Pingyao: Ancient City Walls
Shanxi province's Pingyao (山西平遥古城) is best known for its amazingly well-preserved ancient city wall, which was named to UNESCO's list of world heritage sites in 1997. The entire city of Pingyao within the city walls, and the walls themselves, have either been preserved or reconstructed to retain the air of its heyday as the country's financial center during the Qing Dynasty. The massive, moat-lined walls feature 72 watchtowers and are considered among the largest and best preserved examples of their kind. The city itself is vast, and visitors can easily spend days exploring hundreds of side alleys bearing small cultural treasures.
Of more contemporary interest, Pingyao is also home to the annual Pingyao International Photography Exhibition (平遥国际摄影大展) a world-class photography festival that draws master photographers from around the world. This year the exhibition is celebrating its 10th anniversary and will be held from September 19 to 25.
For all its splendor, a visit doesn't come cheap: As of this writing, standard admission is RMB120 (student and senior discounts apply), which includes entrance to 20 other scenic spots as well, although admission to the nearby Zhenguo and Shuanglin temples are charged separately. Pingyao is very tourist friendly and easy to navigate regardless of your level of Chinese.