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Datong Facts

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Overview
Datong is a prefecture-level city in northern Shanxi province, People's Republic of China, located in a basin at an elevation of 1,040 metres (3,410 ft) and bordering Inner Mongolia to the north and west and Hebei to the east. It had a population of 3,318,057 at the 2010 census of whom 1,629,035 lived in the built up area made of 3 out of 4 urban districts, namely Chengqu, Kuangqu and Nanjiao District.

History
The town was founded as Píngchéng (平城) in 200 BC during the Han dynasty, after the Battle of Baideng between the Han and the Xiongnu. Located near the Great Wall Pass to Inner Mongolia, it blossomed during the following period and became a stop-off point for camel caravans moving from China into Mongolia and beyond. It was sacked at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. Pingcheng became the capital of Northern Wei from 398 AD until 494 AD, when the well-known Yungang Grottoes were constructed during the later part of this period (460–494 AD).

The city was renamed Datong in 1048 AD. It was the Xijing ("Western Capital") of the Jurchen Jin dynasty prior to being sacked by the Mongols. It was sacked again at the end of the Ming dynasty in 1649 AD, but promptly rebuilt in 1652 AD.

Datong was close to the Beidi kingdom of Tai, which was conquered by the Zhou dynasty in 457 BC. It bordered on the Hu nomads and traded in horses. Tai was later a commandery or county.

Geography
Datong is the northernmost city of Shanxi, and is located in the Datong Basin, with an administrative area spanning latitude 39° 03'–40° 44' N and longitude 112° 34'–114° 33' E. The urban area is surrounded on three sides by mountains, with passes only to the east and southwest. Within the prefecture-level city elevations generally increase from southeast to northwest. Datong borders Ulanqab (Inner Mongolia) to the northwest and Zhangjiakou (Hebei) to the east, Shuozhou (Shanxi) to the southwest and Xinzhou (Shanxi) to the south.

The well-known Datong Volcanic Arc lies nearby in the Datong Basin.

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Tourism
The Yungang Grottoes are a collection of shallow caves located 16 km (9.9 mi) west of Datong. There are over 50,000 carved images and statues of Buddhas and bodhisattvas within these grottoes, ranging from 4 centimeters to 7 meters tall. Most of these icons are around 1000 years old.

Within the city itself, there are a few surviving sites of historical interest such as the Nine-Dragon Wall, the Huayan Monastery (华严寺; Huáyán Sì), and the Shanhua Temple (善化寺; Shànhuà Sì). Further afield is the Hanging Temple (悬空寺; Xuánkōng Sì) built into a cliff face near Mount Heng. Most of the historical sites in this region date to the Tang and Ming dynasties, but the Hanging Temple dates to the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534).

The railway locomotive works (see below) began to attract increasing numbers of railway enthusiasts from the 1970s. When construction of steam locomotives was phased out, the authorities did not want to lose this valuable tourism market, and pondered the possibility of developing a steam railway operating centre as an attraction. A number of study visits were undertaken to the East Lancashire Railway at Bury, and a twinning arrangement was concluded with that town.

In 2010, work began on reconstructing the city's 14th century Ming dynasty defensive wall. The controversial reconstruction project was in its final phase at the end of 2014. The documentary The Chinese Mayor [2] documents two years of vigorous effort by Mayor Geng Yanbo to push the reconstruction project forward.

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