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Overview

This coal town in northern China retains its industrial look, but the city center is undergoing modern development and is more upbeat than in the past. The main reason to visit Datong is to view the 1,500-year-old Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Hertiage Site that contains tens of thousands of Buddhist statues carved into cliffs and caves during the Silk Road days. Other monumental attractions include the uncanny Hanging Monastery, a temple complex clinging to a sheer cliff, and the sacred mountain of Heng Shan Bei nearby, with a trail to the high summit. Within the city the main attractions are two large temple grounds, Huayuan Monastery ...

This coal town in northern China retains its industrial look, but the city center is undergoing modern development and is more upbeat than in the past. The main reason to visit Datong is to view the 1,500-year-old Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Hertiage Site that contains tens of thousands of Buddhist statues carved into cliffs and caves during the Silk Road days. Other monumental attractions include the uncanny Hanging Monastery, a temple complex clinging to a sheer cliff, and the sacred mountain of Heng Shan Bei nearby, with a trail to the high summit. Within the city the main attractions are two large temple grounds, Huayuan Monastery (rebuilt in 2010) and Shanhua Temple, which dates from the Tang Dynasty. Red Flag Square in the center of the city is the place to hang out and meet the locals, explore the street market, and sample some of the new cafes. Once the site of the largest steam locomotive factory in the world, the city also has a Datong Locomotive Exhibition Hall containing some railway relics, but this museum is often closed. For a quiet diversion, there's an unrestored, unbricked remnant of the Great Wall located near the Yungang Grottoes.

J.D. Brown
About the Expert

J.D. Brown is a contributor to Frommer's China and Frommer's Beijing, coauthor of Frommer's China: The 50 Most Memorable Trips, Berlitz Shanghai, Berlitz Singapore, and other books.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in northern Shanxi Province, in a basin at an elevation of 1,040 metres (3,410 ft) and bordering Inner Mongolia to the north and west and Hebei to the east.
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Currency: Chinese Yuan
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Winters are cold and summers quite hot. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Datong and the Buddhist carvings at Yungang.