DATONG

Datong makes up one of the one-day visits in my journey: I get there in the morning with a night train from Beijing and I leave in the evening with another night train to Pingyao. Datong, by itself, is not worth a visit but there are a couple of interesting places nearby: the Yungang Grottoes and the Hanging Temple. I use to go around on my own through public transport but this option is not viable in this case due to the location of those places and the tight schedule. Therefore I join a CITS (Chinese International Travel Service) tour.
The landscape here, West of Beijing, is arid: the land is hard and light-coloured, it looks like hardened sand. It's not a sand desert, but it is nonetheless a desert:

There are other Buddhist Grottoes elsewhere in China but I won't be able to visit those places. Therefore, Yungang Grottoes are a unique and important part of my journey. They are, indeed, attractive and interesting:

and imposing:

though not devoid of fine details:

The Hanging Temple is, historically speaking, somewhat less important but hey, it's a landmark for its uniqueness:

and its visit brings a special emotion with it:

Frankly speaking, it is not as unsafe as it may seem at first sight. Nonetheless, while you walk on its floor hanging over the empty space, each and every creaking of the wood causes a shiver in your backbone.

»The Hanging Temple is located at the foot of the Bei Heng Shan, a sacred mountain of Daoism. I already visited Tai Shan approximately one week ago and will be in Hua Shan later in my travel. The visit to these 3 Daoist mountains and the suggestion of Daisy, a Chinese girl that I will meet later in Xi'an, will give me the opportunity to try and learn something about Taoism, a set of religious and philosophical concepts[1]. I found many of these concepts extraordinarily modern. One of them is Wu wei, which says that the mankind should keep its impact on the nature to a minimum. Had we followed it, if only a little bit, the Earth would be in a much better shape.

In places like Datong, not as touristic as others, I feel the curious stare of Chinese. Some of them look at me as if I came from another planet. It's not annoying at all, but it's unusual. Sometimes they "secretely" take a picture of me or, while I am in the waiting hall at the train station, they look at the travel book I am reading, take it out of my hands and inspect it with great care. When they later realize that it's in another language they return it to me. I guess they are curious to know what it is said in other countries about China and the Chinese.

  1. ^ The most influential Taoist text is the Tao Te Ching, a set of 81 short chapters, which is widely available both in bookstores and on the Internet.