Pínglè Old Town

Historic Site in Central Sichuan

A popular subject of paintings for Chinese art students, this ancient river village began as a way-station on the southern Silk Road more than 2000 years ago. Many of the wooden buildings have been rebuilt, but some date to the Ming and Qing dynasties and locals still live among the ever-multiplying trinket shops.

The town’s most venerable inhabitants are its banyan trees, a dozen of which are more than 1000 years old. The most charming of old stone passageways, Fúhuì Street Water Gate (福惠街水门; Fúhuì Jiē Shuǐmén), leads down to the river where you can lounge on a bamboo chair and sip tea (¥20 to ¥50). Cross the river and you can wander away to the decidedly untouristy surrounding farmland and small tea plantations.

Commercialism threatens to overwhelm the charm but enough real life remains to make this a pleasant day trip from Chéngdū, especially in warm months when there's fun to be had in the water and a nice breeze keeps things cool in the many shaded teahouses on the riverfront. Try Píngluò Táng, across the bridge from the bus station and to the right up the river bank, for Sìchuān classics and endless tea in a large, restored courtyard home that has been converted to a restaurant. If you want to linger, there are comfortable guesthouses (客栈; kèzhàn) and other accommodations (住宿; zhùsù) along both river banks. Gǔbù Kèzhàn has bright little rooms with river views.

Buses to Pínglè usually stop first at the small town of Qiónglái (邛崃), about 15 minutes before Pínglè – don’t get off here by mistake. Once in Pínglè, walk out of the bus station and turn right for the river – it's straight ahead. Buses leave for Chéngdū’s Xīnnánmén bus station from 9.20am to 5.30pm about every hour (¥24, two hours). For other long-distance destinations you'll need to transfer in Qiónglái (¥5, between 8.30am and 6.25pm).