The city of Datong lies in Shanxi province to the South West of Beijing. It’s easily accessible from the capital by bus and well worth a weekend visit. Below are the top three sights to see if you can only manage a couple of days in the area:
The Hanging Temple
This spectacular mountain construction was built in 491, which makes it over 1400 years old. There is a mix of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism inside the structure, which is seen as unusual in China. It sits at the foot of Mt Hengshan – one of China’s Five Sacred Mountains. So if you have more time, be sure to reach the 2016m summit!
Getting there: Hire a taxi/van from Datong city. A round fare should cost no more than CNY150.
Entry fee: CNY130 which includes walking on the temple.
Welcome to the largest and best preserved monastery of the Liao Dynasty in China. What is really worth seeing in this temple is the big pagoda. Firstly head to the basement where you will find the largest bronze Buddha collection in China. Head to the top and you’ll see fantastic views across the Monastery and beyond. Cool fact: this monastery faces East instead of South.
Getting there: From the centre of Datong take no. 15, 4 or 30 bus to get off at Weidudadao Qingyuanjieku Station and then walk toward east for several minutes.
Entry fee: CNY65
This is one of the three major cave clusters of China. Construction began in 450 during the Northern Wei Dynasty and is home to over 51,000 stone Buddha statues! Photographs really don’t do the statues justice, and you’ll just have to visit in order to believe the beauty of cave number 16-20 (no photography is permitted inside).
Getting there: Take bus No. 4 at Datong Railway Station and get off at Xin Kai Li. Then transfer to bus No. 3-1 to Yungang Grottoes. Alternatively take a taxi which should cost no more than CNY50 each way.
Entry fee: CNY120
From personal experience I think it is enjoyable to do all three of these sights within two days, without exhausting yourself. I’d recommend at least two hours for each, if not three where possible (especially for the grottoes). What are you waiting for? Head off to Datong when you next get chance!