Longmen grottos Luoyan

Longmen grottos

Luoyang is situated 90 minutes by high-speed train and though today an industrial city was the capital of China for over 4,000 years covering 13 different dynasties.

Like Dunhuang Luoyang attracted early adopters of Buddhism, monks and wealthy followers who wanted to express their faith by filling over 2,000 niches in what is known today as the Longmen grottoes dug out of a range of limestone ridges along the picturesque Li river, today adorned with picturesque willow trees.

Buddha images from a few centimetres high to 100 feet are either carved into the rock or stand/sit within niches for a distance of several hundred yards reachable today by a balustrade of walkways along the cliff edge.

This obviously absorbed the full attention of our group but the Chinese, and in particular, three visiting Tibetan monks, seemed as interested in photographing us as the site itself, probably because our collective hair colour was white and theirs black.

Throughout the trip we have attended a sequence of lectures from our erudite leader with a PHD from Shanghai university and a fluent Mandarin speaker, a renowned authority on Chinese history and culture, and pretty good at English as he grew up in Australia. As we sat atop a local mountain near an outdoor tea pavilion surrounding our 'teacher' the locals went mad with their cameras probably thinking we were some modern-day Buddhist sect.

This effectively completes the 'Silk 'Road' section of the trip. All that remains is a four hour high-speed train journey to Beijing for a few days recuperation after an intensive but absorbing trip and hopefully a fuller understanding of the significance of the Silk Road to the dissemination of goods, cultures and beliefs to and from Europe to China, and China's adoption of Buddhism and how it differed from the Theravada variation developed further south in Ceylon, Burma and Thailand.

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