Datong Tourist Attractions
The industrial town of Datong lies in the north of Shanxi province on a plain which is shielded to the north and south by two sections of the Great Wall of China. There is a rail link between Datong and Beijing.It seems probable that Datong was founded in the 5th C BC. From AD 398 to 495, when it was known as Pincheng, it was the seat of the Northern Wei dynasty. Many works of art which can now be seen in the Yungang Shiku Caves date from this period. Under the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) Datong became strategically important.The considerable deposits of coal nearby have given Datong the name of the ''Coal Capital''; agricultural machinery is another important branch of industry here.
The Huayan Monastery, originally a school of Buddhist teaching, contains well preserved structures from the Liao Period (10th to 12th C). Both the Lower and Upper monasteries contain great works of art.
The Shanhua Si complex dates to the 8th C but was rebuilt in the 12th C. It contains three buildings of note.
There are numerous attractions in the Datong surrounding area.
72km/45mi southeast of Datong soars the holy northern mountain Hengshan, one of the five mythical mountains of China (the others being Mount Taishan in Shandong province, Mount Hashan in Shaanxi province, Mount Hengshan in Hunan province and Mount Songshan in Henan province). At one time it was regarded as a holy mountain, and they were given sacrifices on the order of the Emperors. The highest peak on Mount Hengshan reaches a height of 2017m/6620ft.
Various monuments are scattered over the slopes of Mount Hengshan. The most famous of these is the Hanging Monastery (Xuankong Si), 5km/3mi from Hunyuan, which was built near the Pass of the Golden Dragon (Jinlong Kou) on a rock-face 30m/100ft above the valley floor. Some of the smaller halls of this 6th century AD monastery are supported by thin stilts which stand on rock precipices. In the buildings the visitor can see 80 bronze, iron, terracotta and stone sculptures dating from different periods.
Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian
Built in 1056, the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian (Yingxian Muta) stands in Yingxian, about 70km/44mi south of Datong. It is the oldest wooden pagoda in China and a masterpiece of Chinese timber construction. The octagonal building, put together without the use of a single nail, is of impressive height (67m/220ft). On the ground floor the visitor can see a large statue of Shakyamuni and six murals portraying Tathagata, one of the ten forms in which Buddha appeared. On the third floor is a statue of Bodhisattva with four faces, each looking towards a different point of the compass. The four faces symbolize the immeasurable wisdom of Buddha, whose gaze can pass through any object. In the middle of the fifth floor can be seen a sculpture of a seated Shakyamuni surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas. As the likeness of Shakyamuni is an outstanding one the building is also known as the Pagoda of Shakyamuni (Sajia Ta).
Yungang Shiku Caves
The Yungang Shiku Caves, 16km/10mi west of Datong on the southern slopes of the Wuzhou Mountains, stretch for over 1km/1100yd in an east-west direction. Like the caves at Dunhuang and Longmen, these too house a number of Buddhist works of art which betray Indian and Ancient Greek influences.There are 53 caves in all containing more than 51,000 statues, the largest being 17m/56ft high and the smallest a mere 2cm/.75in, as well as high-reliefs. Most were made between AD 460 and 494, a donation from the Toba emperors (northern Wei dynasty), especially Wencheng, a practicing Buddhist. Ten of thousands of sculptors labored on this mighty task under the supervision of the monk Tao Yao.
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Entrance fee in CNY: Adult ¥30.00
Cave No. 3, the largest of the Yungang Shiku Caves, contains a Buddha and two Bodhisattvas, which are rendered particularly interesting by their impressive stance and elegant clothing. From the way they are presented it is thought that they date from the early Tang period (618-907).
Cave No. 5
Cave No. 5 contains a 17m/56ft high statue of Yungang. The seated Buddha was probably carved in the 5th C but covered in colored clay during the Tang period.
Cave No. 6
In the center of Cave No. 6 stands a 16m/52.52ft high column shaped like a two-story pagoda. It is decorated with numerous bas-reliefs describing the life of Shakyamuni from his birth until he entered Nirvana. Further episodes from his life are inscribed on the east, south and west walls of the cave.
Cave No. 7
Cave No. 7 contains two stone lions in front of a Figure of the Buddha, and six Bodhisattva statues.
Cave No. 8
The influence of various styles can be seen in Cave No. 8. The way the Indian deities Vishnu and Shiva are portrayed shows an Indian influence, while the guardian with the trident is clearly Hellenistic in style.
Cave No. 11
An inscription on the east wall of Cave No. 11 indicates that it was built in the year 483. It boasts 95 large stone carvings and numerous Bodhisattva figures in small niches.
Cave No. 12
Cave No. 12 is noted for its carvings of 5th C musical instruments.
Cave No. 13
The 13m/43ft tall statue of Maitreya in Cave No. 13 strikes an unusual stance; its hand is supported by a four-armed figure standing on one leg.
Cave No. 14 and 15
Although Caves 14 and 15 are severely weathered they are of interest because of the thousands of small Bodhisattva figures in niches in the walls.
Cave No. 16
Cave No. 16 which, together with Nos. 17 to 20, is one of the oldest in Yungang, houses a Buddha and five Bodhisattva sculptures. These are more than 13m/43ft tall and portray five emperors of the Northern Wei dynasty.
Cave No. 17
Cave No. 17 contains a revered statue of Maitreya sitting cross-legged.
Cave No. 18
Cave No. 18 houses an impressive statue of Shakyamuni on the robe of which are carved countless small Bodhisattva figures.
Cave No. 19
In Cave No. 19 can be seen another enthroned figure of Shakyamuni which is 167m/55ft high.
Cave No. 20
Cave No. 20 also contains a seated figure of Shakyamuni, this one being 13.7m/45ft tall. This sculpture, which has become the symbol of the Yungang Caves, is a magnificent masterpiece.
Map of Datong Attractions