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Diocese of Datong

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Diocese of Datong
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In a land area of approximately 14,176 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the prefecture-level city of Datong, which is divided into the city district, mining district and the districts of Nanjiao and Xinrong, and 7 counties (Yanggao, Tianzhen, Guangling, Lingqiu, Hunyuan, Zuoyun and Datong).


Datong has a population of 3,318,057 according to the 2010 census, of whom 1,447,150 live in the urban area.


Mandarin Chinese and Jin dialect are in use in the diocesan territory.


There were Catholics in Datong area as early as late 17th century. The Prefecture Apostolic of Tatungfu was erected in 1922 and elevated to Vicariate Apostolic in 1932. It was under the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (popularly called Scheut Fathers), when the Holy See established Chinese Church Hierarchy in 1946, Tatung (Datong) became a diocese in northern Shanxi province.

According to the Pontifical Yearbook, there were 7,720 baptized Catholics, served by six diocesan priests and seven Religioius priests in 1950.

Father Teddeus Guo Yingong was appointed diocesan administrator in 1955 when foreign missioners were forced to leave mainland China. Religious activities were then broken off for three decades due to political turmoil. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Father Guo was sentenced to reform-through-labor in a rural area.

From 1980 he was allowed to practice his priestly ministry in the "open" Church and became the first Chinese bishop of Datong in 1990. He resumed Montecorvino Major Seminary of Shanxi in 1985 and became its first rector, a post he held until 1996. Since he died in 2005, the diocese has remained vacant. 


The city lies at the intersection of the Beijing-Baotou Railway, the Datong-Qinhuangdao Railway and the Datong-Fenglingdu Railway. Datong Airport, which opened in 2005, offers regular flights to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Changzhi. Huairen Airport in Suozhou and Wushu Airport in Taiyuan are less than one and three hours by car from Datong downtown, respectively. The city also has a well-established highway network, with the Datong-Yuncheng Highway, the Datong-Yuncheng Highway and the Datong-Zhangjiakou-Beijing Highway running through the city.


Datong has a continental, monsoon-influenced steppe climate, influenced by the elevation of above 1,000 meters, with rather long, cold, very dry winters, and very warm summers. Monthly mean temperatures range from ?10.6 degrees Celsius in January to 22.0 degrees Celsius in July; the annual mean temperature is 6.97 degrees Celsius. Due to the aridity and elevation, nighttime lows are often significantly lower than daytime highs, with an annual mean diurnal temperature variation of 13.3 degrees Celsius. There barely is any precipitation during winter, and more than three-forth of the annual precipitation occurs from June to September. The area receives upwards of 60 percent (2,670 hours) of the possible amount of sunshine per year.


The GDP per capita was 17,852 yuan (US$2,570) per annum in 2008, ranked no. 242 among 659 Chinese cities. Coal mining is the dominant industry of Datong. Its history and development are very much linked to this commodity.

Datong is an old fashioned coal mining city in China, and still sits on significant reserves of this resource. Consequently it has developed a reputation as one of China's most polluted cities. The Datong Coal Mining Group is based here and is China's third largest such enterprise. Datong is indeed however an emerging economy, as the city seeks to loosen its dependence on coal, introduce more environmentally friendly and efficient methods of extraction and move into other areas of business services. Local government has continued to upgrade its pillar coal sector (and related industries like coal chemicals, power and metallurgy), while also developing "substitute industries" such as machinery manufacturing, tourism and distribution, warehousing and logistics services.


Datong is the northernmost city of Shanxi, and is located in the Datong Basin. The urban area is surrounded on three sides by mountains, with passes only to the east and southwest. Within the prefecture elevations generally increase from southeast to northwest. It borders Inner Mongolia to the northwest and Hebei to the east. Neighboring prefectures within Shanxi are Shuozhou and Xinzhou, with Ulanqab in Inner Mongolia and Zhangjiakou in Hebei also bordering Datong.


Datong's history can be traced back to as early as 100,000 years ago, when this area was inhabited by the Xujiayao man. During the Spring-and-Autumn Period (770-476BC), the territory was known as a base for several nomadic tribes. In about 300 BC, during the Warring States Period (476-221BC), Yanmen Shire and Dai Shires were set up by the Zhao State. Then Datong became the capital of Northern Wei (386-534 AD) for 96 years and the "support capital" of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125 AD) and the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234 AD). The famous Italian traveler, Marco Polo, visited the city in 1277 and praised it for its beauty and thriving businesses. Due to its important geographic location, the city saw many battles during the Tang Dynasties and Yuan Dynasties.

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