China Luoyang City:
6.10 million (urban population: 1.38 million)
Situated in the west of Henan province, the start point of "the Silk Road", is now chiefly an industrial and agricultural city, Luoyang was once the cultural heart?and for centuries, the capital?of ancient China.
Continental monsoon climate in the temperate zone, with an annual average temperature of 14.7 C. Rainfall is mainly concentrated on June, July and August, with annual average amount of 45.83 mm.
The best season to visit Luoyang is autumn. The winters are cold and the summers hot and humid. Frequent dust storms swirl in March and April, although the climate in late spring can be quite pleasant.
Industrial products of Luoyang include mining equipment, glass, construction machinery, pumps, balibearings, and tractors. The model East Is Red Tractor Plant is famous throughout China for its modern equipment and the comprehensive social services provided for its workers. In operation since 1959, it was the first such factory to be designed in China, boasting its own hospital, club, technical school, 17 day?care centers, and five primary schools.
Luoyang's history dates back to the Neolithic era (6000?5000 BC), at which time the area was already densely populated. During China's Bronze Age, it served as the capital of the Shang Dynasty (c. 1523~1066 BC) and later as scat of the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1066?221 BC). Excavations at Luoyang, then known as Luoyi, have revealed traces of palaces, temples, market places, and altars from this period.
Luoyang's importance continued under the Qin (221?206 BC) and the Han (206 BC?220 AD), particularly the Eastern Han (25?220 AD). During this latter period, which saw the invention of paper and the introduction of Buddhism to China (68 AD), the city expanded significanfly. Historical records speak of the huge imperial college and library, and of the city's illustrious community of writers, historians, astronomers, and scientists.
During the reign of the Northern Wei (386?534), the south?pointing Chinese compass was invented and rock?engraving work on the first of the Longmen Caves was begun. No less than 1,367 Buddhist temples were reported as functioning in Luoyang at the time.
The Sui (581?618) completely destroyed the flourishing town when they conquered the Wei. A new city was constructed, with streets laid out in a grid pattern and two major canals flowing through it, one leading to Beijing and the other to Hangzhou. These canals were capable of handling 500?800?ton barges?all this at a time when Western civilization was deeply mired in the Dark Ages. Under the Sui, Luoyang became a major marketing and commercial center, and 400 inns were established to ac-commodate the large number offoreign merchants. The emperor, who was also a composer and music lover, brought 3,000 musicians and their families to Luoyang.
Under the Tang (618?907), the city remained prosperous but func-tioned only as a secondary capital. Wu Zetian (684?710), the famous Tang empress, built magnificent palaces and gardens here. Foreigners from Central Asia introduced Nestorian Christianity to Luoyang in this period, and the city was renowned for its imperial library, its treatiscs on astron-omy and pharmacology, and its beautiful Buddhist frescoes. Its fame as a literary center brought important Tang?era poets flocking to Luoyang ?among them Du Fu, Bai juyi, and Li Bai.
The city began to decline after 937 when the Jin moved their capital to Kaifeng. Although it temporarily remained a center for literature, the population steadily dwindled and the town all but disappeared. The Song retreat to the lower Yangtse at the end of the 10th century brought to an end Luoyang's place in national politics. From the 13th century until 1949, Luoyang served as the capital of Henan Province. In recent decades its significance has become that of an industrial town serving the region.
On seeing the city's structure today, it is quite hard to believe that this was once one of the most significant places in the country, carrying a wealth of history, glory and intrigue. Similar to many other Chinese cities, Luoyang has suffered from "modernization" attempts that have taken place in recent years. Still at present there are many enjoyable attractions for visitors.
The Shengli and Xigong Department Stores on Zhongzhou Road carry a wide selection of daily necessities. Visitors staying at the Friendship Hotel ? ill find the Friendship Store located conveniently nearby on Huashan Road.
Luoyang Attractive points:
Guyang Cave, sculpted between 495 and 575 AD, is regarded as the earliest of the Longmen Grottoes. Based on a natural limestone cave, this cave is the most important cave in the series and represents the highest skill of carving, rock painting, and architecture of the Northern Wei.
Using the style which prevailed in Northern Wei, the chief Buddha is sitting in his meditation on an altar with two lions at his feet, and appears delicate and lifelike.
Of the "twenty calligraphies" at Long Men, 19 are found in this cave. The contents of the grotto are of great value in the study of sculpture, painting, and architecture of the Northern Wei period.
Lianhua Cave (Lotus Cave)
This cave was so named because there is a large and beautiful lotus flower on its ceiling.
This cave was dug out about 527 AD in the late period of the Northern Wei Dynasty. A statue of Sakyamuni, as the chief Buddha, is enshrined in this cave. Adopting a standing position, this statue is 5.1 meters high and has the face and one forearm showing damage.
In this cave there are also numerous niches decorated with fine carvings of colorful strings, clouds, lotus flowers, geometrical patterns etc. Upon the cave ceiling there is a large lotus flower surrounded by figures of Apsaras in relief, which are slim, graceful and vivid. This cave is named in honor of this lovely flower.
Luoyang Ancient Tombs Museum
The museum is located on Mang Hill (where an ancient city, Mang Village was located) in the northern suburb of the Luoyang city. In China's long history, thirteen dynasties had their capital established in Luoyang. Many imperial burial tombs were built in the city, especially near the Mang Hill. Tombs excavated here proved to be the imperial burial sites of Eastern Han emperors and the emperors of the Western Jin and Northern Wei dynasties. In 1984, the government built a museum at the site which was opened to tourists in 1987.
Covering 8.6 hectares, the museum has two parts. The western part houses the exhibition halls in which excavated artifacts and relics are displayed. The eastern part is the tomb site of the Northern Wei emperors.
Founded in AD 496 during the Northern Wei dynasty, the Shaolin Temple was built in honor of an Indian monk called Bodhidharma (known to the Chinese as Da Mo), founder of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism or more popularly known as Chinese Chan (or Zen) Buddhism. This temple is therefore regarded as the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism.
The temple, which bore witness to the rise and fall of several dynasties, is also famous for its Martial Arts (Kung Fu). Shaolin Kung Fu is the product of the synthesis of other martial arts principles into a distinctive martial art style. An ancient Shaolin Master once said: "Study Shaolin style in great depth, then study for wisdom and train the body." This quote embodies the physical and mental strength and discipline required in the study of martial arts. In recent years, renewed interest in Kung Fu has led visitors, western & otherwise, to the steps of the temple where schooled martial arts started.
Devajara Hall (Hall of the Heavenly Kings)
Upon entering the mountain gate of the Shaolin Temple, the first hall one encounters is characterized by double eaves flanked behind by a Bell Tower (this tower holds a great bronze bell) and a Drum Tower (this tower holds an artistic drum). The hall gates are guarded by two colored clay figures of Vajras. Inside the hall are statues of the four Heavenly Kings, each standing divinely while holding his distinctive weapon.
Mahavira Hall (Daxiongbaodian)
This is the main hall of the temple. The original was built in the Jin Dynasty but destroyed in 1928. The present structure was restored from the original in 1986. Enshrined in the middle of the hall are the statues of the Trinity Buddha - Sakyamuni, Amitabha (Emitofo) and Bhaisajyaguru (Yaoshifo, God of Medicine). Flanking the Trinity on both sides are eighteen Arhats.
An impressive statue of Kwan-yin (Goddess of Mercy) and a magnificent bronze bell hanging over the Buddha statue can also be found in this hall.
This pavilion was where Buddhist dignitaries lectured. A total of 5480 Buddhist sutras and rubbings are kept in the pavilion.
Hall of Abbot (Fangzhang Hall)
This small hall is the rest place for the abbots. Fangzhan literally means a small place, therefore the name Fangzhan Hall. In 1750, Qing Emperor Qianlong lived here when he visited the Shaolin Temple. From thence, the hall was also known as Long Ting (Hall of the Dragon) because of the Chinese belief that the emperor is the son of the dragon.
Lying to the west of the temple, the Pagoda Forest is a must see for each visitor. The forest features 243 stupas of different architectural styles. It was said that the first stupa was a mound in India that held the body of the Buddha Sakyamuni. Over the centuries, the form of the stupa (or dagoba) became more stylized and eventually evolved (in Chinese Chan Buddhism) to the form seen in the Pagoda Forest. The first stupa at this site was built in 791 AD and the last is dated back to 1803 AD. The construction of the dagobas spanned the Tang, Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The sizes of these dagobas range from seven stories (14.6 meters) to just a meter in height. All are built in either stone or brick. The exquisite stone and brick carvings are of great value in the study of Chinese carving.
Eight kilometers south of the city Luoyang, Guanlin Temple, also called General Guan's Tomb, is a place where the head of Guan Yu was buried. Guan Yu was a famous general of the Kingdom of Shu during the Three Kingdoms Period. It was said that after Sun Quan, the king of Wu Kingdom, killed Guanyu, he put Guan's head in a box and sent it to Luoyang in an attempt to blame the murder on Cao Cao, the king of Wei Kingdom. Cao Cao saw through Sun's trap and was not fooled. He held a ceremonious burial for Guan and buried the head with a carved wooden body to the south of the city.
Guan Yu became a legendary hero in Chinese folktales because of his bravery and faithfulness. He was also respected as "Wu Sheng" by Chinese emperors. Temples were built for him throughout the country and he was honored as a god. Portraits or pictures of Guan Yu can be found on the doors of Chinese houses during the Lunar New Year because people believe he protects the home.
The construction work of this temple complex began in 1595, during the reign of Ming Emperor Wanli. The complex contains several halls, an octagonal pavilion and Guanyu's tomb. Inside the halls are pictures and statues mainly devoted to the Story of the Three Kingdoms.
The story is one of China's four classic fictions and it depicts the tripartite confrontation of Wei, Shu and Wu kingdoms during the Three
Kingdoms Period (220 - 280). More than seventy stone-tablets with calligraphic inscriptions are also found here. A five-meter-high stone stele with inscriptions written by emperors from different dynasties is found in the octagonal pavilion.
The mausoleums of emperors were called Ling, the tombs of marquis or kings were named Zhong and those of holy men such as Confucius or Guan Yu were called Lin, hence the name Guanlin.
Luoyang Museum is in the center and busiest section of China's ancient capital of Luoyang City. It was built in 1958. The whole area covers more than 200,000 square meters. The main building is imposing, dignified, and seems like one imitating an ancient era.
It is the only integrated historic museum in Luoyang City. It has an impressive collection of nearly four hundred thousand (400,000) pieces of local, historic, rare and cultural relics from the past dynasties. Besides being numerous and in various kinds, they are of high quality collection. Among them are the bronze wares, the pottery-made tomb figures, and the Tang Three Color, considered to be special and famous worldwide.
To illustrate the profound culture of the ancient capital City of Luoyang, the Museum insists on holding various forms of cultural relic shows. With its rich contents to offer, fine collection of cultural relics, excellent service consciousness, and unique charm, the Museum is attracting numerous tourists both from home and abroad. Every year, it receives ten thousand people from all fields and has become the principal showpiece for propagating the ancient capital's culture and carrying through patriotism education.
A long time ago, Luoyang has been the "centre of the world"; it is the original meaning of China. It is the bright pearl inlaid into the earth of Heluo (Huanghe River and Luohe River) and is the very symbol of Chinese culture. In history, there were thirteen dynasties altogether that had set up their capitals in Luoyang. Five big capital sites scattered here. Because of these reasons,
Luoyang is considered the hinterland bearing the Chinese cultural treasures. The elegant decoration of brand inlaid with green pine stones made during the Xia Dynasty started the period of Chinese bronze ware making with its inlaid things; the mysterious and dignified bronze wares made during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties are nonesuch in Chinese bronze wares of the same period; and the magnificent inlaid gold and silver is further manifestation of mature symbol of Chinese bronze wares founding technology. There are rarities worth mentioning also such as the bold and exaggerated frescos made during the Han Dynasty, and the vivid Tang Three Color. With the cultural relics of the past dynasties found in Luoyang, we seem to touch the very pulse of the wonderful era of Chinese history.
Today, Luoyang Museum, with its brand new appearance, welcomes guests from all over the world.
White Horse Temple
White Horse Temple (Baima Temple) is located 12 km away from Luoyang City. Established by the Han Dynasty in 68 AD when Buddhism started to spread, this temple is believe to be the first Buddhist temple built by the government in China.
According to historical records, Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 AD) once sent his minister on a diplomatic mission to western region to learn about Buddhism. After finished study, they came back with two eminent Indian dignitary monks - She Moteng and Zhu Falan, and a white horse carried the sutra and the figure of Buddha. In order to memorialize the white horse's contribution of taking back the sutra, Emperor Ming ordered the construction of the temple and named it White Horse Temple.
White Horse Temple was regarded as the "originating court" and the "cradle of Chinese Buddhism" by the Buddhist disciples. Since its establishment, White Horse Temple has experienced vicissitudes of centuries. It was rebuilt for several times, in which the restoration during the reign of Emperor Wu Zetian was especially notable in its large scale.
Today's White Horse Temple is a rectangle courtyard facing south. The gate of the White Horse Temple was built in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and it is three arches side by side. Covering a total area of 40, 000 square meters, the temple mainly consists of Tianwang Hall, Great Buddha Hall, Daxiong Hall, Jieyin Hall, Qingliang Terrace and Pilu Pavilion, which are all distributing along the north-south central axis.
Tianwang Hall (Heavenly King Hall)
Standing behind the temple gate, Tianwang Hall is the first hall of this temple. In it, the Maitreya Buddha was enshrined with four Heavenly Kings on both sides. The four Heavenly Kings hold respectively a pipa, a sward, a snake and an umbrella in their hand, which symbolizing favorable weather for crops and a prosperous and peaceful country for the people. Behind the Maitreya Buddha is Weituo, the protector of the Buddhist doctrine.
Fengxian Temple (Ancestor Worshipping Temple)
Stretching along the precipitous cliff of the southern side of West Hill, Fengxian Temple, also named Grand Vairocana Buddha Niche, is the largest cave in Longmen. Measuring 35 meters in width and 39 meters in length, this cave was carved over 1300 years ago (from 672 to 675 AD) during the Tang Dynasty. When it was first constructed, the entire grotto was covered with a roof and enclosed from the natural elements. Today the roof is missing and the sculptures stand out in the open air.
The most extraordinary statue in Fengxian Temple is the Grand Vairocana Buddha, which is 17.14 meters tall with his head 4 meters long and his ear 1.9 meters wide. Sitting in the middle of the niche, this colossal Buddha shows a perfect combination of moral integrity, delicate emotions, broad mind and elegant semblance. Her lips are slightly upturned and her head a little bit lowered, a slight smile makes her look like a sagacious and benign middle-aged woman whom you would respect but not fear.
It is said that the statue was modeled after the face of Empress Wu Zetian, so people also call it Empress Wu Zetian's Statue. Furthermore, due to the gentler facial expression, this statue is reputed as the "Eastern Mona Lisa", the "Eastern Venus", and the "Mother of China".
On each side, the Buddha is flanked by an Ananda, a Bodhisattva, a Heavenly King and a Vajra. Of the two disciples (Ananda), one looks prudent and experienced, and the other compliant and pious. Both Bodhisattvas are all dressed up with splendid attire and a dignified appearance. Beside them is the Heavenly King holding the Divine Pagoda and standing on a ghost while the Vajras look unruly and ferocious.
The assembly displayed in the Fengxian Temple was very common during the Tang Dynasty and is regarded as the masterpiece of the Buddhist carving of that period.
Great Buddha Hall
Great Buddha Hall is the second hall of the temple. It is the place where the grand Buddhist ceremonies are held. The existent hall dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). In its center sits erect a statue of Sakyamuni which is closely flanked by two Bodhisattvas Wenshu and Puxian, and his two disciples Ananda and Jiaye. Behind stand the statue of Avalokitesvara.
In the southeast of the hall, a huge bell is hung from the beam. It was said that when the bell is struck, the toll could be heard far away. More interesting is that once the bell is tolling, the one in Bell Tower in Luoyang Old Town will response it quickly due to the sympathetic vibration. "Horse Temple Bell", one of the eight scenes in Luoyang city was named from it.
Daxiong Hall (Great Hero Treasure Hall)
Originally built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271- 1368) and rebuilt in the Ming and Qing dynasties, Daxiong Hall was the most magnificent in scale and most splendid in view. The hall houses three Buddhas. Sakyamuni is sitting in the center with Medicine Buddha who from the Eastern Pure Land of Azure Radiance on the left and Amitabha Buddha, the teacher of the Western Pure Land on the right.
The hall also house eighteen Arhats. They are vivid in modeling and unique in gesture and are treasures in Buddhist arts of the Yuan Dynasty.
The fourth hall is Jieyin Hall (Receiving and Directing to Paradise Hall). Behind it is a platform named Qingliang Terrace. Rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty, Qingliang Terrace was said to be the place where Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty read and rest. Later, the two dignitary monks from Indian once lived here and preached Buddhism and translated scripture books until death. After the Eastern Han Dynasty, this terrace was adopted to house the Buddhist sutra.
Qiyun Pagoda (Cloud Reaching Pagoda)
Located about 200 meters southeast of White Horse Temple is Qiyun Tower. It was originally built in the Later Tang Dynasty during the Five Dynasties as a pavilion-like wooden structure. Later, destroyed in a fire, it was rebuilt in 1175 as a 13-story square brick structure with closely arranged eaves.
Qiyun Pagoda is 25 meter in height with 13 stories and 7.8 meters on each side at the bottom. Displaying a unique style, the pagoda belongs to the style of cubic shaped, close eaves brick pagoda. The eaves are built with small, exquisite overlapping bricks. Once you clap your hands 20 meters away from the pagoda, the echo reflected from the eaves sounds like frogs croaking.
Qiyun Pagoda is also one of the few ancient buildings of the Jin Dynasty (1115 - 1234) in central China.
Besides, White Horse Temple has kept more than 40 upright stone tablets through the ages since the Tang Dynasty. Among them the Notes of Luojing Baima Temple Originating Court handwritten by Zhao Mengfu, a famous calligrapher of the Yuan Dynasty, is the most precious one.
Outside of the temple there is two stone horses, all in life-size. These two horses look geniality and tractability. They are the stone-carved horses made in Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), and they are the excellent artwork.
The Baima Temple is considered to be one of the oldest Buddhist Temple in China. The outer part of the Temple looks as if it houses the common collection of ornaments, decorated with cartoon style colors and images that are so common in many of China's cities. However, this is in fact one of the most impressive and truly holy temples in the entire province.
Dining in Luoyang is not very satisfactory. One of the most popular dish in Luoyang today is the Carp, which is not only delicious in taste but also is appealing in appearance. The cheaper choices, however, are Zhangji Roast Chicken and the Sour and Spicy Soup.
The city has a very typical weather for central China, characterized by distinct seasons. Autumn is the most comfortable time here, with sunny days and modest temperatures and spring is particularly pleasant when the famous Peonies begin to blossom in April and May.