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Nine Dragon Wall


Although there are a number of such screens in Datong, the Nine Dragon Screen (Jiu longbi), just east of the intersection of Da beijie and Da dongjie, is by far the most impressive. This 600-year-old screen, a massive 45 meters long by 8 meters high, was originally guarding the gates to the mansion of Prince Hongwu, the 13th son of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).

According to Chinese superstition, ghosts and devils can only travel in straight lines, so these magnificent screens were placed before residency gates in order to block their paths. The two meter thick screen and glaring dragons certainly make penetration of this screen difficult.

The screen itself is of a coloured glaze finish and depicts the nine dragons swirling in mists of white, between waterlilies and half glimpsed mountains. Of the nine, the center dragon is considered the most impressive (and imposing), its glazed eyes staring fixedly off into the distance. The optimum time to visit is meant to be in the early morning, when the slanting light gleams on the glaze, and when breezes ripple the pool under the screen.

 

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