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Datong city (northeast) is located near the Great Wall Pass to Inner Mongolia within 380km from Beijing. The city area is surrounded by mountains, Yu River terraces and plains, and is reach with mineral resources. With population of 1.13 million people, it supplies a third of all China's coal. Among other minerals are iron, graphite, aluminum, mica, feldspar, and manganese. Amid blasted landscape of modern industrial China - coal mines, power stations and a huge locomotive factory - are some marvelous ancient sites, remnants of the city's glory days as the capital of two Han Chinese dynasties. The 2,400 years old city has traditional defensive wall common for most ancient cities of China, original temples, museum with ancient collection of over 18,000 Buddhist sutra volumes and scripts, good restaurants and hotels. The highlights of the area are the Buddhist grottoes of the Yungang caves, the Hanging Temple of Heng Shan on the outskirts of the city, and the China's largest wood-structured 70 meters (230 feet) high Wooden Pagoda in Yingxian County.
The Buddhist grottoes carved into the side of a sandstone cliff on the cities outskirts were started in 400AD, at the time of a Buddhist revival, and petered out around 525AD. The caves are the 1st and grandest of the 3 major Buddhist grottoes in China and also the best preserved. The artistry is unsurpassed in China and the labor involved is no less impressive, requiring as many as 40,000 workmen. Most of the caves were made by first hollowing out a section at the top of the cliff, then digging into the rock, down to the ground and out, leaving two holes, one above the other. In total 50 caves house some amazing carvings across a 1km span of cliffs, some in better condition than others.
The Hanging Temple, on the Taoist holy mountain of Heng Shan, clings perilously halfway up the side of a sheer cliff face, propped up on long wooden stilts anchored to the ledges below. The temple displays statues of the 3 religions (Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism).