DATONG, China—This is a city with an image problem. Ask people in China what they think about Datong – once called the most polluted in China – and you’ll learn they either love it or hate it. Few Chinese are lukewarm about this place.
Part of the problem is that there’s plenty to love and plenty to hate, but Datong doesn’t seem to be winning over the haters. In the heart of Shanxi province, China’s coal belt, Datong boasts a ring of coal mines and the soot-laden air that goes along with them. Yet it’s also one of China’s ancient regions, famous for the Buddhist art in caves not far from the city and a hanging monastery, built in 491, that draws busloads of tourists each year.