On a green carpet through time

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In the courtyard you can get a feel of the lifestyle of Shanxi merchants in ancient times and admire the intelligent design that made their lives comfortable and safe, as well as the beauty of the intricate carvings of buildings.

In Qiao's Grand Courtyard there are also displays of all kinds giving visitors an insight into a family's daily life and a business empire. In more recent times Qiao's courtyard was where the film director Zhang Yimou shot his award-winning film Raise the Red Lantern.

Another courtyard nearby, Wang's Grand Courtyard, which was first built more than 300 years ago, showcases what life was like for a family that emerged as successful merchants and eventually became government officials.

Wang's Grand Courtyard is not as well known as Qiao's Grand Courtyard, but it is about five times bigger and is more exquisitely designed and better preserved.

If you want to delve even deeper into history, the place to go to is Xiangfen county in Linfen, about 160 kilometers south of Pingyao, where the Taosi Ruins are located.

These are believed to have been the location of the capital of legendary Emperor Yao.

As you travel to these historic spots it is impossible to miss the natural beauty of the countryside that separates them. About 70 km southwest of Pingyao is Mianshan Mountain, one of the most popular scenic areas in China.

Mianshan, about 2,500 meters above sea level, is a paradise for those who love nature and ancient temples. In addition to plants and waterfalls, spotting a monkey will underline how far away from big-city living you are.

Not far from Mianshan is Zhangbi village, where visitors can learn about ancient Chinese ancient astrology, and there is a tunnel that was used for military defense.

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