Luoyang: A Lovely City with a Long History
Henan province is home to three of the nine ancient capitals of China. Luoyang, Henan’s fourth largest city was the capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty and through the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties. For centuries it served as the center of China. Packed with historical sites, a peony festival in April and a scenic old town this ancient capital of Luoyang is something to see. It’s referred to as “a cradle of Chinese civilization” and it is the place where Buddhism began to be practiced in China. This is represented by two of Luoyang’s main historical sites; the White Horse Temple and the UNESCO site of the Longmen Grottoes.
What to See
Considered a national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most significant sculptural sites in China, it houses art represented from the Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties, from the years 316-907. Buddhist stone carvings stretch for over a kilometer in these grottoes. Over 2000 caves and niches are carved into limestone cliffs and over 30,000 Buddhist statues can be found inside the caves. The grottoes are located 13 kilometers southeast of Luoyang.
White Horse Temple
Also known as the Baima Temple, it was founded in the first century B.C.E, this temple is the first and most relevant Buddhist temple in China, as well as one of the oldest in the world. It was reconstructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties therefore the architecture is mainly influenced from the 16th century. The temple also underwent two refurbishments in the 20th century. It covers an area of over 13 hectares. The two stone statues of white horses displayed by the temple entrance are, legend has it, to represent the horses that Indian monks rode into China as they brought Buddhism to the country. The temple is located approximately 12 kilometers from the city center.
Standing at 25 meters, this is the first pagoda built in China. It’s located outside the gates of the White Horse Temple. This tiered brick pagoda is a structure from the Jin Dynasty.
Go to Wangcheng Park in Luoyang city. It is Henan province’s largest park where the annual peony festival is held for nearly two weeks every April. The park was built in 1955 on the site of the King’s city from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty on the King’s city. It is a popular spot to visit in the spring.
An hour and a half on the high speed train from Xi’an. It is possible as a day trip if going to one site like the Longmen Caves. The caves are 40 minutes from Luoyang Longmen station. It’s four hours to or from Beijing. The Luoyang airport is located 10 kilometers from the city center with flights available to and from Shanghai and Beijing.
When To Go
Busiest in April for the festival and pleasant weather. Summer can get very hot and there’s pleasant weather in the fall.