How to get to the Hanging Temple.
Beside the Yungang Grottos there is at least anothre important site to visit in this area: the Hanging temple located about 70 kilometres south of Datong. Due to the distance is not possible to use an urban bus to reach it. The easy way would be take one of the taxi that are available with drivers offering their services to foreigners using little printed board with destinations, pictures and price. However, as you should know, I prefer to use public transportation as much as I can so, after taking the relevant information, I’m heading to the central bus station with a local bus, the number #8. I’ve no idea about the exact location of the bus station but with the support of other passengers on the bus and the help of fundamental Google Translate I get down at the right stop. Actually I don’t see anything that really looks like a bus terminal. By instinct I follow a dog that follows his master without need of a collar and I realise I’m in parking where are probably only inactive buses. I’m a bit lost but luckily I found a guy to ask directions. He doesn’t speak English but I pasted the name of my destination on my mobile phone. Just in case is: 悬空寺 or, in the more understandable Pinyin, Xuánkōngsì. I discover that this very kind person is the head of the local police station. The spirit of hospitality of this person is astounding. He not only leads me at the terminal, he helps me in buying the ticket, he shows me the right bus and, in addition, he grabs for me some kind of berry from a tree. I’m really astonished by such a kindness. With a very good mood I’m now heading to the temple.
On the bus to Hunyuan.
Not surprisingly, getting out the town takes quite a long time. Chinese towns are often very wide. Datong, for example, has a population of more than 3 million. However from the bus window I have the chance to see some glimpse of ordinary life and even some not as ordinary like a guy driving his car with a plaster cast on one arm and using the other one to type on his mobile phone. You can see it in the small pic in this page. Was it maybe an experiment of self driving car? Once out of town the bus goes quite fast. There’s no much traffic. For a part of its route it runs on what it looks a brand new road. I’m tracking the position of the bus compared with the one of the temple site with gps and when I see that the closest point is passed and the bus seems to go further I start to be nervous but actually at the end of a long straight, the bus does a u-turn and then stop where there is some parked taxi. I get down and with me also a couple of Chinese tourists. They are also going to the temple, of course and so we share the taxi. There are only few kilometres to the site. When we are there the Chinese couple does not allow me to pay my part of the taxi bill. They tell me that I will pay when they will come to Italy. And the series of kindness keeps going on.
And finally, the temple.
The temple is there, a little brown drawing painted on mount Hengshan side. From the ticket office the little stairs leading to it are almost invisible. Ticket costs 130 yuan, about 17 Euro. There is a huge amount of tourists and I guess the site looks even more crowded because the entire visit path is very well delimited. All around there are probably, I’m not 100% sure about it, hiking trails leading to the top of the mountain but most of the people are here for the temple and of course, I am too. The temple is not carved out in the mountain like the one of Ostrog in Montenegro but it is really hanged on it. Try to imagine roughly two houses of three floors each linked to the mount with some invisible tie. And is this apparent magic that impresses you because for what it regards the decorations, colours and statues this one is not so different from other temples I saw in Beijing. The temple was built more than 1500 years ago but due to its fragility had needed strong maintenance during Ming and Qing rule. There is another peculiarity that makes this temple quite special. It hosts statue of gods of three different religions: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The temple is absolutely incredible but it is a bit hard to enjoy the visit because of the crowd that makes difficult to move on the tight stairways and passages connecting the different floors of the building. I decide to walk twice on some part of the route to take some more picture and appreciate some other detail but after about 30 minutes I’m heading toward the exit. I’m leaving behind one of the most amazing monument I’ve ever saw. The problem is that this thing is very well known in China and abroad.
And now? How to get back to Datong?
It was a long way for a quite short visit but I could say it was worth it, now I have two major needs, eating ‘cos I’m quite hungry and to find a way to get back to Datong. Strangely, the possibility of reaching the same bus station where I took the taxi doesn’t seem to be an option. I don’t know why there isn’t any shuttle service connecting the site with the bus stop. Watching the huge parking of the site I should argue that large majority of people come here by car. I just walk toward the exit waiting for something happening and I see at least some food stand. I don’t want to sit so I take some kind of bread and something sweet. Keeping walking I find a couple of taxis collecting passengers waiting to leave only when they’re full. Both taxi driver and other passengers do not speak English but in some way I’m able to deal to come back to Datong railway station for 80 yuan. The road back is more or less the same done by the bus but it is of course slightly faster. Not so much however because we stop twice on the way. Once to fill the taxi tank with LPG a kind of fuel that requires all passengers down from the car and a second time to buy some kind of fruit. Both taxi drivers and other passengers buy a kind of melon that I’ve never seen before. They are pretty small, with a spheric shape and very sweet. I’m able to say that because just to confirm once again how locals are hospitable the taxi driver offered me one. And so, almost at the end of the day I’m back in Datong. I forgot to tell you that this morning, before leaving for the temple I moved to another hotel. I wasn’t able to stand the previous one. This new one, located in the same area near by the station is really nice and it has one of the best remote controlling system I saw before. Any light, tent, window in the room can be managed with it. Tomorrow I will leave this hotel and the town of Datong. Before there is the last duty here: the dinner. Yesterday I’ve espied a place that I want to try. It is halfway between a fast food and a proper restaurant and it is called Sunjibaozi. I take noodles with chicken and some Baozi. I’m happy with my choice. Now I can finally go to sleep. Tomorrow I will take the train to Pingyao, my next destination in China. As usual, I leave you with the gallery of pictures taken in Datong and in the nearby sites.