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The city of Luoyang is certainly not the most attractive place in China, and it's likely that your first impressions of the place will not be particularly positive. Certainly, when we arrived late in the evening at the gargantuan train station in Luoyang after a seven hour train journey from Xi'an, the buildings opposite the station were far from welcoming. However, in the light of the following day Luoyang seemed a slightly more cheerful place, even if the centre of the city did suffer slightly from the usual pollution problems of Chinese cities. HISTORY Luoyang has a very long history, having been founded back in 1,200 BC. For large portions of early Chinese history Luoyang was the capital of China, right up to the 10th century AD, when the Northern Song dynasty moved the capital to Kaifeng. In the 12th century AD, Luoyang was attacked by Jurchen invaders from the north, an attack from which the city was never to recover. In the early 20th century, the population of Luoyang declined to only 20,000 people. Only under Communism did the city begin to grow again, becoming a new industrial centre, with a population now over a million. It's very difficult to get much of an impression of the important part that Luoyang played in China's history from a visit to the city today. About 1,800 years ago, Luoyang was one of the busiest cities in China, and at one time boasting over 1,300 Buddhist temples! Today, it is a rather modern city, with lots of identical Communist buildings, but nonetheless, it is a welcoming place, once you give it a chance. There are a lot of schools teaching English in the city, so don't be surprised if children want to try talking to you in English! Luoyang is also the site of China's annual Peony festival, and during this festival the city plays host to several hundred thousand visitors! LONGMEN CAVES The main tourist attraction in Luoyang is the Longmen Caves located 16 kilometres to the south of the city. Over 200 years from 494 AD, when the Northern Wei dynasty moved its capital to the city, more than 100,000 images and statues of Buddha were carved into the face of the cliffs alongside the Yi river. The rock of these cliffs is particularly hard, making it ideal for carving, and leading to the production of some of the finest Buddhist cave art. The name "caves" is something of a misnomer, most of the likenesses of Buddha have been carved in artificial alcoves or grottos, all over the cliff side. The assumption tends to be made by western tourists that the "caves" will be underground or natural, whereas the grottoes are almost exclusively man-made. There are several thousand individual grottoes varying in size from about a foot high, up to one that is easily forty or fifty feet high (some of the statues from this largest grotto are shown in the Luoyang picture above). Western souvenir hunters who discovered the Longmen Caves in the 19th and 20th century set about the figures of Buddha with tools, and decapitated many of the statues of Buddha. The removed heads can now be found in museums and private collections across Europe and North America, and two removed murals are on display in museums in the United States (one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the other in the Atkinson Museum in Kansas City). The Red Guards also damaged several of the statues during the Cultural Revolution, however, this potential source of damage is predictably hushed up by the modern Chinese. The penalty nowadays for damaging the statues of the Buddha is extremely severe, however, if you cut off a Buddha's head, there's a good chance you'll lose yours too! The 'caves' themselves are still outstanding, and remarkably few of them seem to have been damaged despite the dire warnings of the guides and guidebooks. Many of the larger grottoes appear to have survived virtually und amaged, and many of the larger Buddhas are almost entirely intact. Much of the painting has also survived exceptionally well, especially in the larger grottoes. The Ten Thousand Buddha Cave, carved in 680 AD, is particularly impressive, with one wall covered in thousands of tiny inch-high statues, each of which has been intricately carved. Another named the Lotus Flower Cave, carved in 527 AD, has a large carved lotus flower on the roof. The largest "grotto", the Ancestor Worshipping Temple, built between 672 and 675 AD, is truly remarkable, with an enormous 17-metre high Buddha figure looking down upon the Yi River. Another grotto is called the Medicinal Prescription Cave because of the many medical treatments described on the walls of the cave. When the caves were first constructed, there were very few doctors in the area, so people would come to the medicine cave in order to look up remedies on the walls. A visit to the Longmen Caves costs just 45 yuan (about £4.50), which offers excellent value for money. The walk from the car park to the caves is usually lined by dozens of stall holders hoping to sell you overpriced tacky souvenirs, but when I visited, the State Council were examining the site and the stall holders had been moved on. The Longmen Caves also boast some of the most amusing examples of Chinglish (poorly translated Chinese) warning visitors not to step on the grass - "Protect a piece of green leaf and dedicate a share of love" and "Small grasses are smiling slightly. Please walk on the pavement." WHITE HORSE TEMPLE The White Horse Temple is located 12 kilometres to the east of Luoyang, and was the first Buddhist temple to be constructed in China, back in 68 AD. The buildings currently on the site are nothing like that old, however, dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The temple was originally founded when two envoys of the Han Dynasty travelled west in search of Buddh ist scriptures. In Afghanistan, they met some Indian monks, and returned to Luoyang with them. The Buddhist scriptures and statues that they carried with them were borne on the backs of two white horses. When the temple was constructed to house the Buddhist scriptures, it was named after the horses. There's not a great deal to look at in the temple, to be honest. However, it is an interesting and very restful place to look round, with a gentle smell of incense prevalent throughout the place. It's still an active temple, and so you will still see Buddhist monks walking around. If you do want to take their picture, it's only polite to ask first though! Admission to the White Horse Temple costs only 12 yuan (£1.20), so it's well worth a visit if you're in the area anyway. OTHER TOURIST ATTRACTIONS A little further out from the centre of Luoyang, about 40 kilometres out to the south-east, is the Shaolin Temple, probably the best known centre of martial arts in the world, as celebrated in Jet Li's movies 'Shaolin Temple' and 'The Kids from Shaolin'. I didn't actually visit the site, unfortunately, due to time pressures. FOOD & DRINK Luoyang does offer some great culinary options. As far as booze goes, the most popular choice is the famous "black beer" of Luoyang. It's not bad stuff; like a weaker, sweeter version of Guinness, and considerably better than most Chinese beers. Probably the most popular food in Luoyang is 'hot pot'. Like many other Chinese cities, it claims to be the home of the dish. Historically, Chinese 'hot pots' come from Inner Mongolia, the northern part of the country, and have been refined in the south. Eating one is a lot of fun. Basically, at each table, a yin-yang shaped metal pan is placed on a heater. One side of the yin-yang contains a white vegetable-based stock, the other contains a deep red chilli-based sto ck. The pan is heated up until both stocks are boiling, and you are presented with dishes of raw meat and vegetables, which you cook yourself in whichever side of the yin-yang you prefer. You are also presented with peanut and chilli sauce dips to put your food in after cooking. Obviously, you'd never see restaurants like this in the West, due to the dangers of people undercooking food and getting food poisoning, or the dangers of having boiling pans of stock on the table. This is a real shame, because this is definitely one of the most interesting and tastiest meals I had in China. Oh, and if that weren't enough, the cost of the meal, including beers, was under £2 per head! CONCLUSIONS Luoyang isn't an immediately friendly city, and certainly not the most attractive of the places that I have visited in China. However, it's a welcoming place, and there are certainly some impressive places for tourists to visit, especially the stunning Longmen Caves. The food I ate in Luoyang was among the best that I ate in China, and the black beer was definitely well worth sampling. An interesting city, which has gone through a lot of changes over its 3,000 year history!
"City in northern China, in Henan Province. Luoyang (Simplified Chinese: 洛阳; Traditional Chinese: 洛陽; pinyin: Luòyáng) is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province, People's Republic of China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast. Situated on the central plain of China, one of cradles of the Chinese civilization, Luoyang was one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It is an industrial center on the Luo River, a tributary of the Huang He (Yellow River). A very famous attraction are the Longmen Caves, with nearly 100,000 Buddhist cliffside carvings begun in the 5th century AD."