Straight to town.
After the great time spent at the Yungang Grottos, I still have enough time to see the centre of Datong. I was impressed by the allegedly fake walls while in the bus on the way to the caves, so my first goal now is to check if my idea was right or wrong. From the Grottos I take a bus to a central station in Datong that is located north of the walled town. Once there I’m immediately surrounded by the hectic atmosphere of this town. There are people everywhere, selling things, doing shopping or even playing cards. I can’t deny that what I saw in the morning was great but I find more prolific from the photographer point of view this kind of urban landscape. I move on in the direction of the walls and I can finally see them at the end of a large street that seems to be the commercial heart of the town. Beside the many shops there is also an open-air market. A girl is promoting clothes she’s selling with an amplified microphone singing a rap-like rhyme. There’s also food of course, this is China! Among the many specialties available my choice go to a kind of tomato pizza with no cheese but very tasty and spicy. I love it. With this energy load, I’m now ready to head toward the huge grey walls in front of me.
Building a new walled town.
When I’m finally close to the walls I realise I can’t enter to the inner town from where I am because the supposed gate is in the middle of a building site confirming my theory. And then now is the time to share with you results of my research about this town and the walls. Datong has actually a very glorious past. The town has more than two thousands years of history. It was known until 1048 as Píngchéng and it was capital two times. Once it was capital of Northern Wei dynasty for about one century (398–493). Later on, during Jin dynasty (11th century), it was the northern capital of that empire before being sacked by Mongols. In more recent times the town where relics of the past were almost disappeared, became important for its coal mines and, consequently, notorious as one of the most polluted town in China. In 2008 the newly appointed mayor of Datong broke into this sad scenario with the crazy idea of restoring the ancient walls and the old town, being aware that this meant basically rebuilding everything from scratch. In such cases there’s always who is in favour and who is against, even in a country like China. I’m personally always in favour if you’re doing something beautiful. Now after almost ten years the wall belt is almost completed but also the quality of life in Datong improved and nowadays the town became an example of war to pollution, dramatically reduced. After this short resume about Datong’s old and recent history I’m going to tell you about what I saw in this walled town. To do that I just need to walk around the huge wall belt and hopefully find an open gate. This post continues to next page