We arrived in DaTong a old coal city in the Shanxi province that is getting a new face lift. Xi JinPing announced investment in tier two cities and its obvious here that China is following through with that plan. The complete old city wall was restored by the previous mayor, but currently the old town segment is undergoing massive restoration. Also outside the old city there is massive development of what appear to be office building and residential towers. There is a “Grand Opening” for a mall planned in two days. Crazy development.

We stayed in the PiPa Hostle that is in the center of the old town. Its named after Wang ZhaoJun, one of the 4 ancient beauties in China. She was an amazing PiPa player who was wed to a Mongolian leader. At that time DaTong was a border town with Mongolia and ZhaoJun stayed at this inn on her way to Mongolia. When she left for the wilderness and nomadic lifestyle she would have to endure she left her instrument here, hence the name.

Her story is actually kind of interesting. Supposedly back in the day the Emporer had a thousands of concubines, .. too many to visit.  As such he would hire artist to paint the concubines so he could rate who he wanted to see. These artist would take payment from the concubines to make them look prettier ( think photoshop). Wang ZhaoJun would not pay so the artist made her look ugly in his portrait. The Mongolian King required a princess so the Emperor found the “ugly” girl in his concubine portraits and made her a princess. However after actually seeing her when handing her off, and her beauty, he was extremely angry and had the artist killed. Supposedly she was extremely beautiful, hence her being one of the 4 ancient beauties.

For our first adventure in DaTong we decided to check out the Grotto. An area of caves with lots of stone statutes. To get there we took a bus through coal country and passed various mines. What is interesting is even though DaTong is a coal town it is surrounded by wind power turbines. Amazing how China can invest in both in eco-friendly technologies and not have its coal area feel threatened.

The grotto itself was impressive. I’ll have to post pictures later as I have none for some reason. Its an area filled with stone bud’s at various states of erosion and various sizes. The most impressive are the ones that are deep in the mountain side and still have their color. Its very similar to Egypt in that most hieroglyphics are warn, but in the valley of the kings you see some with great color.


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