On the itinerary my mom wrote that I could
do laundry here but in the morning I couldn't find the laundry
bag. Dr. Tai let me and Jason go look for it and she didn't mind
when we arrived at the bus a few minutes late. I sent out a pair
of pants for 15 yuan, not including a service charge. That's really
all I had to wash because it had some mud stains from walking;
everything else was still clean.
first attraction in Luoyang was the Longmen Grottoes. It was probably
the best stop since the Great Wall. Our new guide Haibo is really
cool; he talks a lot and isn't as shy and quiet as Lisa. The grottoes
are many different kinds of Buddhas carved into the cliffs. I
saw a room of 10,000 Buddhas and a really large Buddha that looked
like my friend Mike.
The world-famous Longmen Grottoes are located 12km south of Luoyang.
Here two mountains, namely, East Hill (Mt. Xiangshan) and West
Hill (Mt. Longmen), confront each other with the Yi River traversing
northward between them, just like a pair of Chinese gate towers.
So during the Zhou and Qin dynasties, it was called "Yi Que"
(Gate of Yi River). Later, when the Sui established its capital
city in Luoyang, the palace gate was just facing Yi Que, hence
the name "Longmen" which means "Dragon Gate".
Spanning a length of over 1,000 meters on the hillsides along
the Yi River, the Longmen Grottoes, together with the Mogao Caves
in Dunhuang (Gansu Province) and the Yungang Grottoes (Shanxi
Province), are reputed as the three greatest stone sculpture treasure
houses in China. In the year 2000, Longmen Grottoes was listed
by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Longmen Grottoes were first sculptured and chiseled around 493AD
when the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) was moved
from Datong to Luoyang. The entire construction of Longmen Grottoes
lasted more than four hundred years through the Northern Dynasties,
Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and up to Song Dynasty. Today, there
are still 2345 caves and niches, 100,000 Buddhist images ranging
in size from 2 cm to 17.14 meters, more than 2800 inscribed tablets,
and 43 Buddhist pagodas remaining in both East Hill and West Hill.
Altogether 30 % date from Northern Wei Dynasty, 60 % from Tang
Dynasty and the rest 10 % from other periods.
Lunch was at a combination shop and restaurant. The shop was
boring but lunch was great. Highlights included spicy beef, good
non-tangy orange chicken, soy sauce chicken, and watermelon. After
lunch we went to the Guan Ti Temple. All these temples and mausoleums
were getting a little repetitive but nevertheless I enjoyed it
and learned again that you shouldn't step on the thresholds when
entering a sacred place.
we had a break back at the hotel. First, I went back to the internet
bar to send emails and play computer games. After coming back
I took a short nap and then got up to look around an electronics
store. Dinner was a special culinary highlight tonight. It was
a soup banquet "Sui shee" consisting of 8 cold dishes
and 16 soup dishes. The waitress at our table was really nice
and pretty; she would explain the ingredients of each soup and
then serve us. I say "our table" because there were
27 persons total and each table usually held 9 persons so we always
had 3 tables in each restaurant we went to. By the end of the
second day everyone kind of knew who they wanted to sit with and
that arrangement was maintained throughout the trip. Anyway, I
tried my best to finish every bowl of soup but some of them close
to the end were sweet dessert-like soups and I couldn't stand
As I closed the first day in Luoyang I realized two things: first,
China can be really bad and really good, meaning there are nice
things and horrible things about it, and second, I'm seriously
addicted to internet bars. On some streets in China, you feel
as if you're in the best part of town, comparable to a Ladue or
Clayton here in St. Louis. The shops are nice, the food is great,
and everything seems clean and somewhat fresh. On the next street
over, or maybe even on that same street, you see beggars, poor
people, rundown shacks, and other things that you wouldn't expect
to see on a typical nice street. It was very shocking to be in
a place with no dividing line between wealthy and poor or upper
and lower class; many times contrasting elements were intermingled
to the point where the line is blurred. As for the internet bars,
I was surprised to see that even in a bad part of town, there
would be a room full of nice Pentium-grade computers with fast
internet access and up-to-date games, all for the low price of
around 1 or 2 US dollars per hour. Since I am not a big shopping
person, I spent most of my time (and saved most of my money) at
the internet bars.