First city of the travel trip:
Today we arrived in Luoyang, Henan after an overnight train trip from Beijing. The train ride went just fine other than our train had a tendency to stop and start suddenly making sleeping quite an interesting experience. Before I go on about my day, let me first give you a little background about Luoyang. The city was named after the river that it borders, the Luo River. It was the capital city of China for 13 dynasties and is still considered the birthplace of history and culture for China. Many emperors resided here as the mountain that sits next to the town looks like it has a dragon sitting upon the ridge. As emperors believed that they were decedents of dragons, they figured that the safest place for them to live was next to a dragon. Apparently, if you fly over the city of Luoyang, it will look like the head of a dragon. Although the capital of China has since moved to Beijing, Luoyang still remains a city of great significance and it is said that if you want to truly understand Chinese history, you have to take a trip to Luoyang.
After arriving at our hotel and having a quick breakfast, we headed off to see the White Horse Temple. This was the first Buddhist temple ever built in China. According to many historians, this temple is the birthplace of Buddhism in China. It was a relatively small temple compared to the places we have been before and thus, we did not spend a lot of time there. We were; however, encouraged to light incense. I felt slightly nervous considering I had no clue what I was supposed to do; I did not want to anger Buddha. One other interesting note about the temple was the contrast between modern China and ancient China. Inside the gate was peaceful. It was quiet. It felt like I had stepped into another world. Yet, right outside of the gate there was a buzzing market place.
Leaving the White Horse Temple, we made our way to the Shaolin temple. This is the very temple where the Shaolin monks come from. It is considered the birthplace of martial arts in China. We got to watch a martial art show which was amazing. There were kids who looked no older than seven who were performing the most amazing acts. Not only did they show us martial arts moves, they did ‘tricks’ for lack of a better word to show off their skills. One man broke a medal bar with his head, one man threw a dart through a piece of glass (without breaking it) and popped a balloon on the other side and finally, another man climbed upon a structure that looked as if it had a spear in the center, balanced himself upon the spear and spun. It was incredible. The entire show was incredible. These men come to the temple at a young age and train for years. We got the opportunity to watch them practice and it was amazing to hear how much work these kids put into their martial arts training.
The next day we moved on to the Longmen Grottoes. Although I do not know the significance of this place, the sheer size of this home of worship is amazing. The Grottoes is a large cliff face in which many caves have been carved out. Within each cave there are representations of Buddha. There are many different sized caves and many different sized and shaped Buddhas. It is estimated that there are over 110,000 Buddhas carved into this wall and over 2000 caves. The absolute awe that I felt when I arrived cannot not be put into words. I would highly recommend popping on the internet and looking at some pictures for yourself. Although it will not be as awe-inspiring as it was in real life, perhaps you can get a sense of the wonderment I felt when I got to see this amazing place.
Next stop, Xi’an. Happy December everyone!
Until next time,