Datong is a prefecture-level city in northern Shanxi Province of North China, located a few hundred kilometres west by rail from Beijing with an elevation of 1,040 metres (3,410 ft). It has a population of 3,318,057 at the 2010 census of whom 1,447,150 live in the built up area made of 3 out of 4 urban districts.
Datong is one of the city famous for it's history and culture and is located at the northern part of Shanxi Province. Datong is 380 km (236 miles) west of Beijing and 352 km (219 miles) north of Taiyuan, and is an important traffic junction with great strategic importance. Consisting of four districts and seven counties, Datong covers an area of 14,152 sq km (3,497,032 acres) and has a population of over 3 million.
Mt. Hengshan, Mt. Cailiang, Mt. Mafu and many other mountains and hills surround Datong combines with more than 20 rivers running through the region make Datong City a wonderful place with beautiful natural scenery. There are also abundant mineral resource of which the coal mine is the most famous which gives Datong the title Capital of Coal. The area enjoys the continental monsoon climate, winter of Datong is extremely cold and dry, and spring and fall are cool but the temperature varies sharply between day and night.
Datong is a city with a long history. As early as Palaeolithic age, there were ancient people living in this area. During the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), Datong region belonged to the Yanmen County of Zhao Kingdom. After Qin (221BC - 206 BC) unified the whole of China, the Great Wall was built west of Datong City. Datong got the name Pingcheng County that means peaceful city in Chinese because of years of harsh battle with the Hun. During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 - 589), Pingcheng was settled as the capital of Northern Wei Kingdom for 96 years and became ruinds at the year 526.
After a long term of recovering, it became an important strategic county during Sui (581 - 618), Tang (618 - 907) and Five Dynasties (907 - 979). Liao Dynasty (916 - 1125) made Datong the auxiliary capital in 1044 and Jin (Kin) (1115 - 1234) retained it as a big city comprised of seven counties and three towns. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368).
Datong belonged to Zhongshu Province and had become a 'grandiose and beautiful city' according to the description of the Italian traveler Marco Polo. In Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), Datong belonged to Shanxi Province and became Datong County during the domination of Republic of China. Datong was invaded by Japanese army in 1937 and became the capital of the so-called Northern Shanxi Self-Government. Finally in 1949, Datong was peacefully liberated.