Exotic Datong: The 51,000 Buddhas of the Yungang Grottoes

Beyond Yangtze

Located in the northern Shanxi Province of China, the city of Datong has a fascinating history and unique culture.  Nestled near the Great Wall pass from China into Mongolia, Datong was once the place where camel caravans stopped for a rest before moving from one region into the next.   Frequently sacked and rebuilt, this city grew up with a history of nomads, horse trading and the dry, desert steppe.   Datong is an impressive mountain landscape, unlike what you will see in the rest of the country.  Visitors come here to see the Yungang Grottoes, a series of caves which are home to tens of thousands of carved statues of Buddha that date back more than a thousand years.   In the heart of Datong, the beautiful Nine Dragon Screen is the oldest and largest glazed screen in China, and the Shanhua Monastery is a beautiful example of architecture from the Tang and Jin Dynasties.

Travel Itinerary

Day 1:   You will arrive in Datong by train.  Your guide will meet you at the station, and escort you to your hotel room, where you can spend the rest of the day resting before you explore this enchanting region.

Day 2:   Today, you will have the incredibly opportunity to visit the famous Yungang Grottoes, at the foot of picturesque Wuzhou Mountain.  Work on these spectacular caves began in the 1st century, and today, it is the site of 53 grottoes containing some 51,000 statues of Buddha in all variety of shapes and sizes.  Some statues are as small as two centimetres; others range as tall as 17 meters.   Datong is the best of only three sites in China where you can experience such marvellous stone sculptures, and in 2001, the site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its excellent preservation, scope and vivid history.   After your visit to the Yungang Grottoes, your guide will escort you to tour the site of the lovely Shanhua Monastery, which sits within the old Datong city walls.  Much of the building dates back to the Tang dynasty, and it is home to some intricate statues which are nearly one thousand years old.   At one point in the 13th century, more than 40,000 people worshiped at this site, and officials travelled from far and wide to study etiquette here.  Finally, you will visit the impressive and delicately coloured Nine Dragon Screen, which dates back more than 600 years.  This screen is eight meters high and nearly 50 meters long, and it is even larger and more impressive than a similar Dragon screen which adorns the Forbidden City in Beijing.  Make sure to take a look at the reflections of the dragons in the pond directly in front of the screen.  When the wind blows, it appears as if the dragons are moving.

Day 3:  In the morning, you will depart Datong by either train or airplane and head to Beijing, before catching your connection to Chongqing or Yichang.  There, you will meet up with your spectacular three-night Yangtze cruise down the mighty river.