Datong, An Ancient Capital

Datong, An Ancient Capital

Datong City, the second largest city in Shanxi Province, is located in the very north part of Shanxi, 350 Km west of Beijing, between the inner and outer Great Wall.

With the history over 2300 years, Datong was the capital city of three dynasties. It was on the way of Silk Road and was one of the most important military cities along the Great Wall in the past.

The famous Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Temple, some Liao Dynasty’s architectures and colorful culture of different ethnic minority groups make Datong as one of the most popular tourist destinations of China.

Places to Go in Datong

Datong is a city full of charming. There are many places to explore.

The 1500 years old Yungang Grottoes is one of three famous Grottoes in China. Hanging Temple, a 1500 years old architecture wonder, is the China’s only one temple which was built on the cliff.

The old city of Datong , surrounded by the Ming Dynasty’s city wall, has a whole collection of Buddhist temples, Taoist temples, Confucius temple, Mosque, Catholic churches. The Bell Tower was used in the morning and the Drum Tower in the evening. Nine-Dragon Wall is the biggest and oldest Nine-Dragon Wall of China. People still live in the Chinese traditional style courtyards inside.

The Datong Museum displays thousands of the fine relics from the Neolithic times to the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Some Other Places to Visit near Datong

The Wooden Pagoda, the oldest, highest and biggest wooden pagoda in the world, is about 1.5 hours drive from Datong.

The Datong Volcano Groups are one of the important specific landform types in East Asia. You can also make a hiking trip there.

Datong is adjacent to Inner Mongolia in the north. The Ancient Great Wall, played an important role in ancient time, was built just clay without the bricks protection, after thousands years erosion, looks not as magnificent as the wall in Beijing. But it’s the real China wall. The local villagers call it “Bian Qiang” means “the Frontier Wall”.

Starting from Datong

Datong to Pingyao

From 7:43 to 13:00, there are two high-speed trains (start from Datong Nan Railway Station) from Datong to Pingyao everyday. The first-class fare is 189 RMB/person, the second-class fare is 119 RMB/person. It will be much more convenient to rent a private car and a guide with you because you can appreciate the magnificent tourist spots on the way to Pingyao, such as Hanging Temple, Yanmen pass and Family Qiao’s Courtyard.

Datong to Wutai Mountain

There is no direct train from Datong to Wutai Mountain, you’d better choose the local travel agency to arrange a private guide and car service from Taiyuan or Datong because you have to pay the entrance fee before arrive at the tourist core area and the language barrier is really inconvenience for the travelers reach by their own.

How to Get Datong?

By Airplane

Datong Yungang Airport (大同云冈机场) is in the east of Datong City, with a straight-line distance of about 17 kilometres from city center and began in use on December 26, 2005. As the first feeder airport of opening in Shanxi, Datong Yungang Airport has T1 international terminal and T2 domestic terminal. It has 12 domestic routes in winter-spring(from October 31, 2021 to March 26, 2022) and 20 navigation cities, including Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shanghai, Chengdu, Harbin, Shenyang, Xian, Qindao, Lanzhou, Shenzhen, Zhengzhou, Xiamen, Jinan, Nanjing, Yinchuan, Changsha, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Chongqing and Dalian.

You could choose the following ways from the Yungang Airport to Datong city:

1. By Express Bus 605 (605快速公交)

The bus station is about 618 meters (9 minutes walk) from the airport to the 605 BRT station , the departure interval is 10-15 minutes, and the fare is 3 yuan. You can get off at the final stop Heyang Beimen (和阳北门), then you can choose the taxi or bus to your destination because the stop is close to the city center.

2. By Taxi

The taxi pick-up point is just outside the exit and the fair is about 80-100 RMB.

By Train

Datong has two stations in use:

One is Datong Nan Railway Station (大同南站). It is located at Kaiyuan Street in Yudong District, 10 kilometers from the city center and mainly sent to Beijing, Zhangjiakou, Xian, Taiyuan, Pingyao,Huhhot and other high-speed trains. It becomes very important transportation junction in Shanxi Province. There are 7 high-speed trains from Beijing to Datong everyday. The first –class fare is 270 RMB/person and the second-class fare is 170 RMB/person. There is only one high-speed train (09:15/15:37) from Xi’an to Datong everyday and the first-class fare is 429 RMB/person and the second-class fare is 270 RMB/person.

The other is Datong Railway Station (大同站), which is at Zhanqian Street, about 7 kilometres from the city center. It is the oldest train station in Datong and you can choose it if you want to take the sleepers from Datong.

Datong Weather and Best Time to Visit

Situated on the 1000m altitude loess plateau, Datong has four distinctive seasons. The temperature is also quite different between the daytime and the nighttime. From March to early November is the best period for travelers to visit beyond the public holidays (the first week of May, the summer vacation of July and August , the first week of October), because it is the time with the most comfortable weather and no much rain. Datong’s winter is too cold for the visitors, the lowest temperature falls to-31℃. However, there are many Malaysian tourists come here in winter to appreciate the beautiful snow. Chinese New Year is always in February, if you visit Datong at that time, you will feel what is Datong people’s traditional New Year. Just remember, wear warm as possible as you can.

Temperatures and precipitation of Datong

temperature of Datong

A little history of Datong

The name of Datong, which literally means “great harmony”, was given by the first emperor of Liao Dynasty (AD907—1125), he hoped to take great harmony between the human and the nature.

Datong has a history spanning over 2,300 years. During the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), the region which forms present day Datong was under the rule of King Zhao Wuling who was famous for one important political event-reforms consisting of ‘wearing barbarian uniform and the use of cavalry in battle’. King Zhao Wuling set up three prefectures in present day Datong, namely Yunzhong, Yanmen and Dai Prefectures. After the Qin, Han and West Jin Dynasty, Datong experienced its golden age in the ancient period as the capital city of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), as the western Capital of a further two dynasties which were the Liao (907-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) Dynasties, and as a city of strategic importance in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The most glamorous time of the city in ancient times was during the period when Datong became the capital city of northern China for nearly one hundred years in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) with six emperors and one king in power successively During this period Datong was the political, economic and cultural center of northern China. From time immemorial, the forefathers of different nationalities have lived on this land creating a profound ancient culture and magnificent cultural relics.

Datong local delicacy is renowned for:

1. Daoxiaomian (a kind of noodles shaved by a special knife, add with different sauce, such as pork, beef, mutton, vegetarian.)

2. Shaomai (a kind of flower-shaped steamed dumpling with meat or vegetable inside.)

3. Hotpot (a simmering metal pot with broth at the center of a table, and all raw ingredients placed beside the metal pot, so people can add and cook whatever they like in the broth.)

4. ZhaGao (a kind of dessert made of sticky millet flour, the name means higher and higher, better and better, so it’s a necessary food for celebrations and festivals.)

Some Good Restaurants we recommend

1. Longjuxiang 龙聚祥

Longjuxiang Restaurant has a long historical background. It is said that it was founded in the early Ming Dynasty. Its original location is located in the northwest corner of the Drum Tower in Datong. Now it has six branches spread around the city, mainly serve local specialties and Shaomai, the steamed dumplings.
The local king`s descendants of the Ming dynasty often dined here. Besides,The Chinese emperors named themselves as real dragons. so the restaurant was renamed as Long Juxiang (Auspicious Dragon Gathering).

Telephone Number: (0352) 5378899

Address: Northwest corner of the Drum Tower, Pingcheng Distrace, Datong City (鼓楼西北角)

2.The Eastern Wheat Noodles Restaurant 东方削面

A chain restaurant offers different kind of noodles, such as beef, pork, mutton, vegetarian, marshroom, etc. They are cheap, fast, but delicious. It is one of the most popular restaurants for Datong locals and it is the only one restaurant opened whole day from 7:00 am to 22:00 pm.

Telephone Number: 13015390356

Address: Yingbin Road No.400, Pingcheng Distract, Datong City (迎宾东路400号)

3. Kaige Hotpot Restaurant 凯歌火锅

A popular restaurant for locals not only in winter, but for all the year. The beef and mutton, comes from the wild grassland, are fresh and good tasted.

Telephone Number: (0352) 5520550, 5520552

Address: Yingbin Eastern Road No.116, Pingcheng Distract, Datong City (迎宾东路116号)

4. 369 Restaurant  紫泥369

It’s good at making food with coarse cereals, such as wheat, barley, sorghum, corn, quinoa, buckwhea, etc. They’re good and healthy.

Telephone Number: (0352) 5880888,5881888

Things to Do While in Datong

Noodles classes are popular for visitors when visit Datong. Shanxi is honored as the home of noodles. You will learn how to make sorts of local noodles, with flour of buckwheat, soybean, oat and potato; make the noodles into different shape; by boiled, steam, or fried different method. You can eat whatever you made for dinner!

Batik scarf making is interesting, you can draw any pictures that you like then batik it. It’s an interesting souvenir of the trip.

Pankou (Chinese style buttons) making classes, you will learn how to make the Chinese traditional buttons. Pankou, with many kinds of design, original used for Chinese traditional clothes, yet nowadays, they were used for decoration of anything.

Fans making classes, you can make a Chinese fan then embroider your own picture on it.

Hotels to Stay While in Datong

If you prefer a boutique hotel with good location and good service, the Garden Hotel is a good choice.

If you prefer peace and Chinese traditional courtyard hotel, Yunzhong Inn is perfect.

Other hotels, such as Yungang Meigao Hotel , Beidu international Hotel and Howard Johnson Hotel are situated outside of the city gate, they are four and five stars hotels. Rooms and Services are also great.