|Pingyao Ancient City|
Jinzhong is home to the Jin Shang (businessmen of Shanxi), who have played an important role in Chinese commerce. Lying in the east-central part of Shanxi Province, it stands at the foot of the Taihang Mountains. It adjoins Taihang Mountains to the east, Taiyuan (the capital of Shanxi Province) across the Fenhe River to the west, Changzhi to the south and Yangquan to the north. It covers an area of 16,408 sq km and has a population of 3.13 million as of 2008.
The city is a transportation hub for Shanxi Province. All the Taiyuan-Jiaozuo Railway, the Yangquan-Shexian Railway and the Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan Railway run through the city. The Taiyuan-Jiuguan Highway, the Datong-Yuncheng Highway, the Taiyuan-Changzhi Highway, State Highway 108, State Highway 208, State Highway 207 and State Highway 307, and 12 province-level highways make up the comprehensive highway network in the city. Taiyuan Wushu Airport is situated 15 km from the city center of Jinzhong.
The history of Jinzhong can be traced back to thirty thousand years ago. In the late years of the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC), cities and towns had taken shape in this area. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC), county level administrative units started to be established in Jinzhong. Since the Eastern Han Dynasty (25AD-220AD), shires and prefectures have appeared. Historically, this region was usually subordinate to Taiyuan, Fenzhou or other prefectures. Then counties and shires were set up there subsequently.
During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the businessmen of Jin set up businesses throughout China, even in Japan, Russia, Mongolia and regions in West Asia. Jinzhong is the origin place of China's financial industry. In 1824, the first financial institution of China, "Rishengchang" bank, was set up in Jinzhong.
Jinzhong has great many scenic spots. The Ancient City of Pingyao has a history of over 1,500 years. It is also called the "turtle city", because turtles are a symbol of longevity.’ Pingyao Ancient City is one of the best preserved examples of a walled city in China and is located 100km (62 miles) south of Taiyuan. In 1997 it was named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city was at its peak during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and the walls and design of Pingyao are typical of the symmetrical layout of cities of the era. The narrow streets, courtyards and rooftops are particularly attractive and are authentic examples of Ming and Qing dynasty (1644-1911) architecture. If the beautiful streets of Pingyao seem familiar it may be because Zhang Yimou "Raise the Red Lantern" was filmed here.
Pingyao square city walls are in excellent condition and were built in 1370AD as a final defense should invaders have overcome the Great Wall. Surrounding the city for 6km (4 miles), the walls are 5 meters (16ft) deep and 12 meters (40ft) tall and watchtowers located at every corner and at 50 meter (164ft) intervals ensured the security of the town. Other sites of interest in the ancient city include the Rishengchang Bank. Established in the early 19th century, it played a key role in the development of China financial system and pioneered the use of paper checks as a form of payment. Pingyao Tian Ji Xiang Museum has a small collection of exhibits illustrating the city history and the Bell Tower is a good example of classic Han northern Chinese architecture.
|Qiao Family's Courtyard|
Qiao Jia Da Yuan (the Qiao Family's Courtyard) was built in 1756 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is located sixty kilometers (37.3 miles) south of Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi, and about twenty kilometers (12.4 miles) north of Pingyao. The buildings have been well maintained despite the fact that the Qiao's family had lost their influence by the 1940's.
The Courtyard was originally the home of the influential Qiao family. It was built by bean curd and tea merchant, Qiao Guifa, in the late 1700s and is well preserved. With their successful businesses, the Qiao family enjoyed a prestigious status in the Qing Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796). One of the members of the family traveled around the country and even to foreign countries, which made Qiao's business nationally influential.
This is the best known of the family courtyard in this area because it is the site where the Zhang Yimou's film "Raise the Red Lantern" was filmed. Other films have also been made there. The building covers an area of 8,000 square meters and consists of six main courtyards and 19 smaller ones, with 313 rooms altogether. From a pavilion on the south-western corner one can have a bird’s eye view of the entire compound.
The inner courtyards and passages of Qiao's Compound were designed in the shape of the Chinese character "Shuangxi", which means double happiness in English. The roofs of the rooms are shaped like waves and mountain peaks. As one enters through the main gate, an eighty-meter (about 262 feet) long paved path leads to the main hall, at the western end of which, is the ancestral temple of the family. This path divides the compound into two parts: the Southern Yard and the Northern Yard. The Southern Yard is further divided into three sections respectively called the Southeast Yard, the South Yard and the New Yard. The three subdivisions of the Northern Yard are respectively called the Old Yard, the Northwest Yard and the Study Yard. The given names reflect the location of the yards within the compound. Another important feature of the compound is the fact that the roof of every house is connected. This makes it easier for guards to protect the yard. What's more, the 140-plus chimneys on the roof all vary from each other in their design. The Qiao Compound gained its renown not only for its large scale but also for the exquisite craftsmanship reflected in the brick carving, woodcarving and murals.
Jinzhong has many characteristic local dishes, such as Guan Chang (a kind of floor food eaten with different-flavored sauces), Bean-Curd, and Pearl Soup (made of green beans and rice)
Enjoying a temperate continental monsoon climate, Jinzhong has dry and chilly winters, torrid and wet summers. Its annual average temperature falls to around 9 degrees centigrade (48.2 degree Fahrenheit). On the whole, its rainfall is mainly concentrated in summer. As to the spatial distribution, the rainfall in southeast Jinzhong is more than that in the northwest.Autumn is the most ideal period to visit Jinzhong.