Transforming Pingyao's historic courtyard homes

Story highlights

  • The ancient Chinese city of Pingyao has 4,000 private courtyard homes, with some dating back hundreds of years.
  • Since 2012, the local government has been providing assistance to homeowners to preserve these properties.
  • Visitors can stay in lodgings converted from these homes.

(CNN)A visit to Pingyao, in Shanxi province, feels like walking through a time capsule.

The 2,700-year-old city was once the renowned banking capital of China, as important in the latter part of the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912) as Wall Street is in the United States today.
While its financial power has faded, Pingyao's impressive architecture from that heady period, and before -- including its 3.7 mile-long (6 kilometers) city wall -- has remained remarkably intact.
    In fact, Pingyao, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, still has some 4,000 traditional Chinese courtyard homes, dating as far back as the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644).