Datong

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Datong is a city in Shanxi Province, China.

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Points of Interest in Datong

  • Yúngāng Grottoes (云冈石窟 Yúngāng Shíkū) (Take bus #4 to the end of the line [the end of the line is just a simple stop and then the bus starts going back, ask the driver for the grottoes and he will let you know where to get off] change to #3 and take that to the end of the line). By far the greatest attraction of the area is the 1,500-year-old Yúngāng Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These mountain-side caves and recesses are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues - the largest being a 56-foot Seated Buddha while the smallest is only a few centimetres tall. In addition to the carvings of the Buddha, there are also scenes depicting Buddhist teachings and famous monks. Unlike Dunhuang grottoes, most caves here permit photography, (notably excepting caves 5&6). The entrances to caves 5 and 6 are fronted by wooden temple structures. The cave walls at these entrances were damaged by graffiti during the cultural revolution although the majority of the site is well-preserved. At least you get the impression that the caves are mostly ancient/original and not reconstructed. Cave 20 may have people praying in front. ¥150. Full-time students and 60-69 yrs half price. Serving military, disabled, 70+, children under 1.4m free. Discounts require documentary proof..
  • The Hanging Monastery (悬空寺 Xuánkōngsì) (Located 65 km to the southeast of Datong. From Datong train station, fifth stop on bus line 15 takes you to 市供排水集团 Shìgōng Páishuǐ Jítuán. From there, walk ahead to crossroads, turn left and main bus station 大同汽车站 Dàtóng Qìchēzhàn is just ahead on left. [Mai 2013 : bus station moved because of works, still take bus 15 but ask the driver for the main bus station 大同汽车站 Dàtóng Qìchēzhàn which is now around 10 stops from the train station] Window 2 sells 26 yuan tickets to 悬空寺 Xuánkōngsì. Buses leave frequently. After nearly a 2 hour journey you will be transferred to a free taxi for the final few miles. For coming back, there are taxis, on your right when exiting the monastery, who go to Datong when they are full for 50yuans. Expect a 50% higher price if a toot take you to the taxi...). Lodged precariously on a cliff-face, this monastery is one of the more remarkable sights in China: a complex of 40 rooms linked by mid-air walkways. It appears to be stuck into the side of the cliff, but is actually supported by stilts. There is a '3 Religions Hall' with all of Buddha, Confucius and Laozi (founder of Daoism). Built in 490, renovated several times, most recently in 1900, much of the current structure dates from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Less than an hour to visit. If waiting in the car park for a suitable taxi, tasty vegetarian food available at stall. Entry full 130Y summer, 125Y winter. Students, 60-69 half price. Disabled (残疾人), military, (doesn’t specify just Chinese military ;-), 70+, less than 1.2m tall children free. Discounts require documents..
  • Yīngxiàn Wooden Pagoda (应县木塔 Yīngxiàn Mùtǎ), 应县, Yīngxiàn Town (About 75 km south of Datong and 70 km northeast of Shuozhou. The bus from Datong (¥20) takes about 2 hr, or from the Hanging Monastery (taxi to Hunyuan ¥10 after bargaining) it's about one hour (¥12) by bus, or you might find taxi drivers willing to take you directly from the Hanging Monastery car park to the Wooden pagoda for 40 yuan per person.), e-mail: sekimdr@dreamwiz.com. Summer 7:30am-7pm. Winter 8am-5:30pm.. This impressive pagoda is the oldest and tallest wooden structure in China, built in 1056 in the Liao Dynasty. It is located within a Buddhist temple, some of which was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. There is an active temple in the back built in 2001. Only the ground floor and the first floor of the pagoda are open to visitors. Inside the pagoda, you can see a big budda statue, which is really awsome. Maybe half an hour needed to visit. For an additional ¥40 you can visit a small exhibition on the premises. To go back to Datong, go to Yingxian west bus station which is 2km west from this temple. Take a 3-wheel taxi, and it takes just 5 min from here with just 5 yuan. (Last bus to Datong: summer 6:30pm, winter 6:00pm) Tickets ¥60. Full-time students, 60-69yo & disabled half-price. Current serving military 四、现役军人 (they don’t specify just Chinese military ;-), 70+, less-than-1.2m-tall children free. Discounts require documents..
  • Daoist Monastery (On bus line 4 it is somewhere near stops 6 and 7, between the drum tower and Huáyán Monastery). A small collection of Daoist temples and a peaceful courtyard. A more human scale than the nearby Huáyán Monastery - half an hour at most - unless you are intercepted by a Daoist monk and have a chat / are given an explanation. Completely rebuilt in 2010. 30 yuan full price. 15 yuan students etc.
  • Huáyán Monastery (华严寺) (On bus line 4 it is near the seventh stop from the train station). Closes 7pm. A large collection of Buddhist temples of the Huayan sect that can be seen in an hour or two. Unusually this monastery faces east, not south. Nice to hear chanting at the back (no photos). Completely rebuilt in 2010. At 80yuan a bit expensive really - If you like Buddhism (and mountain scenery, and have the time), save your money/time and head to Wutai Shan for slightly longer instead. 80 yuan full price. 40 yuan students. Disabled, military, 70yo+ free.
  • Nine Dragon Screen (九龙壁 Jiŭlóngbì), Dàdōng Street 大东街 (Located right at the geographic center of town, on the southern side of Dàdōng Street 大东街 (East Street) east of the main intersection a block north of the Drum Tower. Can be reached by Bus 4 from the Datong Railway Station, 6th stop 四牌楼 sìpáilóu,get off the bus and continue walking in same direction of bus and turn left at crossroads. 九龙壁 Jiŭlóngbì is on the right after 200m.). 7:30am-7pm. A 600-year-old screen made of glazed tiles and depicting nine dragons, this is the oldest glazed screen in China. Most people will visit this for less than 5 minutes. It is a pity that the pond in front of the screen is no longer filled with water. ¥10, students and 60-69 yrs ¥5 Children under 1.3m, current-serving military, disabled, 70+ free. Discounts require documents..
  • Drum Tower (鼓楼). Like many cities in China, Datong has its own Drum Tower. This is in the centre of town, but not open to the public.
  • Heng Mountain (恒山 Héng Shān) (The entrance gate is 2 km past the Hanging Monastery, then it's another 12 km to the scenic area. A cable car can take you directly to the temples or you can take the half hour walk). This is the least religiously important of the 5 Sacred Mountains of Taoism. Due to its northerly location, it has been impossible for pilgrimages by the Chinese to take place for much of its history. ¥55.
  • Datong Museum (大同博物馆). The museum covers an area of 5600 square meters, of which 1,800 square meters exhibition area, has now become the second largest museum in Shanxi Province, 1.3 million pieces of cultural relics, a product 132. Most of the local archaeological finds. Meet the public more than pieces of precious relics in 1000, half of the initial display of rare collections.

Shanhua Temple

Huayan Temple

Yungang Grottoes

Hanging Temple

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About Datong

Background

Datong is a small city with less experience with foreigners. People here are friendly and curious. For simple entertainment, stop at a chuanr (meat on a stick) stand near Red Flag square, or Red Flag square itself and chat up the locals.

Activities

  • Red Flag Square 红旗广场 Hóngqí guǎngchǎng (8th stop on bus line 4 from train station). Evenings around the Red Flag Square are entertaining and full of locals. Although most locals are unable to speak much English they will show some interest in foreigners and be willing to play ball/'kick the shuttlecock' or similar. As always, although most Chinese who show an interest in foreigners are just curious, or genuinely want to practise English, remember that young female/male con artists may target you in Datong just as in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere.

Food

  • Outdoor street stalls and tables (Near Red Flag square on way to Huayan Monastery). Mostly evening. Eat and drink well outside for under 10 yuan. Many skewers (串)at stalls are 0.5yuan each - ask first - pay when finished eating at stall. 3 types of stinky tofu (臭豆腐)in a bowl 5 yuan - not all vendors offer same quality - try them and report here. Húntun noodle soup 4 yuan. Many options. 2011.

刀削面 (dāoxiāomiàn - knife-cut noodles) are a Shanxi specialty that you can find in restaurants.

  • Best Pizza (Near Huāyuàn Monastery on way to Daoist temple.). Consider for the experience, not the food. Chinese-style western restaurant, designed for Chinese people, not Westerners (ie luxurious sofas as seats, ice in champagne bucket to put in your beer to make it cold, asking for salt&pepper not thought strange but not already at every table, only has squat toilet). You will probably think the thick-base pizza is a reasonable imitation, but you may also realise why some Chinese people say that Western food basically isn’t as tasty as Chinese food. 50 yuan up. Other passable Western food.
  • Mǎdàhā Hotpot (马大哈火锅), Cāochǎngchéng Jiē (操场城街) (Walk or take bus #4 from the train station down Cāochǎngchéng Street, watch for the large vertical yellow sign on a building on the right side). A well-known place among locals serving Shanxi hotpot. A picture menu is available to help choosing ingredients. As opposed to hotpot in other places where everyone shares one pot, each person gets their own in the Shanxi version.

Drinks

  • 裕盛祥茶馆 Yùshèngxiáng Cháguǎn Tea house. (Near Huāyuàn Monastery on the way towards the Youth Hostel.). 12:00-00:00. Don't believe the sign - this is not open in the morning. Cups of tea start at 10Y but you may prefer to try a pot ~30Y. Xīhú Lóngjǐng green tea is worth a try. Best just before sunset if they open the shutters - see sun fall over Huāyuàn Monastery, look out of 2nd floor window onto street below or just relax - actually part of a chain with origins more than 100 years ago that has not spread out of Shanxi yet - but you might not realise it. Don’t step in the indoor stream. There are extra charges if you use a private room at the side (28Y/hr) or want a tea master to stay at your table (after a free quick lesson) topping up your tea pot. (60Y/hr). The prices in the English menu may be out of date - and the Chinese menus may also not be accurate for seasonal teas (eg they may be lower than printed). Spoken English not good - but you should be able to come to an understanding what is available at what price. Free hot water top-ups on request. Freshly-ground coffee (现摩咖啡) , beer (啤酒), popcorn (爆米花), sweets/candies (糖),raisins (‘香妃’/葡萄干),roasted watermelon seeds (烤西瓜字), peanuts (花生)cashew nuts (腰果) and almonds (大杏仁)are available but not on the English menu. Busy at weekends. (2011) 10Y+.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Datong on Wikivoyage.

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