Friday, November 28, 2014

Datong, one of the ancient cities of China

Datong, in Shanxi province of China is located 375 kms from Beijing. It might be famous today as the  coal capital of China. But, once it was the capital for 3 dynasties and has a history of more than 1600 years. Obviously, we expect the ancient city to have monuments to remind us its glorious past. It is there all over the old city, only to understand that most  of this is not the  original but completely recreated  to bring back its past and to boost tourism. I was told that old Datong looked totally different till a few years back. There was not much  left from ancient times. Datong Government  decided to rebuild everything including the city wall.
Datong is a very unique city.I haven’t seen any city with such a mishmash of modern buildings and ancient architecture going hand in hand in creating cityscape. There is a total contrast between  old and the new city. Old city is completely full of pagodas, temples, archways, city walls, shining green glazed roofs and typical traditional Chinese buildings. Some old lanes will give you the feeling as if you are living in  an ancient past. At the same time, some old  monuments with fresh appearance make you think about its age.
Yungang Grottoes
Datong is mostly visited for its UNESCO world heritage site, Yungang Grottoes and Hanging monastery. After visiting these sites I took a walk through the city. Here is Datong captured in my camera.

Datong during night
Datong during night was enigmatic due to its lighting effects. Buildings of Datong  are lit on top of the roof during night. I wondered this might be  statutory requirement for all buildings to have lighting running all around the building on roof top to maintain uniformity. Night skyline was  amazing, I could not capture many pictures though.

Lights at night
Skyline during evening  light
 Nine dragon wall
600 years old dragon wall is said to be the oldest glazed wall of the country. This has nine colorful dragons on the wall. They charged 10 Yuan as entry fee. Once you  enter inside, there is nothing except this  wall. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to see and come back unless you can appreciate each one of the dragons.

9 Dragon wall
Interesting intersections
Most of the intersections in Datong have very interesting monuments. Either pagoda or some interesting structure which stops you to click a picture for sure. I liked this structure. Clear blue Sky was serving as a background.

Structure at the intersection in Datong
Reconstructing the  ancient structures
 Apparently, one of their Mayors had started this work of recreation just 6 years back and now he has been transferred to some other post. So all the construction is going very slow leaving behind construction activities through out the city.  This palace was under construction and glazed tiles were telling the story of recreation.
Ancient palace under re construction-Datong

Glazed tiles for construction
Traditional Chinese style buildings
Traditional Chinese style buildings have been reconstructed. Some of them looked like commercial space.May be this area is built to create shopping complex.A banner read ' available for rent'.

Re-created streets
This construction was pretty new in traditional Chinese style
Old city square
This place was bustling with locals in leisure on a fine Saturday evening. It was fun to watch them having fun. Some were dancing, some were busy in skating, some were practicing plays and some practicing Tai Chi. I spent good time here watching all the happenings and people around me
New Datong
Once we come out of the old re- created Datong, Datong looks like any  other industrial city with  high rise buildings, cranes and construction sites.
New Datong

How to reach
Datong has connectivity from Beijing by bus, train and by air. Flight options are very limited. I traveled by  flight as I didn’t have enough time to go by bus or train.  Over night train journeys are preferred I heard.
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels available. For budget travelers youth hostel is available
Best way to see Datong
For Hanging monastery and Yungang Grottoes taxi can be hired. Best way to explore the city is by walk.

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  1. Very interesting blog. Regards

    1. Thanks Jarek. It means a lot for an newbie like me in the blogging world :-)

  2. Well if the new city is all look alike skyscrapers, give me the , even reconstructed, old city any day. Love the evening sky and grottoes.

    1. Agree Arija. Old structures look any day better than skyscrapers. Thanks

  3. Fabulous shots of old Datong!

  4. Thank you for your tour of Datong. The structures are quite remarkable. That shot with all the high rises is very impressive.

    1. Thanks Yogi. That shot was taken from inside the car. Happy that you like it

  5. The concept of a totally recreated old town is amazing. Thanks for showing your photos and telling the story, it's fascinating!