Clinging to the side of a sheer cliff face in a gorge some 80km southwest of Datong, the Hanging Temple is one of the most visually arresting sights in all China. It’s not, however, an attraction for those nervous of heights – literally translating as “Temple Suspended in the Void”, its buildings are anchored by wooden beams set into the rock.
There’s been a temple on this site since the Northern Wei, though the buildings were periodically destroyed by the flooding of the Heng River (now no longer there, thanks to a dam upstream), occasioning the temple to be rebuilt higher and higher each time. Your first glimpse of it will be spectacular enough, but things get a great deal more atmospheric once you’re inside the rickety, claustrophobic structure. Tall, narrow stairs and plank walkways connect the six halls – natural caves and ledges with wooden facades – in which shrines exist to Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, all of whose major figures are represented in nearly eighty statues in the complex, made from bronze, iron and stone.