Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD) from their Capital Khanbalik (at Beijing) and most China. Determined to not have this be a mere retreat, only to see foreign rule descend on China once more, the Ming Emperor set out to create ambitious defensive works in the entire region(s) of Shanxi, Ningxia and even Gansu Provinces. The reinforcement of all Xian (Hsien) (District Capital City) with Mud-Brick defensive Walls was only the First step in this process, of which the City Walls of PingYao (now restored) are the best preserved and most well-known examples. The 6.4 km-long city wall of PingYao, another Hsien City, was constructed in the third year of Hongwu period of the Ming Dynasty (1370 AD). It is one of the best preserved ancient city walls in China. Sadly, the Datong Walls have not survived in not nearly as glamorous a State.
Succeeding Emperors of the Ming Dynasty, pressed by continuing raids and events described earlier followed HongWu's example, building an ever stronger Great Wall of China and other defensive works.
military campaigns and battles in the now crucial Northern Area's.
In the following 2 centuries Datong would be a pivital point in the Chinese Defenses and therefor repeatedly at the center of Battle, as Mongols were probing defenses in the North.
During one such Mongol excursion , following the 1449 AD "Incident of TumuBao", the outer layer of the Great Wall in North Shanxi was penetrated by a 50.000 strong Mongol Army at YanMenGuan Pass and Datong was occupied. Furthermore, in the ensuing Battle for control of the City and the Northern Border an amassed Chinese army was clumsily defeated and the Chinese Yingzong Emperor was captured by the Mongol Wala Tribe. He was held as a personal hostage by the Wala Leader for 6 years after which he was able to return to his Throne in China. In the meantime the Mongols had driven a dangerous wedge into the Northern Defenses, and with Datong within the outer layer of the Great Wall of
- City Walls of Datong (2) Walk on the Wall
This page was last updated: June 5, 2017
Datong Hsien City Walls
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Enter through the Main Iron Gate of this old housing Estate underneath the City Walls of Datong. It is a private residence area, so some respect for the remaining inhabitants is advisable. So is caution for stray dogs who may be infected with Rabies.
View towards the former City South Gate (and Walls) in the background of dilapidated housing.
Details of the City Wall remnants at the point where the structure of the South Gate begins. The loess-mud inside and brick exterior are clearly visible.
Overview of the Shan Hua Monastery grounds from atop the City Wall remnants West of Datong's former South City Gate.
View of DaNan Jie' of Datong leading to the South Past the site of the Southern Gate and City Walls.
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China occupied, the Mongols were directing attacks and military movements towards Beijing, causing great concern among the Ming Leadership. During Yingzong's absence a new Emperor rose to the Throne and a new arms-race began. Although the Chinese Ming Dynasty
Overview Map of Datong's Old Walled City section with main roads and locations. There is a further smaller Walled City section within it's own wall (remnants) immediatly North of this Map.
shocked his officials beyond belief. The officials officialy petitioned the Emperor to never do personal combat again, however their advice was ignored and their lives tragically cut short in many cases.
intelligence. As one result of this, somewhere between
1505 AD and 1521AD, the Yingzong Emperor's case was nearly repeated. In this event, which happened
grew more and more determined to eliminate the Northern Tribes as a threat, manouvers in the field were not always handled with the most efficiency, often due to the rigid structure of the Feudal Power-structure and the fact that Emperors were absolute rulers and (nearly) always had the final say, regardless of their talents or, military experience and even
of 50.000 Tartar soldiers that had crossed the border. Many chinese soldiers sacrificed themselves in defense of their Emperor, but the "hair-brained Emperor had
View of Old housing Estate underneath the City Walls of Datong.
In 1649 AD, technically during the Qing Dynasty Reign, but a period of
instability and lawlessness in outlying area's of the Empire, Datong was sacked and nearly wiped out. As a vital strategic stronghold the City and City Walls were immediatly rebuilt by the Ching, who went on to rule for two-and-a-half more centuries.
By the Time of the arrival of Japanese Forces at Datong in 1937 AD, aircraft had made City Walls near redundant. As the Japanese advanced mainly along the railway lines, the Chinese defense was focussed on the Great Wall Passes in Shanxi Province and not on Cities.
Battle for Datong and Jining (and Hohot) - Unfortunatly, for the City and its inhabitants, the suffering didn't quite end with the defeat of the Japanese in World War II. Not much after the end of the second
great War, in june 1946 AD, the Chinese Civil War between
KuominTang Nationalist Forces and the Communist Peoples Liberation Army ignited once more. With it's Northern Headquarters at ZhangJiaKou (before:
There is no further information the Datong City Walls, so far. Please return in the Future for more updates and additional photo's and information on this now increasingly rare
relic of historic times.
View of to the West along the Wall with a view of the Tower of the Main Postal Office at Red Flag Square (New City) in the distance.
Ming Dynasty Era Hsien City Walls in Shanxi Province - Datong's mud-brick City Walls date from the same period as the City Walls of famous PingYao, the now world cultural heritage and thus mainly tourist city found south of TaiYuan, the
Later during the Ming Dynasty, in 1540 AD and 1550 AD respectively, Datong, the stronghold on the North Shanxi defenses on the Great Wall of
China was again at the Center of battle between the Northern invaders and the Chinese Armies. Now protected by high mud-brick defensive Walls, the City survived through relatively unscathed. For about a Century peace reigned over the City and surrounding area's, until a period of weak defenses fell in with the collapse of
Except for some bombings and artillery shellings the City of Datong was easily taken. The
chinese defenders withdrew into the mountains for best protection
from aircraft and an advantage over Japanese Troops. In the whole take-over process the City Walls suffered only slight damage.
Overview Map of the Path of the Great Wall of China as it existed during the Ming Dynasty. The Location of YanMenGuan and other Shanxi Province Passes on the Great Wall are marked.
Kalgan, now in Hebei Province) dangerously wedged between the Nationalist strongholds at Datong, and Jining in Inner Mongolia (the next station along the railway north). The communist forces boldly went on the attack. On July 31, 1946 AD the first communist forces reached Datong, a city defended by no less than 20.000 KuominTang Troops and began skirmishes on the outskirts of the City. After fierce battles raged in and along the outer city and 2000 defenders were left dead, the Nationalist Commander gave most of his troops the order to withdraw within the ancient city walls, in a final attempt to lock out the attackers and hold out until relieved. After regrouping, the communist made a second assault a month later on september 4Th, taking control of the Western Great Wall Pass at Datong and then small but significant Bei Guan Train Station on the north-western outskirts of the City. From the 4Th of September until the 16Th a large scale battle raged in the area between Jining and Datong, with the communist stubbornly besieging the City of Datong while trying to fight Nationalist reinforcements and hanging on to the stronghold City of Jining in the adjacent Ulanqab Prefecture of Inner Mongolia (Autonomous Region). In the end, it were not the City Walls of Datong that held of the attackers. Due to a lack of Equipment and poor skill of the guerilla recrutes from the countryside, the communist army turned out to be no match for the defenders, and they were driven off. Although scathed in Battle, the city and walls remained in Nationalist hands for the Time being.
Overview of the Shan Hua Monastery and Da Nan Street Housing Administration from atop Datong's city Wall.