Ping Yao 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. Of special interest are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which Ping Yao was the major centre for the whole of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Ping Yao region has been settled by humankind since Neolithic times. There has been an urban settlement on the site of the nominated property since at least the Western Zhou Dynasty, since it was fortified with earthen ramparts during the reign of King Xuan (827-782 BC). With the implementation of the system of prefectures and counties in 221 BC, Ping Yao became the seat of a county administration, and continues to play that role.
In 1370, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Hong Wu, the city was greatly extended. It was fortified with a massive new defensive wall in masonry and brick and the internal layout was greatly altered, reflecting the strict rules of planning of the Han peoples.
Since that time it has evolved steadily as a Han city during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It emerged as one of the leading commercial cities in northern China during the 16th century, and retained that status well into the present age. In the second half of the 19th century the banking community of Ping Yao dominated Chinese financial life.