Thursday, October 25, 2007


Datong is not on the normal tourist route (probably due to the smog), but there were two excellent sites near the city. The Hanging Temple was built by monks, who dangled down from a cliff-top above a mighty river, to drill holes for the cantilever beams. Flooding in the valley below was a big problem, so they built Buddhist, Daoist and Confucianist shrines (praying to anyone who could help). All of the temples in Beijing are fully restored, so this was our first chance to see shrines that were desecrated during the Cultural Revolution (the eyes were knocked out of all of the statues).

On the other side of town, about fifty caves were created in a sandstone hill. Each cave centers around a giant Buddha, with thousands of smaller Buddhas decorating the walls. Ironically, the best preserved Buddha is outdoors (his cave collapsed in an earthquake). The caves are damp inside, and past restoration attempts have crumbled off, leaving pock-marked Buddhas.

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