Pingyao's old town is typically considered the best ancient walled city in China. Located in Shanxi Province, northen China, Pingyao is a significant Ming Dynasty walled city, with one of the few walls in China remaining intact and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city has a 2700 year history. It was the center of China's modern Banking system from 1825, however with the collapse of the Qing Dynasty the banking and finances were transferred to Shanghai and Hong Kong which turned the city into a backwater, saving it from development and preserving its character. The cities' wealth of Chinese traditional buildings include courtyard houses,historic bank courtyard buildings, and more than 3000 historic shops.
Nearby is perhaps China's most famous courtyard complex---"Wangs Great Courtyard" known as the "Forbidden City of Shanxi" a distinctive statement of Qing Dynasty civilian architecture that includes 123 large and small courtyards with 1118 rooms with an area of 45,000 sq.m. The surrounding countryside quite distinctive but clearly climate change in the last 1500 years has affected this area and reduced its richness from the onetime cradle of Chinese civilization.