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South Street in Pingyao |
South Street is the central axis of Pingyao in Shanxi Province, an ancient town with a history of more than 2,700 years, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. According to UNESCO, "The Old Town of Pingyao is an outstanding example of the Han cities in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and it retains the traditional features of these periods. Pingyao presents a picture of unusual cultural, social, economic, and religious development in Chinese history. "South Street is very much in the center of this picture.
In the mid Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), business was booming in Pingyao and there were 78 shops along South Street. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the street was home to banks, pawnshops, oil shops, grain shops, wood ware shops, hotels, clothing shops and dye workshops. All of this made Pingyao of one China's leading financial center. As the backbone of Pingyao, South Street was home to more than 50 percent of the country's financial institutions.
Present-day visitors to the 690-meter-long street can still feel the flourishing and prosperous atmosphere of those times. The traditional layout and the unique features of the street still remain. Buildings with traditional Ming-and-Qing-style architecture stand on both sides of the street and retain their original functions. Some time-honored brands such as "Changshengyuan", known as "Jushengyuan" in the Ming Dynasty, which sells rice wine and cake, still operate out of South Street.