Datong Ancient City Wall

October 21st, 2014
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This is my third-time visit of Datong, which has completely changed my previous view of Datong as a polluted base for coal production. Now, roads are expanded or reconstructed, new residential apartments built, pretty bridges set up and even the ancient city wall in Datong has been totally restored ( except for a small part in the west wall that is still being constructed at the time of writing) !

If you are planning your Datong tour, a glimpse of the massive Datong City Wall is not to be missed. The original city wall in Datong  was built in 1372 at the early stage of Ming Dynasty ( 1368 – 1644)  upon the ancient tamped earth city walls that had been built originally during Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 and Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234). It was 14 meters high with a perimeter  of 7270 meters and  4 main gates, 4 turrets and 46 watch towers.

In Ming Dynasty, the ancient Datong was designated as one of the nine military towns along the Great Wall of China defending against the steppe nomads from the north. Datong was strategically important since it was situated on the mid-section of the Great Wall of  China with the essential task of confronting the galloping Mongols and safeguarding Beijing and China as a whole.

My passion for sunrise photos wakes me up in the early morning and 20-minute walk from my lodging hotel on Yingbin Avenue brings me to the south wall of Datong’s restored ancient city wall. Seeing the sun glow over the high city wall, I’m much admired for the ambitious Datong Ancient City Wall restoration plan proposed by Datong former mayor – Mr. Geng Yanbo who inaugurated the project in 2008 despite of the flooded debate on the necessity of the restoration of the Wall.

Morning Sun Glow over the ancient city wall in Datong

Morning Sun Glow over the ancient city wall in Datong

Morning Sun Glow over the ancient city wall in Datong

The high city wall with watch towers on the top surrounded by a city moat 5 meters deep and 10 meters wide.

High City Wall, Watch Towers and City Moat

High City Wall, Watch Towers and City Moat

A two-storey watch tower atop the wall with a clear look at the battlements on the wall.

Watch Tower and Battlements on the wall

Watch Tower and Battlements on the wall

The main south gate is closed to the public transport, which is replaced by the two south side gates. This picture is taken of the west south side gate.

The West South Side Gate

The West South Side Gate

Two large pools connecting the city moat on the both sides of the main South Gate. With beautiful reflections on the water, the restored wall really injects much life into the ancient city of Datong.

 Beautiful reflections on the water

Beautiful reflections on the water

The picture taken from the east angle of the main south gate which includes an inner city for defense purpose. Come here for a stroll,  looking for the charm and local life.

 East angle of the main south gate

East angle of the main south gate

This is the south main gate named Yongtai Gate ( Everlasting Peace Gate ).  The original ancient city wall of Datong had four main  gates ( east, south,west and north). The restored wall has added two side gates for each side wall for the smooth traffic flow.

 Yongtai Gate ( Everlasting Peace Gate )

Yongtai Gate ( Everlasting Peace Gate )

This is the east south side gate of Datong’s city wall.

 East south side gate of Datong's city wall

East south side gate of Datong’s city wall

The green belt along the city is a huge city park, giving the locals much spaces for morning exercises and other activities.

The green belt along the city is a huge city park

The green belt along the city is a huge city park

Paying a ticket fee of RMB 30 allows you to have a stroll on the top of the wide city wall where you are able to have a panoramic view of Datong City.

Ascending the city wall

Ascending the city wall

Ascending the city wall

On the top of the wide city wall

On the top of the wide city wall

On the top of the wide city wall

The 14-meter high city wall is just magnificent.

The 14-meter high wall

The 14-meter high wall

The pavilions and towers on the city wall top

The pavilions and towers on the city wall top

The pavilions and towers on the city wall top

Standing on the mid-south wall, you will have a clear picture of the north-south axis of the ancient city layout of Datong with a distant view of Drum Tower.

 The north-south axis

The north-south axis

Below the mid-south city wall ( slightly to the west side) is the famous Shanhua Temple, originally built in Tang Dynasty.

Shanhua Temple

Shanhua Temple

If you have any questions, just drop a line.

Add-on:
Top Things to Do in Datong
Best Time to Visit Datong
Where to Stay in Datong
Datong Xian High Speed Train

Travel Tips for Taking a High Speed Train from Beijing to Xian

October 12th, 2014
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Plan your Beijing Xian tour? Basically you may go visiting Xian from Beijing either  by flight or train.  Many travelers choose to take a  5-6 hour high speed train from Beijing to Xian or vice versa. Below are some useful tips for planning your Beijing Xian tour by taking high speed trains.

1. Locating the right train station for the trains from Beijing to Xian.
There are 4 major railway stations in Beijing, namely Beijing Railway Station ( the oldest one ), Beijing West Railway Station ( for the trains from Beijing to Xian, Lhasa and Kowloon), Beijing South Railway Station ( for the trains from Beijing to Shanghai and Tianjin) and Beijing North Railway Station ( for the S trains to Badaling Great Wall).

The address of Beijing West Railway Station
Add: Lianhuachi Donglu, Fengtai District ( just south of Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution)Tel: 51826253
The trains departing from Beijing West Railway Station: Xian, Luoyang, Chongqing, Chengdu, Lhasa, Urumqi, Guangzhou and Kowloon.

2. How to get to Beijing West Railway Station from Beijing Capital Airport?
1) Taking the  No.07: Capital Airport Shuttle Bus to Beijing West Train Station

2) Airport Express Train + Subway: Take airport express train and get off at its final station of Dongzhimen (东直门), interchange for Subway line 2 to the south and alight at the second stop of Chaoyangmen (朝阳门), again interchange for subway line 6 to the west and alight at 7th station of Baishiqiao South (白石桥南), then again interchange for Subway Line 9 to the south direction and get off at the second station of Beijing West Railway Station (北京西站)and start your train travel.

3) Taxi fare: about RMB 130( 40km ).

2. How to get to Beijing West Railway Station from the city center?
To leave or go to Beijing West Railway Station, taking subway is the most convenient way of public transportation since the subway line 9 passes by the train station.

With subway line 9, you are linked to other three train station: Beijing Railway Station ( line 2), Beijing South Railway Station ( line 4 ) and Beijing North Railway Station ( line 2 and 4 ). Check Beijing Subway Map for more information.

3. What does the main train building look like?
Beijing West Railway Station is a modern passenger station 90 meters at the highest  in a shape of “品” with an area of 510,000 sq meters constructed with 10 platforms.

The main building faces north and south with two squares – North Square and South Square. There are public buses in each square with the north square having more public transport. Basically we suggest go through the north entrance to the station. If you take a taxi, just ask your taxi driver to go to the north square instead of south square.

The main building

The main building with the north square

Both the first floor and second floor at the north entrance are designed for check-in. If you taxi the station, your taxi driver will take you directly to the second floor for entry while arriving by public bus you will check through the  first floor.

4. How many daily high speed trains from Beijing to Xian?
Going between Beijing and Xian, currently there are 7 daily high-speed trains.You are supposed to reach the station at least half hour before departure.

Train No. From Dep time To Arr Time First Class Second Class
G651 Beijing West 07:05 Xian North 12:47 824.5 515.5
G671 Beijing West 08:10 Xian North 13:55 824.5 515.5
G655 Beijing West 10:05 Xian North 15:48 824.5 515.5
G673 Beijing West 14:43 Xian North 20:53 824.5 515.5
G87 Beijing West 14:00 Xian North 19:00 824.5 515.5
G667 Beijing West 16:53 Xian North 22:59 824.5 515.5
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Train No. From Dep time To Arr Time First Class Second Class
G652 Xian North 07:03 Beijing West 13:28 824.5 515.5
G654 Xian North 08:22 Beijing West 13:53 824.5 515.5
G672 Xian North 09:06 Beijing West 15:11 824.5 515.5
G656 Xian North 10:10 Beijing West 16:27 824.5 515.5
G88 Xian North 13:13 Beijing West 17:55 824.5 515.5
G666 Xian North 16:16 Beijing West 21:47 824.5 515.5
G674 Xian North 17:11 Beijing West 23:08 824.5 515.5

5. Ticket and Security Check at Beijing West Train Station
Either on the first or second floor there are several booths for ticket and security check.  Passengers are require to line up and go one by one with their tickets and ID cards or passports ready. So don’t forget to bring your passport with you for the train ride.  Your luggage and bags will be X-rayed for security check.

Line up for ticket and security check

Line up for ticket and security check

5. Which waiting room ( or Platform )  for Beijing Xian High Speed Trains?
After having your luggage X-rayed and enter the main waiting hall,  you will see a huge electronic  train schedule board with real-time information on the trains in and out.   There are 10 platforms in Beijing West Railway Station with 1-5 for common trains and 6-10 for high speed trains.

Just match your train number with the waiting room number. Basically your waiting room leads to the platform for your train to Xian. Normally your waiting room will be numbered “8” for the trains to Xian.  There are 13 waiting rooms inside the station. The waiting room No.8 is normally for passengers taking the trains to Xian.

 you will see a huge electronic  train schedule board

you will see a huge electronic train schedule board

Walking through the long corridor and looking for the Waiting Room No.08 for Passengers taking high speed trains for Xian.

Looking for the Waiting Room No.08

Looking for the Waiting Room No.08

6. Any decent restaurants inside the main main building?
There are some clean and quality cafes and restaurants available at Beijing Railway Station like KFC and McDonald. Luckily, your waiting room No.8 is close to MacDonald.

your waiting room No.8 is close to MacDonald

Your waiting room No.8 is close to MacDonald

Your waiting room No.8 is also close to KFC.

KFC.

KFC.

And Starbucks

Starbucks

Starbucks

7. What about the waiting room and ticket collecting?
Make sure you are on the right waiting room.  The train staffer at the gate (Information Desk)  to your waiting room will double check your train ticket for the right place.

The Entrancd to Your Waiting Room

The Entrance to Your Waiting Room

Each waiting room is marble-stone paved with air-conditioning  and ventilation system. On the front sides there are food and book stalls as well a cafe.

Each waiting room is marble-stone paved with air-conditioning  and ventilation system

Each waiting room is marble-stone paved with air-conditioning and ventilation system

Check the electronic board to seat on the right row for your train.  Basically there are two rows of benches for each high speed train.  If you hold the pink-colored ticket, you seat and line up on the pink side; if you have the blue ticket, you line up on the blue side.

Purchased from a ticketing agent, a pink train ticket needs be checked manually while with a blue ticket bought directly from a train station, you need to have your ticket checked by swiping it on the machine by the gate.

Different passages for pink and blue tickets

Different seating areas for pink and blue ticket holders

You see people are lining up to have their tickets checked and enter the platform for their train.

 people are lining up to have their tickets checked

people are lining up to have their tickets checked

8. Get on the right car, compartment facilities and train speed
Usually it is quite a walk from the ticket check-in gate down to the platform and the  right compartment.  Just take it easy carrying or rolling your luggage down to the platform and locate the right car you are in.

Take an elevator down to the platform

Take an elevator down to the platform

Many passengers would stop and take some pictures of the train.  The train is sleek, thin and long with its head looking like a plane. The train is one of the design of CRH series. It is designed to travel at 350 km per hour. However, the trains are only allowed to run at 300 km per hour due to the safety factor – keeping a required safe distance between following trains.

The train is sleek, thin and long with its head looking like a plane.

The train is sleek, thin and long with its head looking like a plane.

Two kinds of seats – 5-seat row ( second class) and 4-seat row (first class).  Some high speed trains have 8 cars and others have 16 cars.  There is a snack car on the train where you may have coffee, snacks and fast food. The inside of the train has a futuristic look as well with comfortable seats, wide windows, smartly dressed attendants and food service better than a plane.

It is easy to get on the train as the train is at a high level platform. And all the stations on route  are built with high level platforms. This males it so easy to handle your heavy suitcases onto the train.

The train is at a high level platform

The train is at a high level platform

A 5-seat row ( second class) car

A 5-seat row ( second class) car

A 5-seat row ( second class) car

4-seat row (first class)

 4-seat row (first class).

4-seat row (first class).

Put your large suitcases on the luggage rack by the door in the linkage area.

luggage rack by the door

luggage rack by the door

9.  Train Speed and

The train starts so smoothly that you won’t  feel you are moving. But once out of the train station, the train speeds up to around 300 km per hour. If you don’t look at the outside through the window, you won’t realize you are on a moving train. The electronic information board in each end of  each car showing the train speed  and  next station  stop

Most of the time the train runs at the speed of approx.  300 km /h.

Most of the time the train runs at the speed of approx. 300 km /h.

All this is due to the elevated track that uses slab construction that holds the continuously welded rail. All the local traffic moves under the elevated track so there are no level crossings or underpasses.

All this is due to the elevated track

All this is due to the elevated track

Lunch can be bought  in the coach car from an attendant who supplies it from a airline type cart.

Lunch can be bought  in the coach car

Lunch can be bought in the coach car

The slab non-ballasted tracks for high speed trains make the trains smoother and comfortable different from common trains on ballasted track.

The slab non-ballasted tracks

The slab non-ballasted tracks

Train tracks on a high level viaduct

Train tracks on a high level viaduct

Train tracks on a high level viaduct

9. Arriving at Xian
For the Beijing Xian High Speed Train, the Beijing terminus is Beijing West Railway Station, with the Xian terminus at Xian North Railway Station.  The major calling points are Shijiazhuang, Anyang and Luoyang on route.

Arriving at Xian North Railway Station

Arriving at Xian

Arriving at Xian

10. Go to Xian downtown by subway line 2
Arriving at Xian North Railway Station, it is both money-saving and convenient to take subway line 2 directly from the train station to the downtown Xian ( Bell Tower ).

Go to Xian downtown by subway line 2

Go to Xian downtown by subway line 2


Any questions, just drop a line. 

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow Show in Xian

October 10th, 2014
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If you are planning your Xian tour during the period between April  and October, you are highly recommended to watch the mega singing and dancing performance named “Song of Everlasting Sorrow” which takes place in Huaqing Hotspring in Xian.

10 km west of Terracotta Army Museum, Huaqing Hotspring itself is an essential attraction in Xian, which is located below Lishan Mountain. It is famous for its warm springs and the romantic story that happened here regarding Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) and his  favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan (719-756 ), often known as Yang Guifei  in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow Show is presented on the real-scene in Huaqing Hotspring with the backdrop of Lishan Mountain and the ponds, pavilions, corridors and palaces in the background.  The performance is a real-scene singing and dancing historical drama with dazzling lights, beautiful music and songs, lavish costumes and the grand stage which is partially submerged in the water.

The performance is adapted on the same name poem written by the famous Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772-846) retelling the lament of the court concubine Yang  Yuhuan (719-756) and  Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) .

In the story,  Emperor Xuanzong fell deeply in love with his beautiful concubine Yang Yuhuan ( Yang Guifei ). His love diverted his focus on his ruling duties and caused much trouble to his country that led to a military coup. The ministers and the soldiers around Emperor Xuanzong thought that it was  the concubine Yang  Yuhuan who had caused the chaos. Later under the pressure,  Emperor Xuanzong had his favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan killed to save the country.

The poem-turned drama is presented in four parts with a preclude and 10 scenes. The four parts include “Fall in Love”, “A Sweet Couple”, “Goodbye to Love” and “Meet again on Fairyland” .

Show Time:
Twice performances a day ( Valid from April through October )   20:00 – 21:10; 21:40 – 22:50
Entrance Fees:
RMB 220 ( east or west side area): RMB 260 ( central area); VIP area: RMB 988/888/588

Both Huaqing Hotspring  and Terracotta Army is on the same eastern travel route from Xian’s city center, which can be combined to have a day trip.  Follow me to have a glimpse of the great real-scene drama – Song of Everlasting Sorrow.

Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) was chosen as the imperial concubine. A grand ceremony was held to give the title to the court concubine with lively music and dances.

Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) was chosen as the imperial concubine

Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) was chosen as the imperial concubine

On the evening of Qixi Festival (every year on July 7th according to Chinese lunar calendar, also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day), Emperor Xuanzong and his favorite concubine were looking  at the Milky Way, showing their affections to each other.

On the evening of Qixi Festival

On the evening of Qixi Festival

Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) bathed in the hot springs served by several maids. She was in her silk blouse, showing a kind of Tang Dynasty style beauty.

Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) bathed in the hot springs

Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) bathed in the hot springs

An Lushan (703 – 757), a general stationed on the frontier during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong,  introduced the popular Tartar dances,  giving much vitality to the imperial palace.
Tartar dances,  giving much vitality to the imperial palace.
The imperial palace was full of happiness and enjoyment. Yang Yuhuan had a elegant dance. The emperor was so deeply enticed by the beautiful dance and song that he embraced his lover to sing and dance.

The imperial palace is full of happiness and enjoyment

The imperial palace is full of happiness and enjoyment

An Lushan rebelled against Tang Dynasty, ending the romantic love between  Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) and his  favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan. Emperor Xuanzong run away from the Capital Chang’an ( Xian) and took his favorite concubine to Maweipo where had Yang Yuhuan killed under the pressure of his ministers and the soldiers who had thought that Yang Yuhuan (yang Guifei) was the cause of the chaotic situation in Tang Dynasty.

Yang Yuhuan killed under the pressure of his ministers and the soldiers

Yang Yuhuan killed under the pressure of Emperor’s ministers and the soldiers

Emperor Xuanzong and his  favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan were reunited in a fairyland on a windy and snowy day.

Emperor Xuanzong and his  favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan were reunited in a fairyland

Emperor Xuanzong and his favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan were reunited in a fairyland

A Related Post:
Xian Tang Dynasty Dinner Show

Any questions,  just drop a line.