Pingyao (平遥) and Mian Shan (绵山)

PIngyao, Shanxi Province

Pingyao, an ancient 14th century Chinese city, was captured through the lens of Laowaiblog photographer, Yonathan Scharf

The story of how I got to visit Pingyao (平遥) and Mian Shan (绵山) is a bit amusing. It all started with those annoying chain letters containing powerpoint slides. I normally disregard such chain letters, but this time the sender convinced me to take a look, and I’m really happy I did.

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The slides contained pictures of Mian Shan – a beautiful mountain and nature reserve in Shanxi province that offers many hiking routes and tens of Taoist temples, some of them hang in mid-air (悬空寺 – Xuánkōngsì). As I started to investigate the whereabouts of Mian Shan, I discovered it is comfortably located a 1.5 hour drive from the ancient city of Pingyao.

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Pingyao, which was built in the 14th century, is a UNESCO world heritage site and is well renowned for its well preserved ancient city walls. It still retains its city layout from the Ming and Qing dynasties, conforming to a typical bagua pattern. One of the most amazing facts about Pingyao is that more than 300 sites in or near the city have ancient ruins and that preserved Ming and Qing-style residences number close to 4,000, a rarity in China.

Since the streets and storefronts in Pingyao still largely retain their historical appearance, it is definitely worth a visit. For those among you who cannot visit Lijiang (in Yunnan province), another famous imperial city, Pingyao offers a reasonable substitute and is relatively close to the capital – only a 7 hour train ride from Beijing (715 km).

After a couple of days of planning, I packed my gear, gathered my girlfriend and a group of friends and headed out to Pingyao and MianShan.

Enjoy the view.

Photos by Yonathan Scharf and Hadar Shamli. For more pictures by Yonathan Scharf, click here