As a joint city that gathered nomadic people and agricultural people, Datong overlaps these two cultures since Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386-534) and has created many masterworks. Among them, the famous one goes to Yungang Grottoes, followed by Hanging Temple located at the foot of Mt. Hengshan. Later, Datong witnessed the vicissitude of Liao (A.D. 907-1125) and Jin Dynasties (A.D. 1115-1234) and left many historical sites like Huayan Temple, Nine-dragon Screen and Shanhua Temple. Here are the Top 8 attractions in Datong that you can pay a visit to enrich your Datong trip.
Cave No.20 of Yungang Grottoes
Exquisite Buddha Statues in Yungang Grottoes
Address: No. 1, Yungang Town, Yungang District, Datong, Shanxi, China, about 23.5 km (45 min by car) from city center.
Ticket: CNY 120 (April 1st - October 31th); CNY 100 (November 1st - March 31st)
Opening Hours: 8:30-17:30 (April 1st - October 15th); 8:30-17:00 (October 16th - March 31st)
Listed as a world heritage site in 2001, Datong Yungang Grottoes is a relic dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386-534). It is one of the four grottoes art treasures, along with Mogao Grottoes, Longmen Grottoes and Maijishan Grottoes. At Present, Yungang Grottoes open about 40 caves to the public with over 51,000 Buddha stone statues from a few centimeters to more than 17 meters of height. All those magnificent statues show you the profound grottoes art history of the 5th to 6th century. What’s more, Yungang Grottoes vividly records the historical track of the development of Indian and Central Asian Buddhist art to Chinese Buddhist art. A variety of Buddhist statue styles have achieved unprecedented integration in Yungang Grottoes.
Hanging Temple on the Cliff
Hanging Temple in Autumn
Address: Southeast side of Hunyuan County, Datong City, Shanxi, China, about 80 km, 1.5 hours’ drive from Datong downtown.
Ticket: CNY 125 (March - October); CNY 117 (November - February)
Opening Hours: 8:00-18:00 (June - October); 8:30-17:30 (November - May)
Situated at the foot of Mt. Hengshan, Hanging Temple is a representative attraction in Datong that is built into a cliff. Since its construction in A.D. 491, it has survived for over 1500 years by hanging in the air with a height of 60 meters. The whole temple is a wooden frame structure with 40 halls and pavilions. In fact, the Hanging Temple is not big. What impresses people most is that it is embedded in the cliff without falling down totally relying on the tenon joint structure. Besides, it shows the combination of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, which is rare in China. Inside the temple, you will find about 80 sculptures made of copper, iron, terracotta, and stone, all with vivid features.
Entrance of Mount Hengshan
High Peaks of Mount Hengshan
Address: 4 km to the south of Hunyuan County, Datong, Shanxi, about 80 km, 1.5 hours’ drive from Datong downtown.
Ticket: CNY 47 (April - October); CNY 43 (November - March)
Opening Hours: 8:00 - 18:00 (April - October); 08:30 - 17:30 (November - March)
Mt. Hengshan, one of the famous scenic spots and birthplaces of Taoism in ancient China, is one of the Five Sacred Mountains of China, together with Mt. Taishan in Shandong Province, Mt. Huashan in Shaanxi Province, Mt. Hengshan in Hunan Province and Mt. Songshan in Henan Province. It is only 2 km away from the Hanging Temple. With soaring peaks and the undulating curves of the mountain ridges and precipitous cliffs, Mt. Hengshan has the highest peak reaching 2016.1 meters above sea level. Along with temple complex and caves, it provides spectacularly beautiful scenery for tourists.
Yingxian Wooden Pagoda
A Close Look at Yingxian Wooden Pagoda
Address: Fogong Temple, Yingxian County, Shuozhou City, Shanxi Province, China, about 85 km (1h45min by car) to the south of Datong
Ticket: CNY 50
Opening Hours: 8:30 - 18:00
Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, also called Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple, was built in the Liao Dynasty in 1056, totally by wood with no nails or rivets. Yingxian Wooden Pagoda is the oldest and highest wooden structure in China. The pagoda is 67.31 meters in height with a diameter of the bottom of 30.27 meters and in a shape of stereoscopic octagon. Looking from the outside, it’s a five-storey architecture, while there is a hidden floor in each storey inside, which makes this pagoda stand firmly till now through several severe earthquakes and wars.
Buddha Worshipped in Huayan Temple
Address: No. 459 Xiasipo Street, Pingcheng District, Datong City, Shanxi, just in Datong downtown.
Ticket: CNY 65
Opening Hours: 8:30 - 18:00 (April 15th - October 15th); 8:30 - 17:00 (October 16th - April 14th)
Tour around Datong downtown, you can easily find the Huayan Temple, the largest and well preserved monastery of the Liao Dynasty, built in 1038 and covering an area of 66,000 ㎡. The royal family at that time thought highly of this temple. Huayan Temple was damaged in war and later was rebuilt in 1140. Containing two separate sections of upper and lower monasteries, Huayan Temple features a huge scale of mural, splendid Buddha statues and large volumes of Buddhist writings.
Outside Shanhua Temple
Address: No. 6 Nansi Street, Pingcheng District, Datong City, Shanxi, just in Datong downtown.
Opening Hours: 8:00 - 18:00 (May 1st – October 15th); 8:30 - 17:30 (October 16th - April 30th)
Shanhua Temple, also called South Temple, was built in Kaiyuan period (A.D. 713-741) of Tang Dynasty. So it was initially called Kaiyuan Temple, later in A.D. 1445, it was officially renamed Shanhua Temple. The Grand Hall and Three Saints Hall were built in Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907-1125). Tianwang Hall and Puxian Pavilion were built in Jin Dynasty (A.D. 1115-1234). Shanhua temple is the most complete and largest existing temple complex of the two dynasties in China. There are also many precious cultural relics in Shanhua temple, such as clay sculptures, murals and inscriptions. Compared with Huayan Temple, Shanhua Temple has a quieter environment and fewer tourists. Local people always gather at the gate to play the chess, have a chat and enjoy the cool.
Nine Dragon Screen
Address: Heyang Street, Pingcheng District, Datong City, Shanxi, around Datong downtown.
Opening Hours: 8:30 - 17:00
Compared with the two Nine Dragon Screens in Beijing, Datong Nine Dragon Screen wall is the oldest and largest one in China, with a history of over 600 years. This marvelous screen wall is 45.5 meters long, 8 meters high and 2.02 meters thick, made up of 426 special colored glass components. Nine different flying dragons are carved on the wall in a very lifelike manner. It is like they will soar out of the wall at anytime. Everyday when the sun rises, the wall is covered by a layer of dazzling light. The golden light shines on the dragon body, making the nine dragons look more gorgeous and it seems that they will break through the morning mist and come into life.
Datong City Wall
Watchtower on Datong City Wall
Address: Datong downtown
Opening Hours: 6:00 - 24:00 (March - May, September - November); 5:00 - 2:00 next day (June - August); 7:00 - 22:00 (December - February)
Datong City Wall was first built in the Ming Dynasty in A.D. 1372. It is about 14 meters high, 2 meters higher than the Xi’an ancient city wall, and 16.6 meters at the widest part, 6.6 meters wider than that of Nanjing ancient city wall. There are 62 gatehouses, turrets and watchtowers on the wall. People can enter the city wall from 4 gates, among which the south gate is the most magnificent. It has three storeys with a width of 61 meters and a depth of 23.35 meters. About 40 meters away from the wall, there is a moat, 10 meters wide and 5 meters deep. Datong City Wall has played an important role in defensing the city in the history. It is now free to the public and has been restored in 2008, becoming a great place for both locals and tourists to take a leisure walk and have a better view of the ancient city.
Best time to visit Datong: March to mid-June, mid-September to November
How to get to Datong: High speed train from Beijing (2-2.5h), Taiyuan (2-2.5h), Pingyao (3-3.5h) and flights from Xian (2h), Chengdu (2.5h), Shanghai (2.5h), etc.
Where to stay in Datong: It is most recommended to stay in Datong downtown near Huayan Temple where there are many choices from 5-star luxury hotels to 3-star economy ones. What's more, it is convenient to get to main attractions in Datong such as Yungang Grottoes and Hanging Temple from this area.
It usually needs 2 days to cover the highlights in Datong. Without any doubt, Yungang Grottoes is a must. It consists of 53 grottoes with 51,000 statues and is a real treasure of traditional Chinese art. After that, you can go to Shanhua Monastery to appreciate a set of well-preserved buildings of Liao Dynasty (905-1125). Then, continue to have a look at Nine Dragon Screen, the oldest and largest glazed screen in China and later head to Huayan Temple, which keeps the largest wooden structure of Buddhist temple hall with elegant mural and scriptures. The next day is for the attractions a little far from downtown such as Hanging Temple, an unusual temple standing on the precarious cliff built over 1500 years ago, and Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, the highest wooden pagoda in the world.
In addition, the convenient transportation of Datong provides opportunities to discover more of Shanxi to Taiyuan, sacred Buddhist mountain Mount Wutai, world heritage site Pingyao Ancient City, magnificent Hukou Waterfall, etc.
If you have more days and want to travel outside Shanxi, it is highly recommended to extend your tour to capital Beijing (Great Wall, Forbidden City), time-honored Xi’an (Terracotta Warriors), and modern metropolis Shanghai (the Bund).
Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Temple, Pingyao and Mount Wutai in Shanxi
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Datong / Wutaishan / Taiyuan / Pingyao
Datong / Pingyao
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