Pingyao Ming City Walls - History and Facts | History Hit

Pingyao Ming City Walls

Pingyao, Shanxi, China

The Pingyao Ming City Walls are some of the best preserved Ming walls in China.

Peta Stamper

08 Jun 2021

About Pingyao Ming City Walls

The Pingyao Ming City Walls in China are some of the sole surviving fortifications of their kind. Built in around 1370 by the Ming Hongwu Emperor, these 39 foot walls span 6km in length and were one of the major factors in the decision to make the Ancient City of Pingyao a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.

The walls also feature on our list of the Top 10 Tourist Attractions in China.

Pingyao Ming City Walls history

The first walls surrounding Pingyao were built in 827 BC, as Shanxi bordered Eastern Mongolia. The city walls would have been built to prevent the Ming’s Mongolian enemies – the Tatars – from invading.

At the time when the Pingyao Ming City Walls as they are now were constructed in the 14th century, the city was an important banking centre. Pingyao was even the site of China’s first bank, the Rishengchang, which controlled almost half of China’s silver trade.

However, this success also led to Pingyao’s downfall in the Qing era when the ruling dynasty was forced to relinquish power when they failed to pay back loans. The Qing went bankrupt in 1914, just after the Xinhai Revolution. The banking industries then moved to places such as Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The walls contained 6 barbican gates, similar to the pattern of a turtle earning Pingyao the nickname ‘Turtle City’. The walls reached 12 metres high and had a total perimeter of 6,163 metres, surrounded by a deep moat 4 metres wide. The number of defensive structures – including 72 watchtowers and over 3,000 battlements – supposedly represented the number of Confucius’ disciples.

Pingyao Ming City Walls today

Extremely well preserved and still surrounding the city, Pingyao Ming City Walls are a must-see on any trip to China. Today you can climb the city walls, gaining a spectacular view of Pingyao both within and without the city gates much like its Ming guards would have had.

A ticket to climb the walls is included with a ticket into the Pingyao Ancient City, and is open between 8am and 7.30pm. Walking along the walls, it is easy to see the changes made throughout the centuries, and will take you around 2 to 4 hours to fully make your way around.

Getting to Pingyao Ming City Walls

Public transport is the easiest way of reaching Pingyao Ming City Walls. You can take a tourist bus from Taiyuan Railway Station at 6.30am, or get a bus from Taiyuan Jiannan Bus Station to Pingyao at 8, 9 or 10am. Alternately, catch the bullet train at Taiyuan South Railway Station to Pingyao, then get a taxi or the bus number 108 to Beimenkou then walk to the city walls.

Featured In

China Historic Sites

Discover China's rich history at these 10 sites across the country, from the ancient Terracotta Army to the birthplace of Mao Zedong.