Hanging Monasteries of Datong

Our harrowing train experience brought us to Datong, a city known for two magnificent tourist attractions, the Yungang Caves and the Hanging Monasteries.

Short on time, we arranged a tour with CITS. They met us at the station, helped us find a sketchy hotel, booked the tour for us, and told us that Bin Laden had been killed. Surreal.

The day trip to both sites cost 100Yuan (about $15) without admission fees, which were about $15 each.

The monastery was originally built in 419, and rebuilt during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Support beams were inserted into the rock, and the poles you can see are only a backup. On busy days they absorb some of the weight, but when we went you could move the beams with a light push.

I couldn’t believe how big the monastery was. There were over 40 rooms, some filled with Buddhist statues, some with intricate carvings. My favourite details were these tile figures on the roof. These number of these decorations represented how important a particular building was, with some buildings at the forbidden city having 12 statues.

This site alone was worth the trip to Datong, although I would not recommend pushing on the poles if, like me, you have a slight fear of heights.


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