August 27, 2009

 

Luoyang, located in the mountainous western part of Henan boasts of rich natural tour resources ranging from famous mountains and beautiful lakes, pleasant hot springs and virgin forests. Luoyang has a great diversity of landforms and physiognomy. 25 kilometers to the north of Luoyang runs the Yellow River, the torrential “mother river” of Chinese people, on which the world famous Xiaolangdi Multipurpose Water Project is set up. The vast lake covering 270 square kilometers with hills rising here and there forms a splendid view of a sea of islands, just like the Qiandao Lake in south China. 80 kilometers to the east stands the world famous Shaolin Temple among the flourishing trees on the grand Songshan Mountain. Besides the majestic temples, many Kung fu schools scatter here. Lots of scenic spots can be found 50 to 160 kilometers to the south and the east, including the Baiyun Mountain National Forest Park, Huaguo Mountain, Chongdu Valley Scenic Area, Longyu Wan National Forest Park, the Jiguan Cave – the “No.1 dissolved cavern of the North China” as well as provincial forest parks and reservation parks like the Tianchi Mountain of Songxian County and the Qingyao Mountain. Characterized by landscape features of both the north China and the south China, those charming scenic spots on this land are natural integration of grandness and elegance, majesty and beauty.

 The Heluo Area centered by Luoyang, a city among the earliest approved Historical Cities of Culture by the State Department, is a significant birthplace of Chinese civilization. Luoyang has become an international metropolis since the Han and Wei Dynasties. With foreign ambassadors bringing tributes from all over the world in an endless stream, Luoyang reached its peak of prosperity in the Sui and Tang Dynasties with a population of one million. A number of human landscapes can display the glorious history of this ancient city, among which are the Longmen Grottoes, the Baima Temple, the Guanlin (the mausoleum of Guan Yu, a well-known general during the Period of Three Kingdoms), the Luoyang Museum, the Han Emperor Guangwu Mausoleum, the House of Thousand Epitaphs of the Tang Dynasty, the Longmafutu Temple (the Map-carrying Dragon-Horse Temple), the Former Residence of Wang Duo (a famous poet, calligrapher and painter during the period ranging from the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty), etc.

Climate  
Lying in the North Temperate Zone with a continental climate, Luoyang has distinct four seasons of a rainless spring, a pluvial summer, a mild autumn and a cold winter. The average annual temperature here is 14.86℃ and the average annual precipitation is 578.2mm. The best season for touring in Luoyang is definitely the autumn, when visitors may find great pleasure in climbing high in cool weathers and appreciating the blooming chrysanthemums. April, the month with splendid view of competing peonies, is another good choice.

August 27, 2009

The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving.
The sculptures of the Longmen Grottoes are an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity, illustrating the perfection of a long-established art form which was to play a highly significant role in the cultural evolution of this region of Asia. The high cultural level and sophisticated society of Tang Dynasty China is encapsulated in the exceptional stone carvings of the Longmen Grottoes.

Longmen Grottoes, one of the four Grottoes of China, is located in a beautiful place of green mountains and clear water, 13 kilometers away to the south of Luoyang. The grottoes were started around the year 493 when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) moved the capital to Luoyang and were continuously built during the 400 years until the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). The scenery measures 1,000 metres (about 1,094 yards) from north to south where there are over 2,300 holes and niches, 2,800 steles, 1,300 caves and 100,000 statues. Most of them are the works of the Northern Wei Dynasty and the flourishing age of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Thousands of niches and statues on Yique Mountain were mostly carved in the Northern Wei Dynasty and the booming period of the Tang Dynasty, the two climaxes in the continuous building of 500 years.
Among the numerous caves chiseled in the Northern Wei Dynasty, the Guyang Cave, the Middle Binyang Cave, the Lianhua Cave and the Shikusi Cave are the representatives. Statues of the royal family members, aristocrats and ministers of the Northern Wei Dynasty during the capital-moving period were kept in the Guyang Cave reflected the typical historical worship of Buddhism of the whole nation in the Northern Wei Dynasty. These marvelous stone carvings of fancy appearances show the typical style of the earliest grotto art of Gandhara Buddhism sculptures in Luoyang. 
Among the key grottoes built in the Tang Dynasty here, the grand cluster statues of Buddha Vairocana are the most impressive of all. Centered by the statue of the Buddha Vairocana which carries an air of grace, divinity and magnanimity, the open grotto shrine built according to the description of the Hua-yen Sutr expressed artistically and thoroughly an ideal Buddhism world of peace and lenity with a cluster of images of vivid appearances and infectious expressions. 

 

 

August 27, 2009

 

The Baima Temple ( the White Horse Temple, built in 68 A.D in the Eastern Han Dynasty), located 12 kilometers east of Luoyang flanked by the Mang Mountain to the north and the Luo River to the south, is the first temple since the introduction of Buddhism into China. Being significant to the spread and development of Chinese Buddhism as well as to the cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, the Baima Temple enjoys a special position in the history of Chinese Buddhism, laurelled as “The Origin of Chinese Buddhism” and “No. 1 ancient temple of China”.
Luoyang, the capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty, was the largest city in China and a famous international metropolis at that time. A senior Indian Buddhist missionary came here to develop Buddhism in China, bringing with him a large number of Buddhism classics. Liu Zhuang, the emperor of the Han Dynasty then, ordered the first Buddhist temple to be built in its traditional way, naming it the Baima Temple (White Horse Temple) after the white horse had carried Buddhist sutras and statues to China from a remote country at which now Afghanistan is located.

The Toll of the Baima Temple, one of eight spectacles of Luoyang, comes from the large bell hung high in the Great Buddha Hall of the temple. It is said that the melodious midnight toll at clear nights may be heard several kilometers away, lasting and floating in the quietness. What makes it even more wonderful is the resonance of another great bell 12.5 kilometers away in the bell tower of the old Luoyang town. At 0:00 of each New Year, ceremonies are held here to celebrate the New Year by ringing the bell as a tradition that has lasted for more than one thousand years.
In the dense cypress woods in the court near the Temple Gate with an ancient classic style, there lie two famous tombs, one on the west side and the other on the east, which are named the Tombs of Two Monks in honor of two Indian senior commissioners whose names read “Jash Moton” and “Juvalan”. On the Qingliang Platform stand their statues, showing the respect and admiration from Chinese Buddhists.
In the Baima Temple, there are many pomegranates trees that enjoyed a great reputation in the capital city of the Han and Wei Dynasties. Originated in Iran, pomegranates were introduced to China together with Buddhist sutras and statues. Since then they had been widely planted in Luoyang and Chang’an (Xi’an) City. As an embodiment of the friendship between Chinese people and those overseas, pomegranates were highly praised and cherished, especially those sweet pomegranates in the Baima Temple. The Baima Temple, the top ancient one in China, is of great importance in the history of both Chinese Buddhism and the early international cultural exchanges.

August 27, 2009

Lying at the foot of the Wuru Peak of the Shaoshi Mountain to the north-west of Dengfeng County of Henan Province, the world famous Shaolin Temple is favored by nature with circling springs, flourishing forests, competing hills and sights of quietness and elegance. The name “Shaolin” is closely related with its location, meaning “Temple in the forest of the Shaoshi Mountain”.

First built in 495 A.D in the Northern Wei Dynasty, Shaolin Temple has a long history. In 527 A. D., Dharma, a famous master monk from India, came here to spread the theory of Zen. Since then, the temple started its expansion, the number of monks in the temple began to increase and Shaolin Temple became more influential. Shaolin Temple is regarded as the origin of Zen while Dharma was considered the founder of Zen in Chinese Buddhism. Since cultivation of Zen requires sitting still facing the wall in a pose of tailor-fashion, which is apt to lead to weariness, monks practice martial arts to drive the fatigue away. Legend has it that it was Dharma who created the Shaolin Martial Arts. 
Stepping into the Shaolin Temple, tourists will find themselves in a world of selected antiques and historic sites with artistic buildings, sculptures, frescos, bells as well as elegant handrails, inscriptions, stone steps and pagodas which have earned great fame for this temple and won visitors both at home and abroad.
Generally, Shaolin Temple refers to the Changzhu Yard, the prime building of the Shaolin Temple, which is the center for the abbot and deacons of the temple to live and hold Buddhism activities. Built adjacent to the mountain, the Changzhu Yard has seven buildings including the major ones along the middle line and several others on the wings, covering more than 30,000 square meters in total.