Introduction to Datong

Updated: 2020-08-28

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Datong city wall [Photo provided to]

Datong is the second largest city in North China's Shanxi Province. It was included in the first group of 24 national historical and cultural cities in China and the first group of 13 large cities in the country. One of China's ancient capitals, Datong has been designated a national new energy demonstration city, one of China's outstanding tourist cities, a national garden city, a national dual support model city, a national transportation hub city, China's sculpture capital, and one of China's top ten sports and leisure cities.

Datong is situated in the northwest part of Shanxi. It is adjacent to Zhangjiakou City and Baoding City in Hebei Province to the east and Shuozhou City and Xinzhou City in Shanxi Province to the west and south; and borders Ulanqab City in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to the north. Datong is about 189 kilometres from north to south and 136.9 kilometres from east to west. With an area of 14,176 square kilometres, it accounts for 9.1 percent of the total area of Shanxi Province.

Datong City was established in May 1949 and has gone through many administrative division adjustments. It merged with Yanbei Region in 1993 to form its current layout. Today Datong City governs four districts: Pingcheng District, Yungang District, Xinrong District, and Yunzhou District, as well as six counties: Yanggao, Tianzhen, Guangling, Lingqiu, Hunyuan and Zuoyun. In 2015, the city had a total population of 3.4 million people, who fall into 18 ethnic groups, including Hui, Manchu, Mongolian, Korean, Zhuang, Tujia, Yi, Xibe, She, Dong, Miao, Bai, Ewenki, Tibet, Daur, and Buyi. The Hui and Manchu people each exceed 1,000.

Datong is located in the northeast part of the Loess Plateau and has a complex and diverse topography featuring mountains, hills, basins and plains. The city is at an average elevation of between 1,000 and 1,500 meters.

Datong has a temperate continental semi-arid monsoon climate and a large temperature difference between day and night. The city's annual average temperature is 6.6℃ and the average annual rainfall is around 400 mm, which varies greatly from year to year.

The main rivers that flow through the territory include the Sanggan, the Huliu, the Nanyang, and the Yuhe. They originate from the Yongding River system and cover a drainage area of 10,831 square kilometres. The Tang River that runs through the city originates from the Daqing River system and covers a drainage area of 2,071 square kilometres.

Being an outstanding tourist city in China and a national garden city, Datong is especially famous for its large number of mountains, including Hengshan Mountain, one of the Five Sacred Mountains of China. The city is at a key location between the plateau beyond the Great Wall and the central Hebei plain, and boasts history of of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

In May 1991, the China National Tourism Administration announced Datong as one of the first of China's national tourist attractions. Centred on the Yungang Grottoes, Datong is a characteristic cultural tourist area. It has one world cultural heritage site, 27 national key cultural relic protection units, and more than 300 other cultural relic protection units at various levels.

Datong is also a city rich in mineral resources, especially coal reserves, which has earned it a reputation as "China's Coal Capital" and "National Important Energy Base". In addition to rich reserves, the coal produced in Datong is of high quality.

Datong has a vast area of grassland and a large variety of wild plant species, 736 of which are of high economic value. It has 215 species of wild animals, which amount to 53.2 percent of the total number of animal species in Shanxi. Twenty-six species including black storks and swans are under national protection.

Datong is also famous for its local specialties such as copperware, Hengshan Astragalus, and daylily. In addition, the Datong dramas "Shuahaier" and "Luoluoqiang" as well as Guangling's dyeing and paper-cutting are on the national intangible cultural heritage list.

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