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Datong, with a population of one million and covering an area of 2070 square kilometers, is one of the major industrial cities in northern part of Shanxi Province. With the Yu River running through from south to north, the city is in a basin area surrounded by mountains in three sides. It was once the capital city during the North Wei dynasty over a thousand years ago and became the important prefecture in the rest dynasties. Datong is also the home of the steam engine factories where the last locomotive was made in China. Every year, the locomotive lovers from many European countries will come to visit the city and the museum of the locomotives, in addition, the city is also well known for its unique scenic spots such as the Yungang Grottoes, the Nine Dragons Screen and the Hanging Monastery near the city.

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Yungang Grottoes

Yungang Grottoes is located about 16 kilometers west of Datong. There exists 53 caves, most of which are made during the Northern Wei dynasty between 460 and 494 AD. There are over 51, 000 stone sculptures carved in the caves, which extends for one kilometer from east to west and can be divided into three major groups. The visit starts normally from the second group of the sculptures ranging from Cave 5 to Cave 13, the Grottoes art manifest its best in this group. Cave 5 contains a seated Buddha with a height of 17 meters. In Cave 6, a 15-meter-high pagoda stands in the center of chamber and the life of the Buddha from birth to the attainment of nirvana is carved on the walls and the sides of the cave. The Bodhisattva was engraved in Cave 7. The rarely seen Shiva Statue in Yungang Grottoes with eight arms and four heads that is riding on a bull illustrated in Cave 8 while the Cave 9 and Cave 10 are notable for front pillars. Yungang Grottoes is one of the three most famous Grottoes in China while the others are the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang and the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang.

Nine Dragons Screen

The Nine Dragon Screen in Datong is said to be the largest Dragon screen of its type anywhere in China, which is 45.5 meters in length, 8 meters in height and 2 meters thick and consists of 426 pieces of glazed tiles which were used for making the glazed dragon screen. The screen stands in front of the mansion of the thirteenth son of Zhu Yuanzhang who was the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. In ancient times, the screen served as a barrier both keeping passers-by peeping into the house and making visitors tidy up themselves before meeting the hosts. There is a pool in front of the screen which makes the reflection in water seems that every dragon is coming to life.

Hanging Monastery

Located about 80 km southeast of Datong, the gravity defying Hanging Monastery is built on extremely sheer cliffs of Mt. Hengshan above Jinlong Canyon. Construction of the monastery dates back 1400 years to the Northern Wei Dynasty. Most of the architecture was reconstructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Bridges and corridors connect the pavilions and caves in which dozens of the statues made in bronze, iron, stone and clay are enshrined. In San Jiao Dian (Three Religions Hall), Buddha, Confucius and Laozi are enshrined together, which indicated that the ancient people and the society regarded the three characters as great as the God. The Hanging Monastery is indeed the masterpiece of the ancient architecture in China, which has attracted many visitors of the country every year.

Wooden Pagoda

The Wooden Pagoda, located 100 kilometers form Datong in the Ying-county, is absolutely another masterwork of the Chinese ancient architecture, which was built entirely with wood without the use of a single nail. The pagoda was completed in the 11th century during the reign of Khitan in Liao dynasty. As one of the oldest and largest wooden structures in the world, the 97 meter high pagoda is a great wonder of China. Tourists are able to pay a visit of the Wood Pagoda along the way from Mt. Wutai to Datong.

Huayan Monastery

Huayan Monastery, named after the Huayan sect of Buddhism, and situated in northwest of Datong, is combined with the Upper and Lower Huayan Monastery, also called the Great Temple of Treasure. The Upper Huayan Monastery is considered to be one of the two biggest Buddhist halls existent in China. Built in 1062 of the Liao Dynasty, the Monastery suffered from a severe damage in the Liao and was restored in 1140 of the Jin dynasty.

Unlike the most temples facing southward, the Great Temple of Treasure faces the east as the ancient tribe Qidan had a custom of worship to the Sun in the east. There are five major Buddha in central hall with 20 celestial warriors on both sides. The Lower Huayan Monastery, constructed in 1038, has a touch of quaintness, where Buddhist scripture are stored. The Trinity Buddha comprising the Past, the Present and the Future was enshrined and worshipped here.

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