24 June 2018

Beyond The City Walls... Datong, China!

Fresh from the Yungang Grottoes, things kept on moving during my second day in Datong, China! The weather in Beijing was bleak but Datong served nothing but sunny skies and warm temperatures, I was in the right place! Still expecting to see four more places before my China Highlights tour concluded, I was ready for whatever Datong had to show me! D, got it together!

Arriving at the Huayan Temple after the grottoes I had no patience for rebuilt or rebuffed temples or monasteries! Asking my tour guide to skip that ridiculousness it was to the far back Mahavira Hall because it was all original, well most of the figures and painting stood in their honest state. The five carved Buddhas were authentic, dating back to the Ming Dynasty I was impressed with that find! Taking in the deep red design from the outside I was impressed and even let some passerby remain in my photo, I was being generous during that Datong moment. I have come to a point where I can't tolerate rebuilt ancient Chinese temples or places of historical significance, I am nearing my third year here and it just feels dishonest! Regardless, the Huayan Temple had something nice to show me during that Dragon Boat Festival holiday weekend. If truth be told, Datong was packing a punch, so much to see in such a small city! Work it!

Moving on from Huayan to Shanhua Temple, set within a serenely quiet garden it was just the antidote needed to get over Huayan's unnecessary crowds. Designated as a museum, Shanhua Temple doesn't get the crazy like other sister temples, getting it together I found the Pixuan Pavilion. One of two pavilions within Shanhua's walls it happened to be the original one, of course I shunned the rebuilt one because it didn't give me the looks that I live for! Well, certain modifications have been made to the Puxian Pavilion, for reasons not caused by a certain class of cultural issues so I can relax those views there. Datong's efforts to show me two temples impressed me, it was the second day of tour and the major sights had been seen, I was open to see some smaller and lesser know places after the grandeur of the grottoes and the heights of the hanging temple. Completely trusting China Highlights throughout and they consistently served something that justified the price. Yes!

The penultimate site during my second day in Datong was the 'Nine Dragon Wall'. Closed off in a small courtyard I had front row tickets to see this Datong point of interest. This colourful screen had something to do with the ruler during the time it was built, but I can't quite remember the details. I heard that the other Dragon Wall sits within Beijing's Beihai Park, some place I must get down to see! The green tones symbolised the earth, blue signified the sky and the gold or brown stood for the dragon? Seriously I listened to too much information during my two day trip I cannot remember for the life of me! That's it, the wall was built by the regime of the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, something as a protection barrier against rival tribes? Being the barrier that protected the residence of an imperial prince, Zhu Gui. D's Nine Dragon Wall was something of a grand battery ram? Nobody's messing with the dragons D!

I had to take a second to stop, to stop and think about my whirlwind trip to Datong that was nearly over! I had taken a huge chance on such small unknown city, paid for an expensive tour to see the far out gems in a short space of time. Had it all been worth it? Even though I was dog tired from working and teacher training I saw what I needed thought my naps and China Highlights tour, those naps helped and the minivan was definitely a comfier addition to the tour. From the first greeting at the airport to the Nine Dragon Wall I was impressed and well informed throughout the tour, given in-depth information about all the sights seen it justified the price tag attached to the tour! I tell a lie, the Shanhua Temple wasn't the place after seeing the Huayan Temple, it was actually the Nine Dragon Wall then it was Shanhua to the almost original Puxian Pavilion. Datong itself wasn't bad, it's a city that's been lost within its industrial past. Psyched by those nine fierce dragons I was onto the last one!

Finishing my tour at the newly renovated Datong City Walls, I climbed to the top after giving the clerk a piece of my mind, we think they just want  to see an international passport? Climbing to the top I was given a direct flashback to Xian's City walls but the pollution was no where to be seen in Datong during that summers day! Taking things slow, the stroll along Datong's City Walls gave me the chance to see the city masterplan for myself. The ancient flare coming from the newly restored homesteads showed me the new frontier of faux-authentic ancient Chinese apartments for new tourists to the city. The new vision is to have the centre city within the walls as a former reflection of what Datong looked like in its previous light. Walking further round the newer sections of the restored City Walls, I saw a motorbike exhibition, something that could be future earner for Datong? With a High Speed connected soon it's on D!

Bidding a fond farewell to my tour guide and driver I returned to my Datong hotel room, I was beyond tired but fulfilled with my tour. I bagged a fine abode, a former Holiday Inn property it had a soft bed that messed me up compared to my firm mattress at home but the former Holiday Inn hotel was comfortable. Hitting up Walmart once more, I really noticed the realness going on, if I had just arrived in China I would've been horrified to witness a child urinating in the street or even at bottom of an escalator that I caught before finding Wal-Mart for the first time! Aside from the third city vulgarity I found Australian cider in that American supermarket, that impressed me much and more because I don't live near that supermarket. I guess Datong brought me back down to earth from my Beijing bubble? No, Datong had a plan for me and it showed me just what it needed to, I loved it! Datong showed me so much during that time, it was enough! DG has something beyond its wall!

Datong, Done!

Joseph Harrison

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