Banks and Shops
Pingyao is one of the birth places of Shanxi's banking and commercial businesses. As early as in 1824, Bank of Ri Sheng Chang (Sunrise Prosperity) initiated by Mr. Lei Lutai had begun its banking business. Probably it was the earliest bank in China and beginning of Chinese finance business in the modern era. Within a few years of its founding, its branch banks were rapidly distributed to Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Liaoning Provinces. Branch banks were also set up in such big cities as Beijing,
Chongqing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Hankou, Xi'an, Nanchang, Changsha, Sanyuan and so on. Followed by many Shanxi merchants and bankers, the banking business of Shanxi developed quickly, reaching such countries as Korea, Japan, Singapore, Russia and so on. Besides Ri Sheng Chang, collected in Pingyao City were more than 20 headquarters of such big nationwide banks as Ri Sheng Tong, Ri Sheng Da, Bai Chuan Tong, Wan Yuan Sheng, Xie Tong Qin, Xie Tong Tai and so on. There were also many banks in neighboring counties like Tai Gu and Qi Xian. Shanxi's banks constituted more than half of the banks in China, dominating then nation’s finance business. Besides the banking business in commerce, Qing government's bank business affairs in the fields of industry, railways, water projects, coastal defense, relief funds and international finance affairs were all handled and managed by Shanxi’s Bank System. They almost played the roles of National Central Bank and the National Finance Ministry of this country at that time.
Up till today, people can still trace its great prosperity of the bank groups nicknamed as "Asian Wall Street" from the remaining bank and shop buildings along the West Main Street in ancient Pingyao City.