Famed for being gritty, polluted and ugly, DATONG has recently been the subject of one of China’s biggest urban makeovers – though there’s some way to go until the city could be described as attractive. The knobbly remains of the earthen ramparts that once bounded the old city have been lovingly rebuilt, and by the time you read this it should be possible to cycle their full perimeter. Inside the walls, and spreading east and west of a centrally located Ming-dynasty Drum Tower (鼓楼, gŭlóu), you’ll also find a new, rather successfully contrived Qing-style district. The unrestored parts of town exude a rugged atmosphere that those who don’t have to live here might just find appealing, and a good number of small temples and old monuments are hidden away in the backstreets. Despite these definite improvements, though, many visitors merely use the city as a springboard to outlying sights, especially the Yungang Caves and Hanging Temple.

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