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Luoyang – Peony, Temples and Grottoes

Luoyang – Peony, Temples and Grottoes

While Luoyang isn’t a large city and probably somewhere you wouldn’t have thought of visiting.  And if you have, it’s probably because of Shaolin Temple.  What most people don’t know is that the city is a central point to explore a few other highlights that shouldn’t be missed – White Horse Temple, Peony Garden and Longmen Grottoes.

A Day in Luoyang in Photos

White Horse Temple

When you come to China, you’ll be inundated with temples that they’ll all start looking the same.  I’ll be honest, White Horse Temple while having significant historical relevance was more of a place to check off the list.

Thankfully we had Lisa to guide us through the temple because without her we would just breeze through the site without really understanding what we were looking at.  As China’s first official Buddhist temple, there were a lot of interesting stories behind how Buddhism was brought from the West (India) by the famous monk Zhidun with the help of two Indian monks, She Moteng and Zhu Falan.  It was here and in a few temples in Xi’an that Zhidun was able to translate the ancient scrolls into Chinese.

The temple is also really massive.  The original temple is about the same size of Shaolin but they’ve opened up a whole new area to pay homage to Buddhism in countries all around Asia.  We walked through miniaturized versions of temples in Thailand, Myanmar and India.

Stone Horses At White Horse Temple Gate

Guarding the gates of White Horse Temple are two of the original stone horses that we created in homage to the temple’s namesake.

Red Temple Gate

Yes it seems like I have somewhat of a gate fetish

Within White Horse Temple

The view from inside the temple

Tablet for Monk Moteng

Our guide Lisa, showing us the tablet for Monk Moteng’s funeral mound

Burial for Moteng

How people were buried in the day.

Burning Incense

The lick of flames burning incense

Crowds at White Horse Temple

Just can’t escape the crowds in China

Saying a Prayer

Saying a little prayer

Monk Praying at White Horse Temple

While I wish I caught this in the moment, we actually ran into a production team filming something at the temple and they had one of the monks do quite a few takes of him praying and staring in contemplation.

Monk on a Bike

Caught this monk riding his nifty little bike.

Thailand Temples at White Horse Temple.

Thailand donated money to have this miniature replica of the Grand Palace temple and the Golden Mount in Bangkok.

White Horse Temple View

Atop the Golden Mount, here’s a look back at the original buildings of the temple

A Little Thailand Inside White Horse Temple

Walking those grounds, it really felt like I was transported to Thailand for a second there.

Myanmar Stupa at White Horse Temple

Myanmar’s mini stupa at White Horse Temple

India Building at White Horse Temple

Lastly, India’s contribution to the temple

Peony Garden

The truth is we were pretty lucky to go to Luoyang at the perfect time of the year when the peony flowers bloom.  The Peony Festival spans the entire month of April and is one of the few places in the world where you can see more than 100 varieties of peony all in one garden.

I originally thought it was one specific garden where the festival takes place but it turns out there are peony gardens all over Luoyang.  This particular one was called Shen Zhou.

Rare Green Peony

Supposedly a super rare color for peony flowers.

Peek-a-boo at Peony Garden


Peony Petals Up Close

Peony flowers are actually quite pretty. They’re large, with plenty of petals and a large ring of stamens.

Longmen Grottoes

This was perhaps the most impressive part of the whole trip.  With a total of 2,345 caves and 100,000 Buddha statues carved into the limestone cliffs built mainly during the Tang dynasty.

I was at awe when I saw sheer number of caves and all of it culminated to the grand opening of the site’s largest grotto of Vairocana Buddha and his disciples.  For the best views of this grotto, make sure you cross the bridge to the other side of the river to see the whole grotto-scape in full panorama mode.

Longmen Grottoes Main Entrance

Main entrance to Longmen Grottoes

Caves Small and Large at Longmen

Even these photos are hard to impress on you just how many caves small and large there are here.

Many Buddha Carvings

Lots and lots of Buddha carvings

15000 Buddha Cave in Longmen Grottoes

This one cave alone has 15,000 Buddhas.

Longmen Grottoes Paths

You’re able to take a path all throughout the grottoes.

Statue of Vairocana Buddha

Lisa giving us some of the scoop behind the statue of Vairocana Buddha.

Statue of Vairocana Buddha From Across The River

View from the other side of the river

Main Longmen Grottoes Carving

The main Longmen Grottoes cave

Vairocana Buddha's disciples

Vairocana Buddha’s disciples


Lost in Translation

I don’t have too many funny photos from this particular day of the trip but nevertheless here are my two finds that I found amusing.

Giant Chinese Flasks

1) I love how giant these are, 2) Even more awesome that you can wear it like a purse and 3) the Red Army symbolism is unmistakable

Little Buddha Fruit

I’m really not sure what kind of fruit/vegetable this was but I saw it all around China. It’s something about good luck. I’m just fascinated about how they got it to be shaped this way. Do they mold it after it’s fully grown or is it grown with a mold around it?

Know Before You Go

  • April is the Peony Festival.  That is a good and bad thing.  Good because you’ll have a chance to see the peony but bad because the crowds will inevitably be bad.  This means hotel prices hike up during this time and vacancy is a lot lower.  If going in April, I’d recommend going during the weekday as our guide Lisa recommended.
  • White Horse Temple Price:  50 RMBWhite Horse Temple Ticket Office
  • Peony Garden Price:  50 RMB
  • Longmen Grottoes
    • Longmen Grottoes Price:  120 RMB
    • Make sure you cross the bridge to the other side to view the grottoes from afar
  • Cab ride from the Xi’an bullet train station to our ibis hotel was 90 RMB (extra charges tacked on for evening – this was around 10PM)

Itinerary Snapshot

  • Pick up some street vendor food outside of our hotel in the morning
  • White Horse Temple
  • Peony Garden
  • Lunch at a traditional Luoyang restaurant where we were able to try the famous “Water Feast”
  • Longmen Grottoes
  • Drop of at the Luoyang high speed rail station
  • 1.5 hour bullet train into Xi’an
  • Accommodations:  ibis Xi’an Heping Gate Hotel
    ibis Xi'an hotel room

    A look inside our ibis Xi’an room. This was by far the best room on our trip.

For more on the rest of this trip throughout China where I start in Shanghai and work my way up to Xi’an see the full itinerary as I journey to see the Terracotta Warriors.

About Will Tang

Will is a travel blogger writing for Going Awesome Places. Since quitting his consulting job in 2012 he's been travelling the world and along the way writing about his epic adventures and taking amazing photos. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring others to travel, writing detailed trip itineraries for others to follow and providing helpful tips and tricks to travel better. Also the founder behind Travel Blog Breakthrough and freelance writer for Hipmunk and currently working on the #‎HipmunkCityLove Project.


  1. It s amazing places , thanks for sharing .
    Aggouni recently posted…UnusualTourism: European Summer FestivalsMy Profile

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