City Walls of Pingyao Constructed

Pingyao (Chinese: 平遥; pinyin: Píngyáo) is a Chinese city and county in central Shanxi province, China.

It lies about 715 km from Beijing and 80 km from the provincial capital, Taiyuan. During the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was a financial center of China. It is now renowned for its well-preserved ancient city wall, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city walls of Pingyao were constructed in the 3rd year of the Hongwu Emperor (1370). The walls have six barbican gates. The north and south sides have one gate each. The east and west sides have two gates each. This pattern is similar to that of a turtle (the head, tail, and four legs), earning Pingyao the moniker "Turtle City." The walls measure about 12 meters high, with a perimeter of 6,000 meters. A 4-meter wide, 4-meter deep moat can be found just outside the walls. Aside from the four structured towers at the four corners, there are also 72 watchtowers and more than 3,000 battlements. In 2004, part of the southern walls collapsed but were reconstructed. However, the rest of the city walls are still largely intact and are considered among the best-preserved ancient city walls on this scale. This makes the city walls the centerpiece of the Heritage Site.

Being one of the four wholly-protected ancient cities in China, Pingyao Ancient City is thought of as the 'treasure house' of ancient Chinese architectures. (The other three are Langzhong Ancient City, Shexian County and the Old Town of Lijiang. Pingyao Ancient City is situated in the south of Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province, the history of its original construction dating back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th Century BC -771BC ) and later being enlarged in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) for defense reasons.

Among the 'Three Treasures' of Pingyao, the City Wall is rated highest, the other two being Zhengguo Temple, and Shuanglin Temple. Although there has been repeated renovations, the city walls, streets, shops, temples and other buildings are still in a very good condition.

With a total length of six kilometers (about four miles), the city wall is about 12 meters (about 40 ft) tall and 3 to 6 meters (about 10-20 ft) wide on top. The wall is of compacted earth covered by bricks and stones. From a bird's eye view the rectangular wall resembles a tortoise. There are six city gates, one each on the north and south walls, and two each on the west and east walls. The south gate is the head of the tortoise, the two wells outside being the two eyes of tortoise. The north gate, the lowest place of the city, is the tail of tortoise. Traditionally the tortoise was considered a symbol of longevity, so through ancient times the hopes were that Pingyao Ancient City would be permanently secure. There are 72 watchtowers on the top of city wall and 3,000 external battlements. It is said that the 72 watchtowers represent 72 people of great wisdom, the 3,000 battlements the 3,000 disciples of Confucius.