August 26, 2009

Datong is a city in the northern Shanxi Province in China, and is located a few hundred kilometers west by rail from Beijing with an elevation of 1090 meters. It has a population of approximately 3.11 million.

The town was founded  in 200 BC during the Han Dynasty. 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. The City 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 sacked again at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1649 AD), but promptly rebuilt in 1652 AD.

Coal mining is the dominant industry of Datong.Its history and development are very much linked to this commodity.  The Datong Coal Mining Group is based here and is China’s third largest such enterprise.  However, Datong is seeking to loosen its dependence on coal, introduce more environmentally friendly and efficient methods of extraction and move into other areas of business services. Local government has continued to upgrade its pillar coal sector , while also developing “substitute industries” such as machinery manufacturing, tourism and distribution, warehousing and logistics services.

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Datong Climate
Datong is situated in the temperate continental zone with four distinct seasons. The spring is windy, with average temperature from 6.5 to 9.1 degrees Celsius. It’s mild and rainy in summer, temperature ranging from 19 to 21.8 degrees Celsius. The precipitation in summer makes up 64.3% of the annual total. The cloudy and cool weather in autumn is comfortable, with average temperature going between 5.8~8.4 degrees Celsius. Winter is the longest season, with January being the coldest. The average temperature is 12.8~-6.3 degrees Celsius, and in January, it could fall to -11.3 degrees Celsius.

August 26, 2009

  Built over 600 years ago, the Nine Dragon Screen in Datong is presently the oldest and largest glazed screen in China today. It is three times larger than that in Beihai Park , Beijing City.The screen, built for the thirteenth son of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), has been well preserved and remains intact to this day. It is made up of 426 glazed bricks, with a height of 8 meters (about 26 feet), 2.02 meters (6.6 feet) thick and 45.5 meters (149 feet) long. The Screen can be divided into three parts, the pedestal, body and roof.
The pedestal is rectangular shaped with a height of 2.09 meters (6.9 feet). Its narrow middle section is composed of 75 glazed tiles with images of oxen, dogs, deer rabbits and other animals.
The design of the body is that of a green wave on the lower part and a blue and yellow cloud on the upper part. It consists of nine flying dragons, with a golden-scaled, shiny-eyed dragon located in the center. The nine dragons are life-like and illustrating their ability of calling the wind and controlling the rainfall. The areas around the dragons are supplemented with images of plants, mountains, stones, water and grass.
And the roof is covered with glazed tiles.

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August 26, 2009

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The Yungang Grottoes are ancient Buddhist temple grottoes near  Datong .  They are excellent examples of rock-cut architecture and one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites of China. The others are Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Henan Province and Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu Provice.
The site is located about 16 km south-west of the city, in the valley of the Shi Li River at the base of the Wuzhou Shan Mountains. The grottoes were mainly constructed in the period between 460-525 AD during the Northern Wei dynasty. They are an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes. In 2001, the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

August 26, 2009

  The Hanging Temple is a temple built into a cliff ( 75m Above the ground )near Mount Heng Shen ,  65 kilometers to the northwest of Datong City. Along with the Yungang Grottoes, 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 unique not only for its location on a sheer precipice but also because it includes Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements.

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August 26, 2009

 Mount Wutai , also known as Wutai Mountain, is one of the Four Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism. Each of the four mountains are viewed as the abode or place of practice of one of the four great bodhisattvas while Wutai Mountain has the longest and most prestigious history among them.
Located in Wutai Country of Shanxi Province, 240 kilometers from the provincial capital of Taiyuan, the mountain is actually a cluster of five terrace-like peaks — East Terrace, West Terrace, South Terrace, North Terrace and Central Terrance, hence the name Wutai (Five Terraces). The North Terrace is the highest peak — about 3,058 meters above sea level — and is named as the Roof of North China. Wutai Mountain covers 2,873 square meters, spanning more than 100 kilometers.
In the mountain area, spring arrives in April, and snow falls in September and even in mid-summer, it is cool and pleasant. The cool and pleasant summer climate of Wutai Mountain has also given rise to another name: Qingliang (Cool and Pleasant) Mountain. The mountain has been regarded as an ideal place for escaping summer heat since ancient times.
Wutai Mountain is a famous scenic spot under national protection. It is famous for its bright blue sky and the natural beauty — beautiful surroundings, with trees covering ancient temples and monasteries.

Mount Wutai is home to some of the oldest existent wooden buildings in China that have survived since the era of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). This includes the main hall of Nanchan Monastery and the East Hall of Fuguang Monastery, built in 782 and 857, respectively. Today, most of the temples are still in good condition. Within their walls is a rich legacy of over 100,000 superb sculptures and paintings, along with a great quantity of Buddhist cultural relics.
For hundreds of years, Wutai Mountain has been China’s most sacred Buddhist ground mainly because it was where the highly revered Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom, once lived and taught Buddhism. Numerous temples on Wutai Mountain contain many relics and have different features.


For hundreds of years, Wutai Mountain has drawn emperors from various dynasties here on pilgrimage, adding more significance to the mountain. Furthermore, Wutai Mountain is China’s only holy mountain where both Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Lamaism are practiced. Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Lcangskyahothogthu (a living Buddha) have visited and preached here, some are even buried here.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a Buddhist academy was established here, attracting believers from both at home and abroad through the ages, such as India, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, Nepal and Sri Lanka, etc.