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Thursday, February 27, 2014

PINGYAO -THE CHINESE BANKS - A MAJOR ATTRACTION IN CHINA


A banker in middle age Pingyao. Pingyao offers a wonderful experience back in time.

(Continues from PINGYAO - A MEDIEVAL TOWN IN THE HEART OF CHINA)

Pingyao is on the railway line connecting Beijing to Xian, although not all the trains stop in Pingyao and the ones who do stop are usually fully booked well an advance.

Pingyao is an historic town in China famous for its wonderful medieval walls and for its historic banks and courtyards (Read more about Pingyao history on PINGYAO - A MEDIEVAL TOWN IN THE HEART OF CHINA #1 and PINGYAO - A MEDIEVAL TOWN IN THE HEART OF CHINA #2)

Pingyao grew and prospered as a financial centre in medieval times and everything left today of any importance in the town is related to  that time and those vocation.

Pingyao prospered as a trade centre for its position half way to many economically active towns in China and if you are visiting China you should be absolutely sure not miss a visit to Pingyao.
You will never forget this town in your life!

The beautiful facades of the typical Chinese buildings in the old town of Pingyao are the entrance to wonderful and elegant houses and offices, with richly decorated courtyards and rooms: they were the first medieval banks of the Chinese history.

This is the main and most unique attraction in Pingyao.

In this post, below, we are going to explore this wonderful courtyards and buildings so famous in Pingyao and in China.



A typical entrance to a Chinese medieval bank in Pingyao.

A wonderful courtyard of one of the many banks in Pingyao. 

One of the many parades in Pingyao remembering the times when the town was one of the richest in China.


Ri Scheng Chang Bank

Ri Scheng Chang Bank was one of the most important banks in Pingyao and in China till it declines when Shanghai and Hong Kong took over as financial centres in China.

With a cumulative ticket you can visit the historic offices of Ri Scheng Chang Bank in Pingyao dating back to middle age.

Like the other major old bank in Pingyao (Xe Scheng Chao), the Ri Scheng Chang Bank has a very complicated structure.

Both Ri Scheng Chang Bank and Xe Scheng Chao have an impressive and elegant facade expressing unlimited richness and power.

Inside both banks have very elegant open courtyards from where it is given access to the different rooms of the banks.

In the courtyard were usually kept the weapons used by the private soldiers hired by the banks to the defend the two Pingyao branches.

Both Ri Scheng Chang Bank and Xe Scheng Chao  had their own private armies also to serve as escorts when transporting money and gold from one town to another in China.

So each bank has some rooms reseved to the use of the private army and similar in fashion and furniture as barracks.

Ri Scheng Chang Bank and Xe Scheng Chao also hosted the Head of Bank apartment, a small house, little more than two rooms, richly decorated in comparison with the rooms reserved to the other officers and clerks.

Everyone who worked in Ri Scheng Chang Bank and Xe Scheng Chao lived and had his house (or it would be better to say: bedroom) inside  the bank too, for reasons of security and also to be available at any time, night and day.

The most elegant and rich rooms were reserved to be used as guest rooms for the use of the important clients visiting the bank.

Given the long distances from town to town, normally the clients enjoyed some rest and sojourned few days in Pingyao. 


This made of Pingyao a vital centre for communications and a very important place for exchanging information and trading.

Hui Wu Lin Palace

What is more impressive in visiting the old medieval Ri Scheng Chang Bank and Xe Scheng Chao in Pingyao is to realize how, when Europe was deeply in medieval times, in China banks had already built a complicated net of branches spreading from India to Arabia and up to the wild regions of Mongolia.

Messenger, heavily escorted, where sent from Pingyao North and South all over Asia.

This made of Pingyao a vital centre for communications and a very important place for exchanging information and trading.


The exercise of the private army soldiers in a very old and
beautiful panel at  Hui Wu Lin Palace.
The wonderful buildings in Pingyao, the richness of its courtyards and the majesty of its walls has to be certainly related to Pingyao international importance at the time and a vocation for hospitality and cultural exchanges.

All this was possible only if the banks and the city of Pingyao could enjoy a high level of security.

Having this well in the mind, Hui Wu Lin Palace has to be visited.

Hui Wu Lin was a hostel and a place for training for the mercenaries hired by the banks such as Ri Scheng Chang Bank and Xe Scheng Chao to protect their buildings and their cargoes.

The courtyards of Hui Wu Lin Palace exhibits a very interesting history of Chinese martial arts.


The beautiful court of Hui Wu Lin Palace


The court yard designated for the practice of the martial arts in Hui Wu Lin Palace

Martial arts were an essential skill for the private armies employed in Pingyao to the defends the banks, the town and the messengers running all over China.

Hui Wu Lin Palace was used a training centre and it still has today a large collection of weapons including axes, batons and swords.

In the main courtyards regular fighting were hosted to keep the guards well trained and improve their fighting skills.

Tournament of bow and cross bow were also played and Hui Wu Lin Palace quickly became a famous and busy meeting point from private soldiers from all over Asia.

You can almost feel the important of Hui Wu Lin Palace today visiting its rich courtyards and rooms and admiring the little details and inscriptions all over the building. 

You should not absolutely miss to visit Hui Wu Lin Palace if you are visiting Pingyao, I think it is one of the most interesting buildings in town.

Two more wonderful buildings you should absolutely visit: The House of Pingyao Milionaire Hon and The first armed escort agency in China.

The House of Pingyao Millionaire Hon

The House of Pingyao Millionaire Hon offers a wonderful example of the rich buildings that these private armies hired by the banks in Pingyao has to defend.

We have already wrote about the wonderful buildings of Pingyao, but there are two more wonderful buildings you should absolutely visit: The House of Pingyao Milionaire Hon and The first armed escort agency in China.

Observing the House of Pingyao Milionaire Hon and the many other rich buildings in Pingyao I started to make some generalizations:

1) The main colour of the facades in the elegant buildings is black, in contrast with the red of the lanterns, the golden and the white.

2) The most important rooms of the rich buildings in Pingyao are usually situated at the end of the courtyards opposite to the entrance. Obviously being the rooms more distant from the entrance, they were also the rooms more easy to defend in case of an attack.

3) The rooms at the side of the courtyard are reserved to the servants, the assistants and the clerks. The ceilings here are usually lower.

The House of Pingyao Milionaire Hon expresses luxury in everything is there: the furniture, the windows, the facade: everything is decorated with wonderful miniatures.

It is as if the richness has to be expressed and shown at every cost.

In a way is a custom that it is present in China today (and not only in China): rich houses in China should be clearly visible, outstanding and shining (visit for example the rich quarter of Qibao in Shanghai and you will have exactly the same feeling).

The first armed escort agency in China.


The first armed escort agency in China.

The first armed escort agency in China is a huge building with a facade similar to the others.

A wonderful collection of weapons is the most interesting collection in Pingyao.

The first armed escort agency in China collects weapons, flags and coaches used by the soldiers of the private army to escort the treasures from town to town.

Some reproductions of the most importants treasures are exhibited in The first armed escort agency in China.


The first armed escort agency in China is extremely interesting to visit because it offers a deep insight in a medieval organization that looks so modern and catual today.

Not much is different from the orgnization of a private security company today.


The Taoist Temple in Pingyao


The Taoist Temple in Pingyao has beautifully carved wood statues.
The Taoist Temple in Pingyao has beautifully carved wood statues. Two armoured giants are defending the entrance of the temple.

Inside a large courtyard with a large rosetum opens around the sancta sanctorum of the The Taoist Temple in Pingyao, where three giant deities bairded and moustached stand with their imposing size, for some incense sticks to be costly burned in their honour and devotion.

It is extremely spctacular and no doubt worth a visit.


Visiting The Confucian Temple in Pingyao you can appreciate another side
of the importance and richness of the city.


The Confucian Temple

The Confucian Temple is even grander than the Taoist Temple.

The courtyard its huge and the long chain of red and yellow ex voto nearly endless.

It is extremely interesting and inspiring. 

Visiting The Confucian Temple in Pingyao you can appreciate another side of the importance and richness of the city.

The Confucian Temple is richly and expensively decorated, showing that great sponsor had participated to the construction and development of this important religious site.

Wonder around the courtyards and enjoy the inspiring gardens with secular plants and trees and notice how many devotional red ribbons are left outside the temples.

Thousands of red ribbons ornate the large courtyard like ex voto, they are simply amazing, 

Finally few words for the chamber of commerce museum.

Two lobbies existed one time:

1 - the guild an association made by the merchants of the same goods

2 - the assembly made by merchants of the same town.

Both lobbied to secure influential places in the interest of their trade,

It is interesting to note that under the current Communist regime the chamber of commerce become an association to maintain and improve the trade business, but not much is changed from the times of medieval Pingyao.

If you want to read more about Pingyao read also:

PINGYAO - A MEDIEVAL TOWN IN THE HEART OF CHINA #1 

and 

PINGYAO - A MEDIEVAL TOWN IN THE HEART OF CHINA #2)


Are you planning to visit

China?


Project where you can find the list of all of my posts and the destinations covered in this blog in China.

Read also the page Visit China and the page What to know before to travel to China.








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