Monday, September 9, 2013

The Asian Adventure: Part Six - Datong

Several hours inland from Beijing by bus or train, a trip that is DEFINITELY worth making, is Datong, the northernmost city of the Shanxi province.  Datong is home to two more of the most spectacular UNESCO sites in China - The Hanging Monastery & the Yungang Grottoes.  (But bring a Chinese speaker or pay for an English language tourguide because few people speak English this far off the beaten Western tourist path.)

Our first stop was the GLORIOUS Hanging Temple...

We obeyed the posted placards - not making graffito, climbing over defenses, missionizing, making pyramid sales, or being immature without the custody of an adult. 

The monastery looks out over this beautiful gorge...

And was designed and built right into the cliff-face over 1,000 years ago (is that not INSANE?!?!?!)
And while you're up there, it's hard not to think about the fact that this building is OLD and you are really HIGH and that could end very, very badly (though yes, they have continually repaired and maintained it, so I'm sure we're perfectly safe, but you try looking down a sheer cliff and not thinking EEP!).

Also notable as a rare combination of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucist Temples, the Hanging Temple (AKA Hanging Monastery or Suspended Temple) was a definite MUST SEE.

You'd think it the Hanging Temple would be hard to beat.  But then we went to the Yungang Grottoes.  You guys.  This place is AMAZING.

You walk down this long colonnade, into a beautiful park where there's a lake with a sprawly palace... and that's just the entrance.

The real kicker is the caves.  Hundreds of caves with THOUSANDS of Buddhas carved inside them.

Some of them have structures built around them (this is Cave #6):
While others are right out in the open:
This Big Buddha is a seventeen meters (55 feet) high:

We explored the many caves and MANY Buddhas...
Then made our way back toward the front entrance, past the lily pond...
Back out front toward the palace looking thingy (I'm not gonna lie, it could be a temple and I wouldn't know any better, at this point my brain was on WOW overload and I didn't get any details about this structure.  Though I did get some fun pics!)

After glorious Datong, it was south to Hangzhou and Shanghai...

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