The Datong Nine Dragon Screen is a remarkable example of a screen wall, adorned with reliefs of nine distinct Chinese dragons that symbolize imperial power and dignity. It is regarded as the most captivating of the three renowned Nine Dragon Screens in China, and also the oldest and largest. The screen was constructed in 1392 during the Ming Dynasty, acting as a screening wall for the mansion of the 13th son of Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The screen is composed of glazed bricks, featuring vivid colors and exceptional craftsmanship. The intricate designs showcase nine dragons, playing with pearls against a backdrop of clouds, waves, and mountains, forming an awe-inspiring sight.
- Ticket price: CNY 10 per person
- Opening time: from 09:00 to 16:50
- Time Needed: 1.5 hours
- Suited to: anyone who is interested in Chinese culture, history, and art
History and Significance of Datong Nine Dragon Screen
The Nine Dragon Screen is a unique screen wall that showcases the reliefs of nine distinct Chinese dragons, which represent imperial power and dignity. The practice of placing screen walls at the entrance of palaces and mansions dates back to ancient China and is mentioned in the Analects, a compilation of sayings by Confucius. There are three renowned Nine Dragon Screens in China, located in Beihai Park, Forbidden City, and Datong. The Datong screen is the most captivating of the three, as well as the oldest and largest.
Constructed in 1392 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Nine Dragon Screen in Datong was intended to serve as a screening wall for the mansion of the 13th son of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang. As Zhu Yuanzhang had 26 sons, each was given a mansion and a screen wall with varying numbers of dragons. The 13th son was favored by his father and was therefore granted the screen wall with the most dragons.
The wall, which measures 45.5 meters in length, 8 meters in height, and 22 meters in thickness, is composed of glazed bricks with brilliant colors and exceptional craftsmanship.
It showcases nine dragons playing with pearls against a backdrop of clouds, waves, and mountains. The wall rests on a 2.09-meter sumeru throne, a Buddhist symbol of the center of the universe. The throne features 41 patterns of “two dragons playing with a pearl,” and the waist of the throne has 75 pieces of vitreous brick with reliefs of various animals.
The Nine Dragon Screen exemplifies the outstanding carving skills of ancient China and the cultural significance of dragon worship. It is also a testimony to the history and splendor of the Ming Dynasty.
Best Time to Visit Datong Nine Dragon Screen
The best time to visit Datong is from April to October when the weather is mild and comfortable, and the scenery is colorful and diverse, allowing visitors to explore cultural and historical attractions as well as natural wonders.
Attractions nearby Datong Nine Dragon Screen
- Shanhua Temple: A thousand-year-old Buddhist temple that features five well-preserved halls and a pagoda from the Liao and Jin dynasties.
- Huayan Temple: China’s largest and best-preserved temple from the Liao and Jin dynasties, consists of two sections: the upper temple and the lower temple. The upper temple serves as a royal ancestral temple, while the lower temple functions as a repository for Buddhist scriptures. Huayan Temple is home to numerous valuable cultural relics, such as statues, paintings, steles, and sutras.
- Drum Tower: A landmark building in Datong, originally constructed in 1389 during the Ming Dynasty, and reconstructed in 2002. The tower stands at 18 meters tall and features a drum at the top.
How to Get to Datong Nine Dragon Screen
In order to visit the Datong Nine Dragon Screen in Shanxi, there is a convenient travel option. One can take bus No.4 from the Datong Railway Station and disembark at the Nine Dragon Screen stop (九龙壁站). From there, it is a brief 5-minute walk to reach the screen3.