Luoyang played a leading role in China’s ancient history. Around 5,000 years ago, the Luoyang region was inhabited by peoples with advanced cultures. It is what is known as the Yangshao and Longshan Cultures. The first Chinese dynasty was founded there around 4,000 years ago: the Xia Dynasty. It was later the Shang and Zhou Dynasties’ capital city. Not so far back in time, it was also the capital city of other dynasties like the Han and Northern Wei Dynasties, who in the 5th century promoted the construction of several temples, as well as the Sui Dyasty.
Longmen Caves. They are 15 kilometers away from the city. The works began under the Northern Wei Dynasty in the 5th century and continued over several centuries more (under the Wei, Sui and Tang Dynasties). Generations of sculptors carved more than 100.000 Buddha images on the hill’s stoned slopes. Every single emperor, every single nobleman contributed to the fulfillment of this masterpiece. Every single sculpture is a work of art, the best works of the best artists of the time. Although some of them are badly damaged since many heads have been stolen and sold to museums in the United States they still maintain an aura of immortal art’s eternity.
The White Horse Temple is the first Buddha temple ever built in China. According to tradition the emperor built it in the year 67 in order to hold Buddhist scriptures brought from India by the Imperial envoys. The Temple’s name comes from the fact that the scriptures were brought from India on the backs of two old horses.
The Temple is 11 kilometers away from Luoyang and it has been rebuilt four or five times since it was founded. In fact, the mix of both tourist development and religious feeling in the area has made it that more halls have been added to the temple. Among the more modern ones, there is a beautiful white jade Buddha.
Luoyang Museum. It is a typical Communist-styled building with exhibitions focusing on the different historical periods of the city. Thus, the bronze collections from the Xia and Shang Dynasties are among the best collections in China. The same applies to the Tang Dynasty’s ceramics. Some of the best tricolor ceramic pieces from the Dynasty can be admired at the museum: horses, camels, devils and heavenly guardians.
The Shaolin Monastery is worldwide known for Zen and Kungfu. It was founded by Bodhidharma, a monk that came from India in 520. Starting from the Sui Dynasty the temple went accumulating wealth, meditation exercises were used for battle and the monks became Imperial warriors. The temple has a Forest of Dagobas with 230 dagobas or burial pagodas made out of stone and brick which have been built from the Tang Dynasty up to this day. Ashes of leading monks are kept there.
The Shaolin Temple has its own peculiarities linked mostly to the martial arts tradition. The Thousand Buddhas Hall is an example of the hard training sessions the monks go through as its cobbled-floors are bulged due to the constant strokes the monks give. The White Dress Hall, known also as the Boxer’s Hall, have wall paintings from the Qing Dynasty which show different scenes of Shaolin boxing, monks rescuing the emperor or fighting against a peasants uprising. The Temple is surrounded by several martial arts schools and it is usual to encounter hundreds of students doing kung-fu movements.