China 2005

China 2005

 

PINGYAO

After a trip to the Summer Palace, we catch an overnight sleeper train to Pingyao, a once-prosperous town that fell into economic decline at some point, with the fortunate result that it has retained its many Ming and Qing dynasty buildings, and a complete 6.5 km city wall, unique in China.

City Wall, Pingyao

City Wall, Pingyao

 

PINGYAO AWAKES

Everything is in complete contrast to the modernity of Beijing. We arrive at 5.30 a.m. and start to walk around. As the sun rises over this ancient town, night-soil carts travel the narrow and cobbled streets, householders launch bowls of water into the road after their morning chores, stores with red lanterns and colourful painted signs begin to open up, cyclists make deliveries with their baskets of produce, pedestrians make their way to work, elders in a big circle perform their morning exercises near the city gate, children practise the violin in their courtyards.

Early morning, Pingyao

Early morning, Pingyao

Early morning, Pingyao

Early morning, Pingyao

 

PINGYAO
STREETS
AND
TEMPLES

Later, when the town has fully woken up, we walk on the city wall, and visit the world’s first bank and various temples. At one temple a play is performed, concerning a disobedient son who is taken by his long-suffering father to court, where he gets a drubbing for his just deserts. This greatly amuses the Chinese audience.

Judge in temple play, Pingyao

Judge in temple play, Pingyao

Incense burner, Taoist temple, Pingyao

Incense burner, Taoist temple, Pingyao

Dragon detail, Taoist temple, Pingyao

Dragon detail, Taoist temple, Pingyao

 

 

PINGYAO GUESTHOUSE

Our guesthouse in Pingyao is in an old building, with rooms leading off a courtyard. Our room is quite basic but full of character, with Chinese furniture and a traditional alcove bed. At one point, just as we are going to bed, a power cut strikes the whole town. With a torch at hand, this doesn’t affect us greatly although, with power still not restored the next morning, we are impressed at how the town comes to life just as normal.

Guesthouse exterior, Pingyao

Guesthouse exterior, Pingyao

Guesthouse interior, Pingyao

Guesthouse interior, Pingyao

 

HOTELS

Hotels on our holiday veer from Chinese-style guesthouses with lots of personality, to luxurious Western-style hotels like the Hyatt in Xi’an. It is, of course, the traditional ones that make the biggest impression. We occasionally watch TV in our hotel rooms, and are startled by the amount of advertising given over to hair care products. In a typical break, 6 out of 8 adverts are given over to shampoo, conditioner and the like. Hair care is a subtle sign of liberalisation that we notice throughout our visit. Many young women have varied and interesting hairstyles – dyed, curled, or otherwise attended to. We note that even stylish Chinese women aren’t immune from the occasional fright haircut.

City Wall, Pingyao

City Wall, Pingyao

Street market, Pingyao

Street market, Pingyao

Coal seller with his cart, Pingyao

Coal seller with his cart, Pingyao

Crossroads, Pingyao

Crossroads, Pingyao

 

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