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.
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.
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.
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.
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 RMB
- 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)
- 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
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.