A Weekend in Luoyang

I had no idea the human body could do that. This thought ran through my head over and over as we watched a kung fu demonstration at a martial arts school. A little boy folded his body as if he were made of rubber. A group of students held one of their classmates aloft on four spears. An older boy practiced hard qi gong so that another could break a rod across his back.

We saw two martial arts demonstrations: one at the school, organized just for us, and the other at the famous Shaolin temple, located in the beautiful, green mountains south of Luoyang. At the temple, we saw indentations in the trees from the monks’ powerful fingers, and deep impressions in the stone floor of the temple where they practiced kung fu.

Shaolin was just one of many wonders we experienced on our weekend trip to Luoyang, one of China’s ancient capitals. The city is famous for its peonies, China’s national flower, and we explored a garden full of their lush blossoms. We also visited the White Horse Temple, the first Buddhist temple in China, and walked around the old city.

Finally, we saw the Longmen Grottoes, a spectacular series of caves and Buddhist sculptures carved into a limestone cliff-face. Begun over 1,500 years ago, this project spanned the Northern Wei, Sui, and Tang dynasties. The carvings range from grids of tiny Buddhas carved into the walls of the caves, all the way to sculptures over ten meters high. It is an incredible feat of human creation.

Judging by the amount of attention we attracted (we began to joke that we should charge for photos), Luoyang does not see too many Western visitors, nor had we heard of it before looking into some possibilities for weekend trips. Nevertheless, it was full of amazing sights, making me realize just how rich in beauty and culture China is.

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