On the bus from Kaifeng I met a student whose parents and grand parents were members of the communist party. He was one of the very few Chinese who told me they still believed in the Communist Ideal. He was very friendly and walked me to the Tian Xiang Hotel which was full and then to the Luoyang hotel to make sure I found adequate lodgings.
I left my backpack at the hotel and took a cab to go to the Bank of China to change a traveller's cheque. Thanks to my wrist compass and the city map in Lonely Planet's guide book, I realized that the cabbie had turned west where he should have gone straight south. We stopped, I showed him the map and told him off in English. At first he screamed at me in Chinese but when I started to yell back "jingcha, police, jingcha, police" he understood in spite of my inability to use the tones properly and left in a hurry when a few people approached to see the show. I have had to deal with crooked taxi drivers in many countries but this was the only one I met in China.
I got another cab, did my business and walked to the nearby Wang Chang Park Whose main gate is shown here.
This area along the Yellow river is the cradle of China. Agriculture developed here 6000 years before Christ. A neolithic village discovered in 1953 at Bampo near Xi'an, shows evidence of farming, animal husbandry and pottery manufacture dating back to 4500 BC. Bronze was cast into vessels as early as 2000 BC. Luoyang became important in the 12th century before Christ when the Zhou dynasty based in Hao near Xi'an west of here replaced the Shang dynasty who had reigned for 5 centuries from Anyang, north of here.
For 22 centuries (1200 BC to 1000AD), Xi'an and Luoyang took turns being the capitals of China until invasions from the north forced the Song Dynasty to move their capital to Kaifeng in the 10th century and then to Hangzhou on the coast, in the 12th.
Unfortunately there is little left of Luoyang's glorious past for the city was not rebuilt after it was razed by Jurchen invaders from the north in the 12th century. Thirteen hundred temples, the imperial palaces and the city's ancient fortifications have all disappeared. All that remained were some Buddhist caves carved into the cliff walls of the banks of the nearby Yi River. That is what I had come to see...
I kept the caves for the next day and visited the museum and Wang Chang Park. In fact, I saw only a small part of the park for it is too big to visit properly in only a couple of hours.
I could easily have spent the whole day wandering around Wang Chang Park. When we think of China as a "developing" country, we should be more aware that that term is applicable only to material development for the Chinese are much more developed than we westerners are in the pursuit of pleasure. That is generally recognized in the west as far as the Chinese cuisine is concerned. I think that the consistently high level of excellence in the landscaping of their urban lakes and parks is also indicative of the supreme importance the Chinese give to pleasure in spite of their economic weakness.
Personally I don't like much of Chinese art for I find it lacking in simplicity. I cannot appreciate the art of calligraphy which I do not understand, nor do I care much for classical Chinese music but I will give full marks to their cooking and their parks.
According to tradition, Buddhism was introduced into China by the Han Emperor Liu Zhuang who sent a mission to Afghanistan to investigate this religion in 68 AD. Buddhism was unopposed by the pre-existent Taoism and Confucianism but it had little influence until the Han empire weakened, decentralized and went into decadence late in the second century. China entered into 4 centuries of divisions and turmoil. Hsiung-nu invaders from the north patronized Buddhism to counter the Confucius social ethic which had provided moral fiber to the Han empire. They overran the northern provinces, adopted Chinese ways and founded the Northern Wei Dynasty in the 4th century.
Buddhism flourished during this period of turmoil. The concept of individual salvation became attractive as the rigid structures of the Confucian ethic floundered. Large feudal monasteries were built and the monks imported the practice of carving grottoes lined with images of Buddha from Afghanistan and from India where it had originated. The three major sites of this contribution to Chinese art can be seen in Dunhuang in the west, in Datong to the north and here in Luoyang.
The Yungang caves near Datong were carved in the 5th century under the patronage of the Northern Wei Dynasty. At the turn of the century, the Wei moved their capital south to Luoyang and work started on the Longmen Caves. More than 100 000 images of Buddha were carved in this cliff mostly in the 6th and 7th centuries.
At the end of the 6th century China was once more united by the Sui shortly followed by the Tang Dynasty which started to decline in the 8th century. China broke up again at the turn of the 9th century and suffered turmoil until it reunited again under the Song Dynasty in 960 who established their capital in Kaifeng instead of Luoyang.
The Song soon had to move their capital to Kaifeng and finally, the Jurchen barbarians overran the northern provinces in the 12th century, chased the Song out of Kaifeng to Hangzhou in the south and completely destroyed Luoyang leaving only these caves as witness of the glorious past.
The presence of a camel in Luoyang is not surprising if one considers that the Xi'an - Luoyang region was the starting point of the great silk road west that enabled trade with Persia, Rome and later, Europe.
Apart from the Number One Tractor Plant there was little to see in modern Luoyang. The narrow streets of The Old City were much more interesting.
I walked in there to see the Wen Feng pagoda and promptly got lost.
I eventually did find the Wen Feng Pagoda but could not get a good picture of it for lack of perspective in these narrow streets.
You will have to enjoy the Wen Feng Pagoda in two pieces, the last picture was the base and this is the top.
The quiet alleys of the old city were full of charm and a welcome change after the noisy crowd milling around the caves.
Trusting my wrist compass I walked west until I came to this busy street and from here I found my was back to my hotel near the train station.
I had checked out of my hotel, I had managed to wrangle a soft sleeper berth to Beijing from the China International Travel Service, familiarly known as the CITS. I was ready to go but I still had four hours to wait for my 9:30 train so I went to the station, sat on the steps and looked at the world go by.
These students walked by and, seeing that I had nothing to do, asked me politely if they could practice their English with me. I was of course delighted and we chatted about their everyday problems and their hopes for the future. Time went by very rapidly. It was a nice experience, there were good vibrations but I did not even get their names...