Archive for the ‘Pingyao Travel’ Category

The Best Place to See Sunrise in Pingyao Ancient City

Monday, January 6th, 2014
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Plan your Pingyao tour? If you have 2 days to spare after your Beijing tour,  you are advised to visit Pingyao Ancient City,  immersing yourself in an authentic China walled city which has been well preserved.  A side trip from Beijing to Ping Yao will tear you away from Beijing’s modernity and take you closer to a real and typical  Chinese architecture and culture, presenting you a vivid picture of China with its past and present.

While you are going to prepare your transport from Beijing to Pingyao and schedule your highlights in the Ancient City of Ping Yao, you may arrange an early morning picture taking of a sunrise over the old town if you are keen on shooting great Sunrise photos.

So check the local sunrise time for next day through online or offline search, then set a morning call for getting up earlier and shooting on time. Next, you will ask where the best site is to watch a sunrise over the ancient town. Needless to say, the higher place, the better to see a sunrise.  But early in the early morning, visitors are not allowed to ascend either the Market Tower in the center of the old city,  and nor to climb the towers atop the ancient city of Ping Yao.  So where is the best place to watch sunrise in Pingyao?

Last October, I did find a good place to take the pictures of the sunrise over the ancient city of Pingyao. Well, just follow me for a glimpse of a rising sun hanging up above the old town.

I stay at Harmony Hotel, just about 50m north of the southern Entrance Gate at the southern tip of the South Street inside Pingyao City.  I discover three points where you couls shoot good photos of sunrise.

Standing on a short wall below the massive wall west of the Southern Gate (outside)

So you are standing on the short wall,  you will have a great photo of the sunrise over the early risers doing morning excercises outside the Southern Gate of Pingyao Ancient City.

early risers doing morning excercises outside the Southern Gate of Pingyao Ancient City

early risers doing morning excercises outside the Southern Gate of Pingyao Ancient City

Standing below the Wall east of the South Gate (outside)

Another good place to photograph a good sunrise is below the wall east of the southern gate. At this point, you could shoot a perfect picture of a rising sun over the wall.

Standing inside the South Gate

The third good place to take a great photo of surise over the ancient city of Ping Yao is inside the South Gate.  The rising sun is appearing over the left shoulder of the multi-floor tower atop the South Gate.

The rusing sun is appearing over the left shoulder of the multi-floor tower atop the South Gate.

The rusing sun is appearing over the left shoulder of the multi-floor tower atop the South Gate.

Any questions, just drop a line.

How to Visit Zhangbi Village

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
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Plan your Pingyao tour? A side trip to Zhangbi Village is highly recommended. Zhangbi Village is located about 16km to the east of Jiexiu and 56km to the south of the ancient city of Pingyao. People visiting Pingyao often take a side trip to Zhangbi ancient village and Wang Family Courtyard.

Many guesthouses in Pingyao arrange  join-in or a private day tours bringing you to this castle-like ancient village. You may also use public transport from Pingyao Bus Station to Jiexiu Bus Station, then from Jiexiu, try to find a local bus running for Zhangbi Village. The entrance is RMB 60. Basically people need approx. 2 hours to visit the ancient castle of Zhangbi.

With high walls and castles above the ground and the three layers of tunnels underneath, Zhangbi Village (Zhangbicun) is often nicknamed as “Zhangbi Ancient Castle” or “Zhangbi Underground Castle.

Zhangbi Village is situated on the north foot of Mt.Mianshan with its other three sides being surrounded by deep gullies,  difficult for attrack and easy for defense. It is actually a tiny castle with a 1300m long and 10m wide city wall.  The 300m long main cobblestoned street  connects the south gate and the north.  All the courtyard houses along the main street have high walls. If all the doors were closed,  intruders would be easily kept off.

Unlike the touristy Pingyao ancient city, Zhangbi Ancient Village still remains untouched, residential and unimproved.  You will see a series of military defense network  above the ground and the fascinating series of the tunnels underneath.  The three layers tunnels with a length of 1500 meters are restored and open to the public.  An English speaking tour guide is compulsory in case you are lost.

The military part of the village was said to be originally built  in the year of 617AD by General Liu Wuzhou ( in late Sui Dynasty), a local king who led his army fighting against Li Shimin (Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty,  the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty of China).

Zhangbi Underground Castle is also well known for its religious sites and splendid architectures above the ground, which were said to be over 20 temples and among them still well preserved are Khan Temple, Guandi Temple, Xuanwu Temple,and Kongwang Ancestral Temple.

Zhangbi Village is a live showcase  for the vernacular dwellings and architectures in Shanxi represented by Kunxing Pavilion and local residential houses.

The most mysterious part of Zhangbi Village is its association with Chinese traditional astrology and geomancy. The whole ancient fortress follows the traditional principle five Yin and Yang elements.  Over 35 above ground buildings have been found corresponding  to the constellations.  The name of Zhangbi  derived from the 28th constellation – Zhang Xiu and Bi Xiu.

In a word, Zhangbi Village is a treasure trove of Chinese culture worth your two hours’s exploration.

Now please follow me to have a glimpse of this ancient and mysterious village of Zhangbi.

A side trip to Zhangbi often  follows your visit to Wang Family Courtyard, and the two sites are only 20km apart.  People would dine at the restaurant named Ancient Castle Restaurant by Zhangbi Village for lunch before start their two-hour exploration inside the village.

Ancient Castle Restaurant by Zhangbi Village

Ancient Castle Restaurant by Zhangbi Village

This restaurant makes a very delicious noodles known as “Baopi Noodle” ,  mixed flour with wheat and sorghum.

This restaurant makes a very delicious noodles known as Baopi Noodle ,  mixed flour with wheat and sorghum.

This restaurant makes a very delicious noodles known as Baopi Noodle , mixed flour with wheat and sorghum.

This is the south gate to the ancient village. The south gate is higher than the north gate due to its high terrain.  The gate is a solid stones paved tower with a stone archway and glazed tile eaves.

Just in front of the south gate is the Guandi  Temple dedicated to the Taoist God of War, Guan Di.

Just in front of the south gate is the Guandi  Temple dedicated to the Taoist God of War, Guan Di.

Just in front of the south gate is the Guandi Temple dedicated to the Taoist God of War, Guan Di.

Walking through the arch gate brings you back in time!

Walking through the arch gate brings you back in time!

Walking through the arch gate brings you back in time!

Ascending the stone steps inside the south gate takes you to the Khan Temple.

Ascending the stone steps inside the south gate takes you to the Khan Temple.

Ascending the stone steps inside the south gate takes you to the Khan Temple.

When Khan Temple was originally was still unknown.  Khan Temple was dedicated to Liu Wuzhou, a general in late Sui Dynasty.

Khan Temple was dedicated to Liu Wuzhou, a general in late Sui Dynasty

Khan Temple was dedicated to Liu Wuzhou, a general in late Sui Dynasty

One high platform in the compound of Khan Temple is the highest viewing point where you can have a bird’s-eye of the village.

 

One high platform in the compound of Khan Temple is the highest viewing point where you can have a bird's-eye of the village.

One high platform in the compound of Khan Temple is the highest viewing point where you can have a bird’s-eye of the village.

The entrance to the 1500-meter restored tunnels is inside the temple.

The entrance to the 1500-meter restored tunnels is inside the temple.

The entrance to the 1500-meter restored tunnels is inside the temple.

The three layers of tunnels look like a labyrinth.

 

The three layers of tunnels look like a labyrinth.

The three layers of tunnels look like a labyrinth.

The 300 meters long cobble stoned street is the main street in the village linking the south gate with the north gate.

The 300 meters long cobble stoned street is the main street in the village

The 300 meters long cobble stoned street is the main street in the village

All the courtyard houses along the main street have high and thick walls. If all the doors were closed,  intruders would be easily kept off.

All the courtyard houses along the main street have high and thick walls

All the courtyard houses along the main street have high and thick walls

Zhangbi Village is still  inhabited by over 400 villagers. They go on with their lives unaffected by visitors.

Zhangbi Village is still inhabited by over 400 villagers

Zhangbi Village is still inhabited by over 400 villagers

Behind the hugged trees on  the high platform is the Buddhist Temple known as Xinglong Temple.

Behind the hugged trees on  the high platform is the Buddhist Temple known as Xinglong Temple.

Behind the hugged trees on the high platform is the Buddhist Temple known as Xinglong Temple.

At the northern end of the north-south street is the Zhenwu Temple built in 1808 dedicated to Xuanwu and Wudang Mountain is his seat.

At the northern end of the north-south street is the Zhenwu Temple

At the northern end of the north-south street is the Zhenwu Temple

The  north gate is a barbican  (the double gate system).

Beside the main street,  on the east side the main street there are 3 lanes  and west side 4 lanes,where you may wander for more interesting finds – vernacular dwellings, temples and more.

An old section of the wall of the castle like village.

An old section of the wall of the castle like village.

An old section of the wall of the castle like village.

The courtyard with cave house style buildings.

Cave house style buildings

Cave house style buildings

Any questions, just drop a line.

How to Visit Wang Family Courtyard

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
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Plan your Pingyao tour? One day side trip to Wang Family Courtyard and Zhangbi Village is high recommended. Wang Family Courtyard in Shanxi is actually not a “courtyard”, it is a cluster of courtyards or castles. The huge Wang family compound used to have five castles, five lanes and five ancestral temples with an area of 250,000 square meters, much larger than the 150,000 square-meter Forbidden City in Beijing and Qiao Family Coutyard.

At the time ofmy writing, only three huge complexes of Wang’s grand courtyard are open to the public after restoration and renovation – Gaojiaya Castle, Red Gate Fort and Wang Clan Ancestral Temple. The three complexes accommodate 123 courtyards, 1118 rooms with an area of 45,000 square meters, the well preserved part of the quintessence of Chinese architectural art in Wang Family Courtyard, which took took about half a century (1762-1811) to build.

With a history of over 680 years, the Wangs have lived on for 27 generations throughout all the ups and downs. The Wang family had their heyday in the period of Qing Dynasty from 1661 to 1820. In the eighteenth century (in  the reign of Daoguang), Wang’s family gradually declined. In 1996 the last generation of the Wangs moved out of their age-old residence and the Grand Courtyard was opened to the public in 1997. This largest-existing folk residence cluster sits on the slopes of the hills. Layers of gardens and courtyard houses on different heights of the hills give the compound more levels and the hill more lively and glamour.

The courtyard style began in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100BC-771BC), with the halls in the front, the gardens and bedrooms at the back. The Gao Jia Ya and Red-Gate Castle have numerous courtyards and roomd built in the light of the Chinese traditional courtyard architecture.

Beside its exquisite courtyard architecture, Wang family grand compound boasts delicate and ornate brick, wood and stone carvings. Carving works can be seen almost anywhere in the compoud of the Wangs and each piece of the work is fine and ingenious. As an important part of the courtyard’s architecture art, the carvings demonstrate the artistic level of the time.

Wang Family Courtyard Travel Tips:

Open hours: 08:00 – 19:30 ( summer ); 08:00- 18:00 Open all year

Entrance Fee: RMB 66

Two diret buses go from Pingyao Bus Station starting 8:50am and 1.10pm for Wang Family Courtyard and returning at 12:40pm and 4:00pm from Wang Family Courtyard. Or you may first go to Jiexiu from Pingyao, then connect the local buses from Jiexiu to Wang Family Courtyard. A taxi rental costs about RMB 300 from and to Pingyao.

Well, please follow me to have a glimpse of the huge compound. For the normal travel rout, people would first visit the east compound of Gao Jia Ya, then move along the bridge to the west castle of Red Gate Castle, finally to the Ancestral Temple of Wang’s Clan.

This is the east gate to the Gao Jia Ya Castle. Two large red lanterns hung over from the gate tower and two smaller ones from the upturned eaves.

This is the east gate to the Gao Jia Ya Castle.

This is the east gate to the Gao Jia Ya Castle.

 

Rows of courtyard houses are laid out symmetrically. The courtyards were built under the principle conforming to social institutions and practicality.

Rows of courtyard houses are laid out symmetrically

Rows of courtyard houses are laid out symmetrically

A typical Chinese courtyard building with fine and exquisite wood and stone carvings.

A typical Chinese courtyard building with fine and exquisite wood and stone carvings.

A typical Chinese courtyard building with fine and exquisite wood and stone carvings.

A exquisite frame window, a horizontal wood inscribed board with a Chinese character “Double Happiness )

A exquisite frame window, a horizontal wood inscribed board with a Chinese character Double Happiness

A exquisite frame window, a horizontal wood inscribed board with a Chinese character Double Happiness

Stone piers at the door.

Stone piers at the door,

Stone piers at the door,

The courtyard style began in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100BC-771BC), with the halls in the front, the gardens and bedrooms at the back

 

the halls in the front, and bedrooms at the back

the halls in the front, and bedrooms at the back

A bridge connects Gaojia and Red Gate Castle

A bridge connects Gaojia and Red Gate Castle

A bridge connects Gaojia and Red Gate Castle

The Red Gate Castle is circled by a high city wall, comparable to the Great Wall in height and width.

The Red Gate Castle is circled by a high city wall, comparable to the Great Wall in height and width.

The Red Gate Castle is circled by a high city wall, comparable to the Great Wall in height and width.

This is a  labyrinth-like castle with numerous courtyard houses and lanes.

This is a  labyrinth-like castle with numerous courtyard houses and lanes.

This is a labyrinth-like castle with numerous courtyard houses and lanes.

Rows of courtyard houses cascade from the hills.

Rows of courtyard houses cascade from the hills.

Rows of courtyard houses cascade from the hills.

A screen wall stone carvings

A screen wall stone carvings

A screen wall stone carvings

 

A wooden bracket suppots the roof without nails.

 

A wooden bracket suppots the roof without nails

A wooden bracket suppots the roof without nails

The two flying eaves are in the form of dragon-heads.

The two flying eaves are in the form of dragon-heads.

The two flying eaves are in the form of dragon-heads.

A stone frame window

 

A frame window

A frame window

 

 

a cluster of Mythical figure tiles

a cluster of Mythical figure tiles

Walking on the city wall to have a bird-eye view of the courtyard houses.

Walking on the city wall to have a bird-eye view of the courtyard houses.

Walking on the city wall to have a bird-eye view of the courtyard houses.

 

From the wall, you can also have a glimpse of the cave dwelling

From the wall, you can also have a glimpse of the cave dwelling

Any questions, just drop a line.

 

 

The south gate to the Red Gate Castle

The south gate to the Red Gate Castle