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China: Datong

China: Datong

story by: Inspire Hong Kong & China

Datong in northern Shanxi province was founded as a garrison town 2200 years ago, but is now a major industrial and coal-mining centre. It is best known for the Yungang Cave, said to contain the oldest, largest and best-preserved sandstone Buddhist carvings in the country. Originally cut into a 1km stretch of mountain between 460-494AD, the caves contain 51,000 statues, from only a few centimetres tall up to 17m high, with some still retaining their original colours.

A visit to China’s cultural centre – about 270kms west of Beijing – is not complete without taking the 65km drive south-east of the city to see the impressive 1400-year-old Hanging Monastery, Xuankong Si. Located at the foot of Hengshan Mountain, the site’s halls and pavilions were built at varying heights along the contours of the cliff. Datong has many other historic attractions including the Huayan Monastery, the Nine Dragon Screen (one of China’s earliest and largest glazed brick screens) and the Shanhua Monastery, originally built in the Tang Dynasty, later rebuilt and restored in the Jin and Ming dynasties. The 11th Century octagonal wooden pagoda at Yingxian (70kms from the city) is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the country.

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