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Datong: a border town on the edge of the Mongolian grasslands, and the former capital city of
Tuoba, which was a federation of Turkic-speaking nomads who united Northern China,
converted to Buddhism, and eventually assimilated into Chinese culture.
Yungang Caves: a collection of 5th century Buddhist carvings. These carvings are located quite
a distance from the initial influx of Buddha influence in China. The carvings are a mixture of
new ideas and artistic styles of India, Persia, and Greece. Images include the 100 Buddha motif,
flying asparas, pagodas in bas-relief and Chinese symbols such as dragons and phoenixes. There
are 21 main grottoes.
Huayan Temple: was originally built during Khitan during the Liao dynasty (AD 907-1125).
The temple faces east because the Khitan were sun worshippers. It consists of two parts, an
active monastery (the upper temple) and the museum (the lower temple). The upper temple was
built in 1140 and is one of the largest Buddhist halls in China. The lower temple also functions
as the city museum and contains relics from the Wei and Liao dynasties. The rear hall was built
in 1038, used to be a sutra library, and is the oldest building in Datong. It also contains Liao
dynasty sculptures.
Nine-Dragon Screen: originally served the same function as a temple’s spirit wall. It is located
in front of the old entrance to a Ming dynasty palace (the palace burned down), and traditionally
inhibits evil spirits from crossing a threshold and wreaking havoc within. It consists of a glazedtile wall which depicts nine sinuous dragons and is 8m high, 45m long, and 2m thick.
Hunyuan: a small country town most famous for the Hanging Monastery.
Hanging Monastery: is located on Taoism’s sacred northern mountain (Heng Shan). It is built
into the side of a cliff and on long support stilts that extend downward from its base. The stilts
are to protect the monastery from the floods coming down from Jinlong Canyon. The halls are
built along the contours of the cliff face and are connected by catwalks and corridors.
Yingxian: another small town most famous for the Muta.
Muta (Wooden Pagoda): dates back to the 11-th century and is one of the planet’s oldest
wooden buildings. It is a nine-story, 67m-high structure and has survived seven major
earthquakes. The structure does not make use of a single nail.