Once in a lifetime

Off the Beaten Path in Luoyang, China

Luoyang, ChinaChina is home to some of the largest cities in the world. Every year tourists increasingly flock to popular locations like Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai; but how many tourists actually leave, feeling like they experienced the real Chinese culture? In a country that has been ruled by invaders and dynasties for most of its history, there is only one way to grasp the essence and motivation of the modern super power... They must head to where it all began; to the heartland province of Henan.
Henan province is a glimpse back into Chinese history. With rurality and serene landscapes, this area continues to draw more and more tourists every year. Upon entering the province though, you will notice a discernible difference between the big-city-tourists and the ones who have ventured to central
China. The secrets of Henan province are generally sought after by history travelers, Chinese culture enthusiasts, and those who broke free from the traditional tourist traps. It is slightly off the beaten path, but after you leave Henan you will ask yourself, "Why isn't everyone traveling out there?"
Xi'an (home of the Terracotta Warriors) is in close proximity to the province of Henan, giving you one more reason to direct your travels inland. Once you set foot inside the Henan province; the Chinese countryside, agriculture, and customs will never cease to enthrall your senses. Timeless Chinese roots were laid here and they have cleared the path for centuries of change, leading China to become the modern super power it is today. We are lost without history and in Henan, you will feel as if you are found.

There is one city that stands out as a must-see in Henan. That city is known as Luoyang and it has been an ancient capital city during the reign of 8 major dynasties! It is a modern city surrounded by historically-infused rural sites. With an ancient flair and over 6 million people living there, Luoyang is home to 3 awe-inspiring sights that will enhance any trip to China: the White Horse Temple, Longmen Grottoes, and Shaolin Temple. From Luoyang, all of these ancient sites are easily accessible by bus or taxi.

Longmen Grottoes is roughly an hour northeast of the city. Here you will enjoy a peaceful walk along the Yi River while being surrounded by highly acclaimed Buddhist statues; carved right into the cliffs by monks centuries before. These ancient Buddhist statues are protected by the UNESCO World Heritage List and justify a trip to Luoyang all by themselves.

The White Horse Temple is 30-40 minutes south of Luoyang's main bus station (by taxi). It is the first Buddhist Temple in China and dates back to 68 AD! It serves as a pristine example of Buddhism in China and has set the example for all Buddhist Temples to follow. The layout is fascinating to experience first hand. There is also an Indian Buddhist Temple on the same site, which provides for an interesting comparison.

The Shaolin Temple is about 2 ½ hours by bus in the direction of Mount Song, near Dengfeng. Shaolin holds a captivating mountain view and boasts the beginnings of martial arts, the Shaolin Monastary, and the Pagoda Forest!... all protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't miss Shaolin if you are in the neighborhood of Luoyang! The mountains provide an inspiring surrounding to experience Chinese history.

These three sites are deeply engrained in Chinese history and culture; to miss them would be to miss the essence of China itself. Each location provides its own unique sense of serenity and calm amongst a staggering historical profoundness. The traveler who wishes to understand where Chinese culture, religion, and tradition has come from will gain insight and perspective, by penciling Luoyang into their itinerary!