Bataizi Bell Tower / 八台子大单巴

Being a foreigner living in Datong is not as difficult as one would think. Not only is the city (sometimes) less polluted than Beijing, but it is also very sunny. More over, it is quite easy to ride the bicycle around in the countryside to discover interesting ruins like the yaodong cave dwelling or to go hiking along the old Great Wall, like in Bataizi village. Even when it is extremely cold during the winter, the landscape is sublime and unforgettable.

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Ming era Great Wall, Bataizi, Feb 2016

I was very touched when I visited the Bataizi Gothic Cathedral, abandoned in a lost landscape… Even if most of the church is gone, the ruins appear as quite powerful and majestic in the natural space. It is hard to define what makes some of us love the ruins so much (to the point of developing the « ruinporn » label…) but I have to admit there is something about the lost places that is very moving. In this case, Gothic architecture in China is pretty rare, especially in its complete authenticity. The church has been protected as historical heritage since 2009 (according to the sign next to it).

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Front side of the church, Bataizi, Feb 2016
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Symbiosis between ruins and nature, Bataizi, Feb 2016

The Bataizi village catholic church started to be built in 1890, when the Jesuits settled in Shanxi province and lived there as a community.

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Old picture of Bataizi Church (no date, internet sources)

In the 20th century, it was burnt down during the Boxer rebellion and later, during the war against Japan it also received some damage. Nowadays, only the steeple remains.

It is very precious to spend time in this place as there is absolutely no one around and it is the start of a very nice hike following the old Great Wall, as the church is located just next to the wall.

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Ming era Great Wall, Bataizi, Feb 2016

The part of the church which is still standing displays some very delicate elements on the front facade.

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Bell tower, Bataizi, Feb 2016
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Facade detail, Bataizi, Feb 2016
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Facade detail, Bataizi, Feb 2016
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Inside the Bell tower, Bataizi, Feb 2016

If you have the opportunity to spend time in Shanxi, do not only think of the Yungang Grottoes, you can also go enjoy this beautiful and less crowded area.

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Christian church and Great Wall landscape, Bataizi, Feb 2016

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