We began Day 4 with another typical Chinese buffet provided by the hotel. We then checked-out from the hotel and proceeded to winery located near Sha Cheng. The Great Wall Winery, perhaps one of the main producer of wine in China. Everything is done locally – that includes farming, bottling and marketing. The smell of wine was so strong – very rich aroma. We witnessed how wine are produced – from grapes to storage to bottling. Everything is done mechanically – using sophitiscated machines.
We moved on leaving Sha Cheng for Datong which was 2 1/2 hours drive. The early morning journey was quite pleasant – especially after breakfast. On both sides of the expressway, I could see barren lands or sometimes small villages.
We arrived at Datong at around 11.30am. Datong is a city located in the north. The main produce here is charcoal – that’s enough to convince investors to open a huge charcoal-powered powerplant – which provides electricity for Beijing. We had lunch at a nearby restaurant, to recharge ourselves. After lunch, we headed to Yungang Grottoes, which is located at inner Datong – near some hills.
Yungang Grottoes, one of the three major cave clusters in China, punctuate the north cliff of Wuzhou Mountain, Datong. The area was excavated along the mountain, extending 1 km (0.62 miles) from east to west, revealing 53 caves and over 51,000 stone statues. The caves are divided into east, middle, and west parts. Pagodas dominate the eastern parts; west caves are small and mid-sized with niches. Caves in the middle are made up of front and back chambers with Buddha statues in the center. Embossing covers walls and ceilings. Started in 450, Yungang is a relic of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Absorbing Indian Gandhara Buddhist art, Yungang sculptures developed traditional Chinese art melded with social features of the time.
Some carvings inside one of the caves.
We spent roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes visiting each of the caves – each with their own history. Next, we moved on to Datong city, which took about 20 minutes drive. We reached the city at 3.50pm and visited a place called Upper Huayan Monastery.
The Upper Huayan Monastery (Da Xiong Bao Dian) is considered to be one of the two biggest Buddhist halls existent in China. And it was built under the Liao Dynasty in 1062. The Monastery suffered from a severe damage in the last years of the Liao and yet it was restored by the Jin in 1140.
One of the halls.
The visit was brief – walked up to one of the halls, listened tentatively to the guide, walked down and hopped into the bus – it took just 20 minutes. Some of us missed it as they went released themselves – came back to find out the visit has over! 😛
We proceeded to the last attraction – The Nine-Dragon Screen – also located nearby.
The Nine Dragon Screen in Datong, Shanxi Province is said to be the largest screen of its type anywhere in China, which is 45.5 meters (150 feet) long, 8 meters (26 feet) high and 2.02 (6.6 feet) meters thick and consists of 426 pieces of glazed tiles.
The screen stands in front of the mansion of the thirteenth son of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. In ancient times, the screen served as a barrier both keeping passers-by peeping into the house and making visitors tidy up themselves before meeting the hosts. There is a pool in front of the screen and the inverted reflection of the screen in water makes it seem to come to life.
The screen… nothing to shout about.
The visit again lasted half hour – mostly time was spent on photography session. We were informed that we’ll check into the hotel before heading out for dinner. And before dinner, we were granted some freedom – some little shopping over some streets located nearby the hotel.
The hotel was nearby – located at one of the busiest streets in Datong. We hurriedly check-in and stormed the streets as they will be closed down at 6pm. Much to our disappointments, there was nothing to buy as all shops preparing to close down. Nevertheless, we went back to hotel and waited for everyone else.
Dinner was unusual – unlike previous nights. This time, we had hot wok a.k.a. steamboat Datong-style. Very delicious, I would say. The ingredients, sauce and meats tasted different from what we have in Malaysia. Very authentic and fresh. I would say that was the most satisfying dinner I ever had in China.
Break free from usual dinners.
After dinner, we went back and had some nice rest before heading back to Beijing the next morning.