Datong and The Hanging Monastery.

Hanging Monastery

Datong is only a short trip from Beijing, but for some strange reason, is it still one of the most overlooked tourist destinations in all of China.

The city offers a Unesco World Heritage Site, The Yungang Grottoes and The Hanging Monastery that was featured in The Time magazine list “Top 10 Precarious Buildings in the world” with other famous buildings as The Leaning tower of Pisa.

“Everyone” that’s been to Asia has heard people say: “If you have been to one temple you’ve seen them all’ I personally use that phrase, but The Hanging Monastery is different from any other temple that I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few. It’s definitely one of a kind.

Hanging Monastery,datong,china
The Hanging Monastery was built in year 491 so it’s now more than 1500years old, and still standing tall 75 meters (246 feet) above ground.

The Monastery was originally built without the wooden pillars, that’s supporting the buildings. But they were added later for security measures. The pillars are actually moveable and can be taken away without the Monastery falling off the cliff.

Hanging Monastery,datong,china
Pretty narrow.
Hanging Monastery,datong,china
Not much space, and it´s a loooooong way down.
Hanging Monastery,datong,china
Not my best photo but the guard refused to cut down the tree (what a hippie) so i could take a photo without it in the way.
Hanging Monastery,datong,china
Some privileged monks back in the days, they even had satellite tv.!

The monastery has 40 halls and cabinets that are connected by a series of corridors, bridges and walkways. The Hanging Monastery is said to be the only temple that has a combination of the three traditional Chinese religions, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

There’s about 80 statues from those three religions in the Monastery.

Why was the Monastery built this way ? The Monastery was built on the cliff so it could shield from floods. In addition, the mountain peak above protects it from rain and snow.

Hanging Monastery,datong,china
Some of the religious statues inside the Monastery.

Additional Information about Datong and The Hanging Monastery.

Datong is becoming more and more famous and tourists should definitely visit the city during their trip to China. When I first visited Datong back in 2010 it was a big problem even finding hotels that were allowed to accommodate foreigners while days these there’s even two youth hotels in the city.

Entrance fee: 130 RMB (Summer) 115 RMB winter. Students half price with student ID.
Opening Times: 8:30-17:30 (winter); 8:00-18:00 (summer)

How to Get There: The Hanging Monastery’s is located 65 Km (40.40 Miles) southeast of Datong city.
A taxi there and back should cost about 150 – 200 RMB for the whole car, with the driver, waiting for you while you’re inside, the trip takes about one and half hour each way.

The cheapest option is to take a local bus from Datong to Hunyuan County. From Hunyuan can you take bus number 8 to The Hanging Monastery.

Is it worth it: 7/10, The Hanging Monastery is one of a kind, there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

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  1. Hi Christian
    I’m in Beijing now and i want to go to Datong to visit yunnan caves ans hanging monastery. But i’ve heard thaï the hanging monastery is closed for works. When did you visit it? Thanks for your response

  2. I went there in 1997, and the hanging temples are amazing. They hold shrines to Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism….I asked the guard why all of these religions we’re represented in the hanging temples. His answer was that these were built before recorded times and no one knew why (oh really, sounds like the party line!). Also the statues carved three dimensionally from the cave walls were defaced, all of the eyes were gouged out of them, victims of the cultural revolution. Later I learned from an interpreter that the caves were built as part of a military facility, and that because the soldiers were of all faiths (at the time) that they represented all the faiths in China at that time. Also he told me that the “hanging caves” were built on the cliffs because this area was vulnerable to extreme flooding and they were hanging so they would not be washed away. The temples were built, with carvers repelling down ropes on the cliff sides from the top. They then bored holes into the cliff sides, for platforms so they could bore into the caves to carve out the temples from the inside out. The stone path that now leads up the cliff sides to the caves were added in our contemporary times for use by tourists. This place is truly an amazing experience of outer Mongolia and is a must see along with the grottos of Yungag (40,000 Buddhas), as you feel as if you have travelled back in time to the fire signal towers to warning China that Genghis Kahn is attacking. They are in the area also.

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