The Wall Street of the East : Ancient City of Ping Yao

This is Ping Yao, a city in the Shanshi Province of China. The fortified town dates back to the Ming Dynasty. And remains intact. Ping Yao is a rare example of a city where remnants of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are well preserved. The townscape has remained unchanged for 600 years. Here, several traditional houses surround a garden they stand very close together.

During the Ming Dynasty, Ping Yang bustled with merchants. The city was full of shops packed with merchandise from across China. This is an old liquor house. The Chinese liquor known as Huang Jiu, or Yellow Liquor, is still produced here using traditional brewing techniques. The city became a centre for exchanging money during the Qing Dynasty. Banking boosted development. Ping Yang became known as the Wall Street of the East.

This is the Ri Sheng Chang building, or Sunrise Property, founded in 1823. It was the first draft bank in China. The founder Lei Lutai worked as an accountant for a local dye shop. He started to use a draft payment method instead of cash to settle payments with distant business partners. Merchants – by using this method – were freed from the risks and burdens of carrying cash. The draft certificate had watermarks to prevent forgery. The banks safe was placed beneath this fenced area. A ladder was used to deposit and withdraw cash.

Those who became wealthier built luxurious houses and high walls to protect their homes. The courtyard here is surrounded by four buildings. The architectural style is known as Four Section Compound. A wealthy familys home might even have two or three courtyards. Financiers in Ping Yao gained influence. Some even handled Qing government finances But, after the fall of Qing Dynasty, their power declined and the city with it. Ping Yao today has a vibrant tourist industry. The city walls – bequeatherd by merchants past – are a valuable asset.

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