After a disappointing day yesterday at the Hanging Monastery, we were determined to make the most of the other main sight in Datong – the Yungang Grottos.

The Yungang Grottos near Datong are one of the three most famous Buddhist temple grottoes in China and a UNESCO world heritage site. The area consists of 53 caves containing over 51,000 individually carved and painted stone statues.

For me, this was definitely one of the best historical sites I’ve visited in China, mainly due to how sensitively it has been restored and preserved. There has been very little in the way of rebuilding of the grottos themselves and instead they are allowed to shine as they are. Note, the temple we passed through between the entrance and the grottos was definitely modern, but if you can read Chinese there is an interesting timeline of the restoration work displayed inside.

Unfortunately the area has become something of a victim of growing tourism, in particular the destruction of the original town next to the grottos to create a more scenic, landscaped garden setting around the caves. There is also a slightly unsightly and noisy mine near the site which was at times difficult to ignore.

We spent a couple of hours thoroughly exploring the caves and temples, before catching the bus back to Datong.

If you are passing through the area or want to make an extra stop-off between Beijing and Xi’an, I would definitely recommend visiting Datong for a day and visiting the Yungang Grottos.

Entrance ticket: 120 RMB

Transport: local bus no. 3 (1 RMB)

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