Pinyin: Dà tóng
English: Grand unification
Coordinates: 40°4'44"N 113°17'19"E
Datong has an elevation of over 1000 meters (3,400 feet). It has a population of about 3.5 million, about half of which live in the urban area. Datong has a relatively dry climate with cold winters and hot summers.
The Datong area is home to a wide variety of Great Walls from a few different dynasties. But you will need adequate time to see all of the interesting sights which are dispersed over a large area.
The Ming Dynasty Great Wall is the most prevalent Great Wall in the area. The main line of defense runs in an east-to-west direction about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) north of the city and roughly follows the present-day border between Shanxi Province and Inner Mongolia. To the east, towards Zhangjiakou, there is a single wall, while to the west, towards Shahukou, there are two walls separated by about 13 kilometers (8 miles). All of the Ming Dynasty walls in the area are fortified with numerous and closely spaced towers.
In addition to walls with towers, the Ming Dynasty also built a large number of freestanding towers in the Datong area. Some remain within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the center of the city.
The Northern Wei Dynasty Great Wall is also prominent in the Datong area. The Northern Wei Dynasty also built two layers of defense to the north of Datong. In many cases, including these two parallel walls, the Ming Dynasty walls were built over or in place of the Northern Wei Great Walls, but there are some locations where the Northern Wei walls remain unchanged. The Northern Wei walls also had many towers, although not as many as the Ming walls. Northern Wei walls and towers in the Datong area were built using rammed earth.
The Qin Dynasty Great wall is also quite prominent in the Datong area. A main line of the Qin wall runs for over 500 kilometers (300 miles) to the north of Datong and Zhangjiakou. The Qin walls are farther north than the Ming and Northern Wei walls, the closest being about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Datong city. The Qin Dynasty didn't build as many towers as the Northern Wei and Ming Dynasties, but there are still well over one hundred Qin Dynasty towers within about 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the city. The Qin Dynasty walls and towers in the area were built of rammed earth. They are quite large and many of them are in surprisingly good condition today.
The Datong area also has many other interesting attractions including the Yungang Grottoes, the Hanging Temple of the Northern Wei Dynasty, the Nine Dragon Screen, the Huayan Monastery, and the Shanhua Temple.
Location summary: Datong is about 266 kilometers (165 miles) west of downtown Beijing.
Driving directions: From Deshengmen City Gate near the Jishuitan subway station on the north side of Beijing, drive north and northwest on the G110 Badaling Expressway for 141 kilometers (87.6 miles) towards Zhangjiakou. Then take the Xuanda Expressway southwest for 174 kilometers (108 miles) to Datong.