First segment of Datong-Xi'an rail to open July 1

First segment of Datong-Xi'an rail to open July 1

Tourists in Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces are set to enjoy a convenient new way to travel to 10 cities.

While the Datong-Xi'an high-speed railway linking Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, and Datong, a northern city in Shanxi province, is currently under construction, 567 kilometers of track between Xi'an and Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, will be put into operation on July 1, China Daily learned on Friday from the Xi'an Railway Bureau.

The section from Taiyuan to Datong is expected to be opened next June.

The railway, construction of which began in December 2009, is a key part of China's long-term railway network plan. With a total length of 859 km from Xi'an to Datong, traveling times between the two cities will be cut from 16 hours to four.

Chen Shaoqing, an official in the industry management department of the Shanxi provincial tourism bureau, said the Da-Xi line will be a great way for people to visit the many attractions in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, including the Yungang grottoes, Pingyao ancient city and Qin terracotta warriors and horses, all listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Located 16 km southwest of Datong, the Yungang Grottoes are the largest and most famous ancient Buddhist caves in China, with 252 caves and more than 51,000 Buddha statues. Taking 60 years to complete the exquisite stone carvings, the caves were constructed during the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534).

The Qin terracotta warriors and horses, cited as an "Eighth Wonder of the World" and listed by UNESCO in 1987, are located next to the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), and attract millions of visitors every year.

The Pingyao ancient city in Jinzhong, Shanxi province, has a history of more than 2,700 years. It is the best preserved county town to present the culture of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The route also includes attractions like the 1,400-year-old Hanging Temple embedded horizontally 60 meters off Mount Heng and the Wooden Pagoda in Yingxian, the oldest, tallest wooden structure in China, dating back to the 11th century. Jinci Temple in Taiyuan, famed for the 43 sculptures in its Holy Mother Hall, is also a must to visit.

"We believe the newly opened rail line will become a driving force to promote the growth of tourism in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces," Chen said.

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