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City walls of Pingyao

Updated: 2013-05-15
( chinadaily.com.cn)

City walls of Pingyao

City walls of Pingyao.

The walls of the city of Pingyao, in the county of the same name, in Shanxi province were built during the Western Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-771 BC) and restored in 1370, the third year of the Hongwu emperor, in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the rammed-earth was replaced by brick and stone.

The wall is 6,400 meters long and is considered one of the four best-preserved city walls in China and, after Ming and Qing Dynasty repair work, it has kept its original design and structure. The city is laid out in a square pattern with walls about 12 meters high. The outer facing is brick, and there are battlements and a moat, four meters wide and deep.

From above, the wall configuration seems to resemble a tortoise. There are six gates: one in the north, one in the south, two to the west, and two, east. The tortoise head is the southern gate, where two old wells outside provide the eyes. So, the tail is the northern gate, the lowest place in the city, where wastewater could flow out.

The tortoise legs are the four east and west gates, which are symmetrical, with a portal that makes three of them face southward, so that the tortoise feet point forward, while the remaining east gate faces east, because, so the legend goes, people were afraid of the tortoise crawling away, so that foot was pointed in another direction.

This of course reflects the respect that people showed tortoises in olden times, thanks in part to their longevity, which made them sacred and hence the tortoise configuration, to keep the city and county rock solid and permanent. The wall has 72 watchtowers and 3,000 battlements, to represent China’s 72 wise men, for the one, and Confucius’s 3,000 disciples for the other.

Dining

Pingyao Wantuo

Wantuo, a type of noodle from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is one of Pingyao's local snacks with a long history.

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