Pingyao: the living ancient city



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Texas Tech University


Pinyao is a city in China standing in the middle of Sanxi Province, about 350 miles southwest of Beijing. The city is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century. Its urban fabric shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China over five centuries. In 1997, Pingyao was listed in the World Heritage List from United Nation's Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO).

For decades, Pingyao's relics were essentially protected by default, because citizens lacked the funds necessary to modernize their city. Beyond the physical heritage of the city, intangible heritage like the everyday life, food and workmanship makes the city even more unique.

It is the integrality that makes the city so fragile. Lacking the mature preservation system and methods, problems continue to exist. The conflicts between daily living qualities improvement and keeping traditional life style, tourism and preservation are becoming vehement. Tourism can improve the average income of the people, but the government should avoid turning Pingyao into a tourism town. This city should always remain as a happy home for local residents instead of a big Disney World. Today, as economy of China booms, the city of Pingyao is threatened by redundant economic and tourism development. To balance preserving and developing is the most urgent problem to be solved.

As the tourism in Pingyao booms, a careful development plan is very important. A well controlled and managed tourism plan is the prerequisite of Pingyao's health development. The Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats (S.W.O.T.) analysis transformed from economic and management theory is very useful in understanding the city's advantages and shortcomings that help making right decisions.