If you want to immerse yourself in Ancient Chinese history and culture that’s off the typical Chinese tourist route, head to West Henan Province to the ancient capital of Luoyang, located at the confluence of the Luo and Yellow Rivers. It was the capital city for nine dynasties and is believed to be where Chinese civilization originated. It is also known as the start of the storied “Silk Route”. Luoyang has a rich cultural and religious history as the development of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism are closely associated with the ancient city.
1. The Longmen Grottoes
Longmen Grottoes contain a large and impressive collection of Buddhist Chinese carvings considered to be some of the finest examples of Chinese art. The grottoes, numbering 2,345, are located on both sides of the Yi River. In 2000 the site was named a UNESCO World Heritage site as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity,” and the tens of thousands of statues of the Buddha and his disciples are a testament to artistic and religious expression.
The entrance to the grottoes is under the Longmen Bridge over the Yi River. The recommended route through the park is to start at the West Hill Grottoes continuing on to the East Hill Grottoes, then to XIangshan Temple and end at the Baiyuan Garden, where you can enjoy a cup of tea. There are ten temples at the Longmen Grottoes and Xiangshan is one of the earliest. Allow three hours to see the grottoes.
Address: 13 Long Men Zhong Jie, Luolong Qu, Luoyang Shi, Henan Sheng, China
Website: UNESCO - Longmen Grottoes
2. Luoyang Temples
You don’t have to be a practitioner of Buddhism to appreciate the historical and religious significance of Luoyang’s Buddhist temples, where some of China’s finest Buddhist temples are located. Three of the most significant are the White Horse Temple, Guanlin Temple, and nearby Shaolin Temple.
White Horse Temple, the cradle of Chinese Buddhism, is the oldest Buddhist Monastery in China dating from 68 AD. The name White Horse was given to honor two Indian Buddhist monks who brought Buddhist scriptures, relics and statues of the Buddha to Luo Yang riding two white horses.
Guanlin Temple is actually a series of temples built to honor General Guan Yu, a famous general of the Shu Kingdom. General Guan Yu was one of the few people in Chinese history that is respected by Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism.
Shaolin Temple and Monastery is famous as being the birthplace of Kung fu and Zen Buddhism. You can see current monks practicing the art of Kung fu and also a performance by the monks in the theater at the temple.
White Horse Temple
Address: 6 Luobai Road, Luolong Qu Luoyang Shi Henan Sheng, China
Transportation: Take bus no. K56, K58, 87 or 91, and get off at Baimasi Station
Opening Hours: 7:30am to 5:30pm
Website: White Horse Temple
Address: Henan Sheng, Luoyang Shi, Luolong Qu, 关林南路2号 邮政编码: 471000 China
Transportation: Take bus no. 15/K15, 39/K39, 55/K55, K58, K67, 69/K69 or K71, and get off at Guanlin Temple (Guanlinmiao) Station
Opening Hours: 8:10am to 5:00pm
Website: Guanlin Temple
Address: Dengfeng Ave, Dengfeng Shi, Zhengzhou Shi, Henan Sheng, China
Directions: Take regular bus for Xuchang / Xinmi from Luoyang Bus Station located close to Luoyang Railway Station. The bus stops by Shaolin Temple. It departs every 30 minutes
Opening Hours: March 1 to November 30, 7:30am - 6:00pm. December 1 to end of next February: 8:00am - 5:30pm
Website: Shaolin Temple
3. Luoyang Museums
Two museums offer insights into both Chinese and local history. The Luoyang Museum houses exhibits representing the cultural heritage of Luoyang. There are five exhibition rooms representing the five different social development stages. There are also bronze artifacts from the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
Located in the center of Luoyang is the Tianzi Jialiu Museum also known as the Museum of Emperors Chariot Drawn by Six Horses of the Zhou Dynasty. Here you will find the sacrificial pit for the Eastern Zhou Dynasty emperors where royal horses and chariots are buried which dates even earlier than the terracotta warriors in Xian.
Address: Nietai Rd, Luolong Qu, Luoyang Shi, Henan Sheng, China, 471000
Opening Hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm Close on Monday (tickets unavailable after 4:30pm)
Transportation: Take bus no. 77 and get off at Luoyang Museum Station. Take bus no. 49 or 68, and get off at Niejiawan Station. Then walk east to find the museum. Take bus no. 26, 62 or 75, and get off at Wangcheng Daqiao Nan Station. Then walk a few minutes to reach the museum
Website: Luoyang Museum
Tianzi Jialiu Museum
Address: Zhongzhou Middle Road, Xigong District, Luoyang, Henan Province
Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm
Transportation: Take bus no. 5, 36, 40, 41, 50, 52, 56 and 86 and get off at Wangcheng Square stop, or walk from Luoyang Railway Station
Website: Tianzi Jialiu Museum
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4. Luoyang National Peony Garden and Wangcheng Park
The Peony, a symbol of grace, is the national flower of China and Luoyang is known as the “City of Peony”. The Luoyang National Peony Garden was established in 1978 to collect and breed different kinds of peonies. The Luoyang peonies are considered the best in the world and are known for their large flowers, brilliant colors, and fragrance. The best time to visit is mid-April to mid-May when the peonies are in full bloom and hundreds of thousands of tree peonies bathe the city in an addictive fragrance. You can also enjoy folk performances in the garden during the annual Peony festival in April. The garden is divided into the North and South Gardens that contain over a million peony trees with 1,200 species of the flower.
Another spot to take in the beauty of the peony is Wangcheng Park, the largest park in Luoyang. Wangcheng means “the City of the King” because it was built on the site of the ancient capital of the Zhou Dynasty. There is much to take in as the park has five scenic areas: the History and Culture area, the Peony Admiring Area, the Peony Culture Area, the Wangcheng Zoo and the Amusement Area.
Luoyang National Peony Garden
Address: By the side of 301 national highway, Luoyang City
Price: 55 CNY (9 USD)
Opening Hours: 8:00am -7:30pm
Website: National Peony Garden
Address: 322 Zhongzhou W Rd, Xigong Qu, Luoyang Shi, Henan Sheng, China, 471000
Transportation: Take bus no. K9, 10/K10, 11/K11, 15/K15, 19/K19, 32, 40/K40, 50, 99, 101, 102 or 103, and get off at Wangcheng Park (Wang Cheng Gong Yuan) Station
Website: Wangcheng Park
5. Luoyang Old Town (Laocheng District)
Finally, take a stroll through Luoyang Old Town (Laocheng District) to get a feel for the city’s ancient architecture. It has been the cultural, political and economic center of the city throughout history. Entering through the Lijing Gate (considered one of best and most typical of its kind in China) you will be immediately immersed in local Heluo culture and life. The old city is divided into shopping streets and residential streets. Strolling through the ancient shopping streets and perusing the many stalls, you will find antiques, local tri-color glazed pottery and handcrafts, paintings, and calligraphy (the art of paper making was invented here). Here would be a good place to purchase a painting of the peony as a souvenir of the “City of the Peony”.
If shopping makes you hungry, you can sample local food as you wander through the ancient streets. Don’’t miss meandering through the old and narrow residential streets lined with shops and apartments. The old town also houses ruins and remains of ancient Chinese architecture including the Temple of the Duke of Zhou built in Sui Dynasty, Wenfeng Pagoda of Song Dynasty (960-1279), Fuwen Temple of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Hall of Glory (Mingtang) built in Tang Dynasty (618-907), and the Drum Tower of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Address: northeast of Luoyang City, in Henan Province of central China
Opening time: Lijing Gate: 7:00am -7:00pm
Transportation: Take the bus No.41 to Lijing Gate at the square in front of Luoyang Railway Station. Take the bus No.101, 9, 8, 41, 48, 53, 65 to Lijing Gate at the downtown of Luoyang
Website: Laocheng District
Ground Zero of Chinese Civilization
A visit to Luoyang is a journey back to the beginning of Chinese civilization. Ancient temples, cultural and religious relics, colossal sculptures, architectural wonders and beautiful gardens offer glimpses into China’s long cultural and religious history. This is the land of legends and poets, inspired by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers. Luoyang is the perfect place to start a visit to China. What better place to start than where it all began?
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