Religion and History

Trip Start Jan 22, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

After a big city Kaifeng is quite a change and is relatively untouched by tourism, at least there has not yet been any investment in making "tourist" streets full of junk. There are some old buildings made from wood and some newer ones which have a European air yet are now in a state of disrepair. The main attraction here however is the food market which by night makes oodles of food at really cheap prices, we sampled more than enough for 2 days. It has a few other draws which mainly centre around the Song dynasty, temples and whatnot. Inside the garden of the Iron Pagoda (we discovered that it was made of red clay) there are several murals of religious occurrences and a lake left to its own devices.

A few hours down the road in Luoyuan however is what really draws people here, the Longmen Caves, these are full of religious carvings in the rock face. The carvings themselves were mostly destroyed by war, weather and the republic when trying to supress religion (of course now they actively preserve them). In any case what remains is fascinating, the effort that went into the sculptures (some took more than 23 years), the number and size. The very first cave was carved around 450AD when an Indian monk came to China to teach budhism and the carvings continued up to around 1600 AD. The caves and their niches strech about 1km along both sides of Yi river, the west sides offers the best sites.

We also got trapped into going to see the Shaolin temple which is famous for teaching kung foo and appears in a number of films. However it's hardly worth the money and has a stupid show set to music of some of the younger students jumping across the stage and posing. The training is quite good to watch for a while but seems like the army with hordes of students practicing their moves to perfection. In terms of the temple it's no different to many others we've seen, unfortunately we had no time nor was the weather clement for a walk up the mountain Song.
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