Population: 3.3 million
Datong is a city in northern Shanxi Province of North China, located a few hundred kilometres west by rail from Beijing with an elevation of 1,040 metres (3,410 ft). It has a population of 3,318,057 at the 2010 census.
The town was founded as Píngchéng in 200 BC during the Han Dynasty, after the Battle of Baideng between the Han and the Xiongnu. Located near the Great Wall Pass to Inner Mongolia. It blossomed during the following period and became a stop-off point for Camel Caravans moving from China into Mongolia and beyond. It was sacked at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Pingcheng became the capital of Northern Wei from 398 AD until 494 AD. The famous Yungang Grottoes were constructed during the later part of this period (460 – 494 AD).The city was renamed Datong in 1048 AD and sacked again at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1649 AD), but promptly rebuilt in 1652 AD.
The Yungang Grottoes: 云冈石窟
The Yungang Grottoes are a collection of shallow caves located 16 km west of Datong. Yungang Grottoes were built against the mountain and extend about 1 km (0.62 miles) from east to west. There are over 50,000 carved images and statues of Buddhas and bodhisattvas within these grottoes, ranging from 4 centimeters to 7 meters tall. Most of these icons are around 1000 years old.In December 2001, the 25th meeting of UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Helsinki, Finland, passed a decision to list Yungang Grottoes on the World Cultural Heritage List.
The Yungang Grottoes are divided into three zones: east, west and central and numbered from east to west. Grottos No.1 and No. 2 are located in the east zone. Statues and sculptures inside these caves have been severely damaged by exposure to the elements, but still preserved in the east zone are relief sculptures of Buddhist stories on the lower part of the eastern wall of Grotto No. 1. Inside the entrance of the Yungang Temple is an impressive four-storeyed wooden façade with glazed top outside the Grottos Nos. 3, 4 and 5.
Most of the grottoes are in the western zone, and each has its own character. Grotto No. 20 – one of the five earliest caves of monk Tan Yao – houses the sitting statute of Sakyamuni, 13.7 meters high, with a full and round face with a majestic smile, slim lips and a high nose, ears that extend almost to the shoulders, radiant eyes and broad shoulders. Sakyamuni statue is representative of Buddha sculptures in Yungang Grottoes.
The 53 grottoes in Yungang Grottos include some 1,000 niches with about 51,000 statues – a treasure-trove of cave art that combines traditional Chinese art forms with foreign influence, particularly Greek and Indian. Sculptures here are noted for their vigorous features and rich variety that range from the smallest, only 2 centimeters high, to the tallest – a Buddha 17-meters high. The tallest Buddha is surrounded by many small Buddhas in Grotto No. 5, also called the Big Buddha's Cave.
The Hanging Temple: 悬空寺
The temple is built into a cliff (75m Above the ground) near Mount Heng in the province of Shanxi. The closest city is Datong, 65 kilometers to the northwest. The Hanging Temple is one of the main tourist attractions and historical sites in the Datong area. Built more than 1,500 years ago, this temple is notable not only for its location on a sheer precipice but also because it includes Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements.