I mean large served with two dipping sauces.
While in Pingyao we stayed in a wonderful small hotel, the Xiangshengyuan Guest House. The hotel was on a quite street in the old town and the location was perfect.
One evening we saw Youjian Pingyao an incredible interactive and very immersive theatre performance piece. It is beautifully designed and choreographed, and combines all kinds of performing and visual arts in a great location, with modern technology and great performances, to show the history of Pingyao, its people and the legacy of their ancestors. This is a must see live show when you are in Pingyao. The audience soon becopmes a part of the performance and together with the beautiful scenes, music and the wonderful story it makes for a great evening.
Looking back on our trip, Pingyao was my favorite city that we visited. I could easily have stayed a week to visit some of the old buildings and explore their hidden courtyards. While we were visiting they were hosting the Pingyao International Photography Festival with entries from 2000 photographers and 23 countries. This was the 18th year for this event.