Datong is not the prettiest or cleanest city. In fact, it’s been referred to as the most polluted in all of China. It is one of the largest coal producers for China and the area lies heavily laden under a blanket of coal dust.
We came to Datong because it offers far more than grit and pollution. When you look beyond the city there are historical and architectural wonders to behold.
Our first stop was the Yungang Grottos. Work began in AD460 and it is the oldest collection of Buddhist carvings in China. To date they have discovered 252 caves, with roughly 40 of them that are open to the public.
The next site was the precariously built Hanging Monastery. Built back in 491, it hung 90 meters over the Jinxia Gorge. With the build up of silt over the years it currently hangs about 50 meters above ground .
The buildings are carved into a sheer precipice and supported by 3 meter long oak beams that are inserted into holes in the rock. The pillars in the pictures don’t in fact support the monastery. You can literally nudge them and watch them sway.
The monastery is considered an architectural wonder but actually being up there and walking along the mid-air walkways is a bit unnerving, to say the least.
It’s hard to imagine that 10 monks lived here throughout the seasons.
When all good things come to an end and the fun is over. We were too distracted by all the sightseeing that we didn’t have time to find a laundry service near our hotel. Boy, oh boy, did we have a mound of laundry to do and leaving it for the next location was just not an option.
Luckily, the washroom came with 2 big buckets and I had two small and eager helpers which made it a bit easier, if not even a little bit fun.