Ancient Cities in China — Invaluable Architectures, Cultures, and Histories in Picturesque Views

Here list some famous ancient cities in China, which are exceptional representatives of architecture, culture, aesthetic, religion, and custom.

 

These cities that were constructed a long time ago have witnessed rises and falls of countless families throughout history, preserved special characteristics of different regional cultures, and hold great architectural and cultural values.

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Ancient City of Pingyao

 

 

Pingyao, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, is the best representative of a traditional Han county-level city since the 14th century, an exceptionally preserved ancient town with great architectural, historical, and cultural values.

After having been rebuilt in 1370, Pingyao experienced its ups and downs, and once was the financial center of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The city wall and building complexes of Pingyao, however, barely changed much over time, which made it an invaluable cultural site that shows the culture, society, economy, and religion of a typical Han city during the Ming (1368 — 1644) and Qing (1638 — 1912) Dynasties. 

Alias: Pingyao, Pingtao, Turtle City. 

 

Location: Shanxi Province, Middle-North of China.

 

Area: 225 square kilometers, with over 4000 dwellings and shops inside the city wall. 

Tourist Attractions

 

  • City Wall of Pingyao, rebuilt in 1370, 6163 meters long and about 12 meters tall, is one of the best-preserved city walls in China.

  • Confucius Temple or Wen Miao of Pingyao, the most ancient Confucius Temple in China, whose main hall was rebuilt in the year 1163.

  • County Government or Xian Ya of Pingyao, the largest and best-preserved ancient county-level government in China.

  • Over 4000 dwellings and shops from Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912) in the city.

  • Rishengchang, the first draft bank (in Chinese is Piaohao) that was built in 1823, and other banks in the business streets of Pingyao.

  • Zhenguo Temple, whose main shrine and many sculptures date back to the Five Dynasties (907 — 960), is one of the most ancient, valuable existing timber structure building complexes in China. 

  • Shuanglin Temple, known as the “Oriental Art Gallery of Painted Sculptures”, has over 2000 painted sculptures of Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties (1271 — 1912) preserved inside.

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Huizhou in Anhui

 

 

Huizhou in Anhui is a well-preserved, ink-painting-style ancient city that developed the Huizhou Culture, one of the most important regional cultures in China.

 

Huizhou Culture or Hui Culture consists of Huizhou merchants, cuisine, architecture,  villages, carving art, Xin'an academy and philosophy (Xin'an Rationalism or Xin'an Neo Confucianism), education, and medicine, painting school, handicrafts, customs, dialects, and so on, most of which are preserved and presented in the ancient city of Huizhou.

Alias: Shezhou, Xin'an. 

 

Location: Anhui Province, Middle of China.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Ancient Huizhou style dwellings in towns and villages, and exquisite decorative arts like carvings. 

 

  • Archways or Pai Fang to praise achievement, filial piety, chastity, loyalty, righteousness, and so on.

 

  • Yuliang Dam or Yuliangba, Constructed in 1229, Important Water Conservancy Project.

 

  • Historical roads built by Huizhou merchants, for them to carry products out of the mountains.

 

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Dunhuang on Silk Road

 

 

Dunhuang used to be a garrison city on the northwest of the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD), a trade city along the Silk Road, and holy land for the dissemination of Buddhism. 

 

Therefore, Dunhuang is a city with exceptional military, historical, religious, economic, artistic, and cultural values, surrounded by the magnificent Gobi Desert and mysterious Yardang Landforms.

Alias: Shazhou, Shadu. 

 

Location: Gansu Province, Northwest of China.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, is the biggest Buddhism artistic palace with great religious and aesthetic values, which has over 700 cave temples, covered by 450,000 square meters’ murals, and preserved 2415 statues.

  • Ancient Passes, gates, city remains along the Silk Road, which used to be important military sites on the northwest border of the Han Empire. 

  • Mingsha Mountain or Echo Sands Mountain, which creates different types of hum in the endless Gobi Desert.

  • Moon Crescent Spring or Yueya Quan, a magnificent scenery since the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD).

  • Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark or Ghost City, a magnificent natural museum that was consisted of a series of Yardangs with different colors and shapes, and a place with mysterious sounds spread out when the wind is blowing.

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Jiuzhaigou by Zeng Yongqian.jpg

Jiuzhaigou

 

 

Jiuzhaigou, named after nine stockaded villages of Tibetan that have been living in this area in history, is a county inhabited by many minority ethnic groups of China, including Tibetan, Qiang, and Hui, etc. 

 

In the county is the Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is famous for stunning, colorful waterscapes, diverse ecosystems, picturesque terraces, and impressive karst views.

Alias: Nanping, Yangtong. 

 

Location: Sichuan Province, Southwest of China.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Tibetan Culture in villages of Jiuzhaigou, including architectural styles, religion, clothes, food, local festivals, and activities, etc.

 

  • Qiang Culture of the Taoping Qiang Stockaded Village, and their stone building complexes. 

  • Stunningly beautiful lakes and waterfalls, colorful forests, and magnificent snow mountains.

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lijiang by Shi Xiongfeng

Lijiang

 

 

Lijiang is a city in the southwest of China that is famous for the Old Town of Lijiang and stunning natural views, including magnificent snow mountains, lakes, and rivers.  

 

The Old Town of Lijiang, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, holds great architectural and cultural values, as a perfect blend of different ethnic groups throughout history.

Location: Yunnan Province, Southwest of China.

 

Area: 20600 square kilometers. 

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Ancient Building Complexes in Old Towns of Lijiang, Shuhe, and Baisha.

  • Mu Fu Mansion or Mufu, the palace of the native chieftain of Lijiang (the Mu clan) that ruled the Naxi people from 1253 to 1723. 

  • Black Dragon Pond or Heilong Tan or Yuquan Park, firstly built in the year 1737.

  • Yulong or Jade Dragon Snow Mountains.

  • Beautiful natural sceneries of Lugu Lake and Lashi Lake. 

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Ancient Town of Fenghuang

 

 

The Ancient Town of Fenghuang, constructed in 1556, is a well-preserved city that inhabited by 28 ethnic groups of China.

 

Besides historical building complexes, the cultures of these different ethnic groups, including architectural styles, religion, clothes, food, festivals, and activities, etc., are distinctive attractions of this city.

Alias: Fenghuang, Ancient Town of Phoenix. 

 

Location: Hunan Province, Middle-South of China.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Stilted Buildings or Diaojiaolou of Ancient Town of Fenghuang, and other ancient building complexes like ancestral halls, city walls, historic streets, temples, etc.

 

  • Tiaoyan or Stepping Stone, a series of stone piers placed in and connect two sides of the Tuojiang River, which has been used as a bridge for locals.

 

  • Miao Culture in villages and museums, including architectural styles, religion, clothes, food, local festivals, and activities, etc.

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Wuzhen Ancient Town

 

Wuzhen is a traditional water town of Jiangnan and a historical county, where ancient dwellings and bridges from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912) are surrounded by winding rivers.

Alias: Wushu, Wudun, Qingdun. 

 

Location: Zhejiang Province, East of China.

Area: 79 square kilometers.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Ancient dwellings and bridges, temples, and residences of famous historical figures along rivers. 

 

  • Exquisite architectural decorative arts, such as stone carving, wood carving, etc. 

 

  • Art gallery, museums, and theaters.