Luoyang Travel Guide

Luoyang, located in the western part of the Henan Province, is a famous ancient Chinese capital. It served as the country’s capital for 13 Chinese dynasties: the Xia (2000 BC-1500 BC), the Shang (1700 BC-1027 BC), the Western (1027 BC-771 BC) and Eastern (770 BC-221 BC) Zhou, the Eastern Han (25-220), the Wei (220-265) (aka Cao Wei, of the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280)), the Western Jin (265-316), the Northern Wei (386-533) (of the Northern Dynasties Period (386-588)), the Sui (581-617), the Tang (618-907), and the Later Liang (907-923), Later Tang (923-936), and Later Jin (936-946) Dynasties, the latter 3 of the Five Dynasties Period (907-960).

Spanning some 1,500 years as the capital, Luoyang holds the unique distinction of being the longest-serving capital in China's history, though someday, that distinction will fall on the current capital, Beijing. And of course, Luoyang was one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China.

Luoyang's position as a long-serving ancient capital means that around the city are many remnants, some fully intact, of countless cultural and historical sites such as tombs, temples, grottoes, sculptures, stelae, and other ancient ruins. The city boasts 11 such sites, 5 of which are ancient city ruins along the Luo River dating from the Xia, Shang, Zhou, Han, and Wei Dynasties, in which may be found over 400,000 cultural and historical artifacts, accounting for 1/13 of total such artifacts throughout China.

Historical Attractions in Luoyang

A handful of destinations are more popular and significant than others. The Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site, is one of the 3 largest carved stone art repositories in China, and it also houses the largest royal Buddhist stone carvings in the world. White Horse Temple, another famous cultural-historical site, was the first Buddhist temple to appear in China. The structure was built in the year 68, during the reign of Emperor Ming (58-75) of the Eastern Han Dynasty, at a time when Buddhism was just beginning to gain a foothold in China. The temple is known to be the "Home of Sakyamuni," Buddhism's founder, or the "Palace of Ancestors."

Guan Lin Temple (or rather, it is a series of temples) is the site where the head of Guan Yu, a famous general of the Shu Period (221-263) of the Three Kingdoms Period, is supposed to be buried. His gravesite is one of the 3 largest commemorative resting places in the country for the revered general. Because of its link to Guan Yu, Guan Lin Temple has now become a holy site for Chinese pilgrims visiting from abroad, especially those from the Southeast Asia region.

Another one of Luoyang's popular sights is the famous "Six-Horse Carriage Driven by the Emperor" relic which was excavated from an Eastern Zhou Dynasty tomb. Qian Tang Zhi Zhai can be saved for a rainy day.

The largest museum in the old capital boasts the richest stone inscriptions from the Tang Dynasty. Finally, there is Mang Mountain, located just north of Luoyang, not only a beautiful natural landmark but also a burial site consisting of royal tombs from various ancient Chinese dynasties. Mang Mountain was regarded as a place of special geomantic importance by successive imperial families.

It goes without saying that with such an impressive history, Luoyang is one of the cradles of Chinese culture. For starters, there are the cultures of the He-Luo, otherwise known as the classic Taoist cosmological diagrams, the He Tu, and the Luo Shu, esteemed as the "Origin of Humanity." Luoyang is also where the Li-Yue originated, Li-Yue being the fundamental institutional system employed by China's feudal lords to consolidate power.

The city is also the birthplace of Taoism and the place where Buddhism first took hold in China before subsequently spreading across the whole of the country. And perhaps most remarkably, Luoyang is home to 3 of the Four Great Inventions of China: printing, the art of papermaking, and the compass. The Armillary Sphere, also known as the Huntian Instrument, was constructed on the knowledge basis of the heavenly bodies by the famous Chinese astronomer, Zhang Heng, not to mention the seismograph, both inventions that call Luoyang home.

Natural Tourist Attractions in Luoyang

Aside from its cultural fame, Luoyang is characterized by fantastic natural scenery, comprising numerous high mountains and serpentine rivers. Qingyao Mountain to the west is known as the "Secret Capital of Huang Di." Huang Di ("Yellow Emperor") is a legendary figure who is supposed to have been the first sovereign to rule China. His supposed reign (2497 BC-2398 BC) would thus predate the existence of the first documented Chinese dynasty, the Xia Dynasty. To the south of Luoyang lies Songshan Mountain, the most important of the Five Great Mountains of China, as well as Funiu Mountain and Huaguo Mountain.

North of Luoyang is the infamous roaring Yellow River cut by the famous Xiao Lang Di Water Control Project, which has been instrumental in preserving a vast watershed spanning some 270 square kilometers. Within Xiao Lang Di Scenic Area, glimmering waters are surrounded by rolling hills and green valleys. And amidst the marshes rise small islets, covered with flourishing copses that are home to a myriad of birds. The beauty of the surrounding landscape makes Xiao Lang Di Scenic Area an ideal place for appreciating the unparalleled charm of China's "Mother River."

Although Luoyang has long been known for its flower horticulture, growing peonies has always — and remains—the choice bloom of Luoyang's horticulturists. The graceful and fragrant Luoyang Peony has been beloved as one of the world’s top flowers since ancient times. The 68 peony plantations in the city boast over 900 varieties of peonies such as the Yellow Yao, Purple Wei, Green Tou, Black Kui, and the delicately pink Er Qiao. The latter is a reference to 2 beautiful sisters, Da Qiao and Xiao Qiao, who were much sought after by the famous Chinese warlord, Cao Cao (155-220), who also laid the foundation for the later Cao Wei Kingdom of the Three Kingdoms Period, and was posthumously honored with the title of Emperor Wu of Wei.

The postcard-perfect images of the city, dotted with a sea of flowers in bloom in springtime, are most vividly depicted in a famous poem that reads, "Every blossom causes a sensation in the capital." Although it only blooms for a short period of 20 days, the fragrant peonies charm the whole of Luoyang, including its visitors. Since 1983, over 2 million visitors from all over the world (especially lovers of the Luoyang Peony) have been drawn to the city by the annual Luoyang Peony Festival. Luoyang has thus earned yet another international title: The Home of the Peony. The annual festival helps foster interest in the Luoyang Peony all across China and throughout the rest of the world.

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