prefecture-level city in Shanxi, China
Asia > East Asia > China > North China > Shanxi > Datong City

Datong (大同 Dàtóng) is a city in Shanxi Province, China.

Yungang Caves

Understand edit

Datong is a small city with relatively little experience with foreigners. People here are friendly and curious. For simple entertainment, stop at a chuanr (meat on a stick) stand near Red Flag square, or Red Flag square itself and chat up the locals.

Get in edit

By plane edit

  • 1 Datong Yungang Airport (DAT  IATA) (is 18 km outside the city). Daily flights from Beijing Capital Airport and from Nanyuan Airport. The flight is ~1 hour and often heavily discounted. Changes on carrier discretion and seasonal requirements. There is a free shuttle bus from several hotels in town. It costs ¥15 per person and stops at the Datong Jiudian. You can take the bus back to the airport from there until 5:30PM.    

By bus edit

  • Hohhot - Buses depart from Hohhot's bus station (next to the train station) regularly all day. Just turning up and buying a ticket should usually get you on a bus within an hour, two at most. The journey takes about 5 hours with average traffic conditions, costing ¥85 (August 2013) The buses terminate at Datong main bus station (a ¥6 taxi ride from the train station).
  • Wutai Shan - Three buses a day in summer from Wutai Mountain from 8AM to 1PM. ¥75.

By train edit

Long-distance trains stop at the 2 Datong Train Station.

  • Beijing - 6 hr. Daily overnight trains run from Beijing to Datong and back. A hard sleeper ticket costs around ¥108. Night trains are available from both Beijing West Station (Beijing Xi Zhan) and Beijing Station (Beijing Zhan). In addition to the night train, there is a daily morning train, starting at 8:50AM and ¥54 for a hardseater.
  • Pingyao - overnight train
  • Xi'an - overnight train, approximately 17 hr. Train leaves Xi'an at 10:54PM. Hard sleeper (Feb 2010) ¥140.
Datong City
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
The climate in Datong is dry, cold and windy, with large temperature differences. It is recommended to keep long sleeves to keep out the cold.
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

Climate edit

Temperate continental semi-arid monsoon climate.

Affected by the monsoon, the four seasons are distinct.

Get around edit

By bus edit

Buses within Datong are ¥1. Trips to the Yungang Caves are ¥1.5.

  • Bus 4 - runs from the train station into town (6th stop (四牌楼) for 9 Dragon wall, 7th stop (清远街, bus sign “青年宫”) for Huāyuàn Monastery and Youth Hostel, 8th stop (红旗广场) for Red Flag square. The final stop on bus line 4 is the start of bus line 3.
  • Bus 3 - runs from the Xinkaili bus station (final stop of bus 4) to the Yungang Caves (end of the line).
  • Bus 15 - runs from train station to near the main bus station (the fifth stop from train station 市供排水集团 shìgōng páishuǐ jítuán, from that bus stop walk ahead to crossroads, turn left and main bus station 大同汽车站 is just ahead on left.)
  • Bus 30 - runs from the train station all the way to the south bus station (新南客运站), the last stop (45 min or longer).

By taxi edit

  • Short trips in town cost at least ¥7.
  • It may be convenient and less stressful to hire a taxi to visit the main sites out of town. A trip to the Hanging Monastery and Wooden Pagoda (both out of town - this is about 5 hours travel time) for 2 people was ¥260 in August 2011 - but agreeing to pick up other tourists on the way if available to fill the empty seats. You might not manage this cheaply. You can try to find a taxi yourself (e.g. in front of the train station in the morning there may be taxi drivers seeking this business) or ask at China International Travel Service (CITS, +86 0352 5101816, +86 13008088454). If asking via CITS, do not forget to ask for a new taxi or you may end up in an old car which is not safe for a trip out of town. You can join a day trip for the Hanging Monastery, Mount Heng and the Yungang Grottos including lunch for a little over ¥400 per person. Note that your time spent on the mountain is limited as most tour operators and guests expect to only climb 30 min to the last big monastery. Sometimes the tour guide asks to add the Wooden Pagoda at extra costs if enough/all guests agree. A round trip to all four attractions takes from ~7:30AM to ~6PM.

See edit

  • 1 Yúngāng Grottoes (云冈石窟 Yúngāng Shíkū) (take bus #4 to the end of the line [the end of the line is just a simple stop and then the bus starts going back, ask the driver for the grottoes and he will let you know where to get off] change to #3 and take that to the end of the line. Another bus to the Grottoes can be boarded here, here or here). By far the greatest attraction of the area is the 1,500-year-old Yúngāng Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These mountain-side caves and recesses are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues - the largest being a 17-metre Seated Buddha while the smallest is only a few centimetres tall. In addition to the carvings of the Buddha, there are also scenes depicting Buddhist teachings and famous monks. Unlike Dunhuang grottoes, most caves here permit photography, (notably excepting caves 5-10). The entrances to caves 5 to 10 are fronted by wooden temple structures. Caves 11-13 are under renovation. The cave walls at these entrances were damaged by graffiti during the cultural revolution although the majority of the site is well-preserved. At least you get the impression that the caves are mostly ancient/original and not reconstructed. The tour guides claim the Japanese took the statues' eyes during the occupation. ¥150. Full-time students and 60-69 yrs half price. Serving military, disabled, 70 and over, children under 1.4 m free. Discounts require documentary proof.    
The Hanging Monastery
  • 2 The Hanging Monastery (悬空寺 Xuánkōngsì) (65 km to the southeast of Datong. From Datong train station, fifth stop on bus line 15 takes you to 市供排水集团 Shìgōng Páishuǐ Jítuán. From there, walk ahead to crossroads, turn left and main bus station 大同汽车站 Dàtóng Qìchēzhàn is just ahead on left. [May 2013 : bus station moved because of works, still take bus 15 but ask the driver for the main bus station 大同汽车站 Dàtóng Qìchēzhàn which is now around 10 stops from the train station] Window 2 sells ¥26 tickets to 悬空寺 Xuánkōngsì. Buses leave frequently. After nearly a 2 hour journey you will be dropped off in a place where you can get a taxi for the final few miles. Prices seem to vary according to how much the taxi driver thinks he'll get from you, specially in Winter when there are not many taxis available. For coming back, there are taxis when exiting the monastery that go to Datong when they are full. In winter the taxis will drop you off back at the bus station. Expect to pay 50% to 100% more than what you paid for the first leg of the trip, and expect a 50% higher price if a toot take you to the taxi. If you are not fluent in Chinese you might find it cheaper and faster to arrange the transport to and from the monastery directly in Datong's bus terminal: many taxis and vans seem to be available for hire in the morning.). Lodged precariously on a cliff-face, this monastery is one of the more remarkable sights in China: a complex of 40 rooms linked by mid-air walkways. It appears to be stuck into the side of the cliff, but is actually supported by stilts. There is a '3 Religions Hall' with all of Buddha, Confucius and Laozi (founder of Daoism). Built in 490, renovated several times, most recently in 1900, much of the current structure dates from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Less than an hour to visit and not for the faint of heart. The roads may be closed in winter after heavy snowstorms and it is not recommended in rainy days for the slippery ladders. The ticket checkers are supposed to only let 80 people in at a time but the monastery can be crowded as not everyone follows the same flow around. Stick to the walls! Entry full ¥130 summer, ¥125 winter. Students, 60-69 half price. Disabled (残疾人), military, 70 and over, less than 1.2 m tall children free. Discounts require documents..    
  • 3 Yīngxiàn Wooden Pagoda (应县木塔 Yīngxiàn Mùtǎ), 应县, Yīngxiàn Town (about 75 km south of Datong and 70 km northeast of Shuozhou. The bus from Datong (¥20) takes about 2 hr, or from the Hanging Monastery (taxi to Hunyuan ¥10 after bargaining) it's about one hour (¥12) by bus, or you might find taxi drivers willing to take you directly from the Hanging Monastery car park to the Wooden pagoda for ¥40 per person). Summer 7:30AM-7PM, winter 8AM-5:30PM. This impressive pagoda is the oldest and tallest wooden structure in China, built in 1056 in the Liao Dynasty without any sort of nails. It is located within a Buddhist temple, some of which was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. There is an active temple in the back built in 2001. Only the ground floor of the pagoda are open to visitors. Inside the pagoda, you can see a big Buddha statue. Maybe half an hour needed to visit. To go back to Datong, go to Yingxian west bus station which is 2 km west from this temple. Take a 3-wheel taxi, and it takes 5 min from here with ¥5. (Last bus to Datong: summer 6:30PM, winter 6PM). Tickets ¥60. Full-time students, 60-69 years old & disabled half-price. Current serving military 四,现役军人, 70 and over, less-than-1.2m-tall children free. Discounts require documents..    
  • Daoist Monastery (on bus line 4 it is somewhere near stops 6 and 7, between the drum tower and Huáyán Monastery). A small collection of Daoist temples and a peaceful courtyard. A more human scale than the nearby Huáyán Monastery - half an hour at most - unless you are intercepted by a Daoist monk and have a chat or are given an explanation. Completely rebuilt in 2010. ¥30 full price. ¥15 students, etc..
  • 4 Huáyán Monastery (华严寺) (On bus line 4 it is near the seventh stop from the train station). Closes 7PM. A large collection of Buddhist temples of the Huayan sect that can be seen in an hour or two. Unusually this monastery faces east, not south. Completely rebuilt in 2010. At ¥80 a bit expensive really - if you like Buddhism (and mountain scenery, and have the time), save your money/time and head to Wutai Shan for slightly longer instead. Worth seeing for the Bodhisattva with palms together and smile grinning, a special statue from the Liao dynasty. Also known for its underground palace built entirely of bronze to house the relics of a cremated senior monk. ¥80 full price. ¥40 students. Disabled, military, 70 and over free.
  • Nine Dragon Screen (九龙壁 Jiŭlóngbì), Dàdōng Street 大东街 (at the geographic center of town, on the southern side of Dàdōng Street 大东街 (East Street) east of the main intersection a block north of the Drum Tower; it can be reached by Bus 4 from the Datong Railway Station, 6th stop 四牌楼 sìpáilóu, get off the bus and continue walking in same direction of bus and turn left at crossroads. 九龙壁 Jiŭlóngbì is on the right after 200 m). 7:30AM-7PM. A 600-year-old screen made of glazed tiles and depicting nine dragons, this is the oldest glazed screen in China. Most people will visit this for less than 5 minutes. It is a pity that the pond in front of the screen is no longer filled with water. ¥10, students and 60-69 yrs ¥5, children under 1.3 m, current-serving military, disabled, 70 and over free. Discounts require documents..
  • 5 Drum Tower (鼓楼). Like many cities in China, Datong has its own Drum Tower. This is in the centre of town, but not open to the public.
  • Heng Mountain (恒山 Héng Shān) (The entrance gate is 2 km past the Hanging Monastery, then it's another 12 km to the scenic area. A cable car can take you directly to the temples or you can take the half hour walk). This is the least religiously important of the 5 Sacred Mountains of Taoism. Due to its northerly location, it has been impossible for pilgrimages by the Chinese to take place for much of its history. ¥55.
  • Datong Museum (大同博物馆). The museum covers an area of 5600 m², of which 1,800 m² exhibition area, has now become the second largest museum in Shanxi Province, 1.3 million pieces of cultural relics, a product 132. Most of the local archaeological finds. Meet the public more than pieces of precious relics in 1000, half of the initial display of rare collections.
  • 6 City Walls, Several entrances along the city walls - main one seems to be in the east side. The city walls in Datong are similar the city walls in Xi'an. This is not the ancient city wall which has long been destroyed by wars/cultural revolution. The new wall is still under construction at some parts and even replaced the Red Flag Square. Unlike the one in Xi'an, the view is not that nice and you cannot rent bicycles to go around. There are electric carts to go around but unsure if for tourists. Yanta is in the southeast corner but you cannot go up. ¥30 full price, discounts for students available.
  • Great Mosque (清真大寺). Nearby the drum tower and the Daoist temple.
  • Shanhua Ancient Monastery (善化寺 Shànhùa Sì), Yongtaimennei Street. Shanhua Temple is a Buddhist temple first founded during the early 8th century of the Tang Dynasty, but its earliest surviving building dates from the 11th century. ¥50 full price.

Do edit

  • Red Flag Square 红旗广场 Hóngqí guǎngchǎng (8th stop on bus line 4 from train station). The square used to be for entertainment at night, dancing and music, but has now been replaced to make way for the full circle of the rebuilt city wall.
  • Datong Park. A free park that contains amusement rides.
  • Children's Park, Yingbin Street/Yunzhong Street Crossing. A large park still under construction. When it opens it is supposed to have many family attractions.

Buy edit

Eat edit

刀削面 (dāoxiāomiàn - knife-cut noodles) are a Shanxi specialty that you can find in restaurants.

  • Best Pizza (Near Huāyuàn Monastery on way to Daoist temple.). Consider for the experience, not the food. Chinese-style western restaurant, designed for Chinese people, not Westerners (i.e. luxurious sofas as seats, ice in champagne bucket to put in your beer to make it cold, asking for salt&pepper not thought strange but not already at every table, only has squat toilet). You will probably think the thick-base pizza is a reasonable imitation, but you may also realise why some Chinese people say that Western food basically isn’t as tasty as Chinese food. ¥50 up. Other passable Western food.
  • Mǎdàhā Hotpot (马大哈火锅). A well-known place among locals serving Shanxi hotpot although the same is now available everywhere in other China where each person has their own pot instead of sharing. There are several locations for this chain in Datong alone. You pick your soup and meats, then take a tray for the veggie and seafood. Drinks, ice cream, sauce, cold side dishes and fruit are free. Some locations have a play ground for kids inside. Very family friendly place.

Drink edit

  • Yùshèngxiáng Cháguǎn Tea house (裕盛祥茶馆) (near Huāyuàn Monastery on the way towards the Youth Hostel). Noon-midnight. Don't believe the sign - this is not open in the morning. Cups of tea start at ¥10 but you may prefer to try a pot ~¥30. Xīhú Lóngjǐng green tea is worth a try. Best just before sunset if they open the shutters - see sun fall over Huāyuàn Monastery, look out of 2nd floor window onto street below or just relax - actually part of a chain with origins more than 100 years ago that has not spread out of Shanxi yet - but you might not realise it. Don’t step in the indoor stream. There are extra charges if you use a private room at the side (¥28/hr) or want a tea master to stay at your table (after a free quick lesson) topping up your tea pot. (¥60/hr). The prices in the English menu may be out of date - and the Chinese menus may also not be accurate for seasonal teas (eg they may be lower than printed). Spoken English not good - but you should be able to come to an understanding what is available at what price. Free hot water top-ups on request. Freshly-ground coffee (现摩咖啡), beer (啤酒), popcorn (爆米花), sweets/candies (糖), raisins (‘香妃’/葡萄干), roasted watermelon seeds (烤西瓜字), peanuts (花生), cashew nuts (腰果) and almonds (大杏仁) are available but not on the English menu. Busy at weekends. (2011) From ¥10.

Sleep edit

Budget edit

  • [dead link] Qīngnián Lǚshè Youth Hostel (青年旅社), 华严街 Huáyán Jiē, Huáyán Street (Before 8:30pm take no. 4 bus (¥1) from train station 7 stops to 清远街 Qīngyuǎn Jiē for Huáyán monastery. [After 8:30PM take taxi (¥8) to 华严寺 Huáyán sì.] Get off bus and walk forwards 200 m, cross road and enter ancient area under arch (Huáyán Street) first passing Huáyán monastery on your right and then carrying straight on. In less than 5 minutes you come to a sign on the right 青年旅社, go in through children's clothing shop), . This is a small, clean, busy youth hostel opened in May 2011 in a central location. Views from bedrooms over real crumbling old town. Booking by email advisable. Not all staff speak English although more can read it. Tel 0352 2427766. Bed space in dorm ¥50 per night (Aug 2011), member ¥45. Standard ensuite rooms (comfortable, flat screen TV, kettle, western toilet) ¥158. Free wifi+internet terminals. Laundry ¥5 per load.
  • Tōngmíng Kuàijié Jiŭdiàn (通明快捷酒店), No.36 站前街 Zhànqián Street (Turn left out of the train station and walk straight ahead for 5 minutes past a couple of expensive hotels and then a string of cheap Chinese hotels that are not allowed to accept foreigners. On the right is a taller red hotel with a name in red letters 通明快捷酒店 客房). This hotel offers a range of rooms, many with wifi access. Hot water 8PM-midnight? TV, kettle, Western toilet. The beds are hard, the rooms in the basement are cold and smell of cigarettes but the location may be convenient. Further down this street on the right, some other hotels might also be willing to accept foreigners at lower prices than Tōngmíng. Don't believe rack rates. A basement double room with ensuite can be secured for ¥100 (Feb 2011). Single ensuite ¥80 (Aug 2011).
  • DaTong Green Island Youth Hostel Railway Station, F5, Block A, Jin Hu International Tower, No.1029 Wei Du Avenue (Opposite the train station), Datong, China (biggest tower across train station. entrance is from behind.). A young hostel offering most satisfying help by the staff. ¥160 for double room.

Mid-range edit

  • Hongqi Dafandian, Huochezhan BeiLu, +86 352 2816813, fax: +86 352 2816671.
  • Yanbei Binguan, 1 Yuhe Beilu, +86 352 6024116, fax: +86 352 6027287.

Splurge edit

  • Datong Binguan, 37 Yingbin Xilu, +86 352 2032476, fax: +86 0352 2035174.
  • Hongqi Grand Hotel, NO.11, S Zhanqian, +86 352 5366888, fax: +86 0352 5366222. It is a 3-star hotel just across the train station which is very convenient. A price for a night in a room with two beds is ¥265 (as of Dec 2009). Rooms are very comfortable. On the negative side the staff barely speaks English but one or two of the girls at the counter can help you. The hotel has an excellent restaurant frequented by visiting Chinese. You do not have to be a guest to eat here. Meals vary in price from ¥15 to ¥268 for duck. The menu has pictures. Around the block are a number of places to eat, bakeries and a supermarket.

Go next edit

Booking tickets at the Datong Train Station can be difficult because many tickets for popular routes are snatched by black market sellers when they become available four days before the train runs. So book tickets from Datong as early as possible.

  • Beijing - Approx eight buses a day depart for Beijing from the Xīnnán Bus Station. ¥128 ordinary seat, ¥158 luxury seat. Approx 4½ hours depending on the traffic.
  • WuTai Shan - 2 buses per day in summer at 8:30AM and 2:10PM from Xīnnán Bus Station. ¥75. 4 hours.
  • Taiyuan - Many buses per day, or coaches. From Taiyuan you can continue to Pingyao or try to find a direct bus.

Xīnnán Bus Station (新南客运站 Xīnnán Kèyùnzhàn) is the last stop on Datong local bus 30 that departs from Datong Train Station. 45 minutes or more, depending on traffic.

This city travel guide to Datong City is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.