Sunday, June 9, 2019

Longmen Grottos - From Xi'An to Luoyang Longmen to see the Buddhas Carved into Rock - UNESCO World Heritage Site

We were in Xi'An, China!  We stayed at the Sheraton Xi'An North hotel - a wonderful stay.  Today, we would be visiting the Longmen Grottoes.  Longmen what?  The Chinese name is 龙门石窟 Lóngmén Shíkū  , or literally Dragon Gate Caves, or Grottos. (So nothing to do with Longman Jeans)

In 2000 the site was inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity,” for its perfection of an art form, and for its encapsulation of the cultural sophistication of Tang China

Now, getting to this UNESCO World Heritage site would be interesting.  It was located near the city of Luoyang. The distance between Xi'An and Luoyang was 380km (236 miles).  This distance was farther than Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (which is about 350km).

How to get there?  High Speed Rail of course!  The journey time would take us about 1.5 hours.  To achieve this, the train would have to achieve an average speed of 253km/h. Not bad at all!  This would be our first time on board a China High Speed Rail train.  Excited!

I made 2 videos to remember this experience.  Here they are, followed by some pictures.

In this first video, we make our way from Sheraton Xi'An North, via Xi'An Metro, to the Xi'An High Speed Rail station. After getting our tickets, we got into this huge station (the largest in Northwest China). As we had a bit of time, and also because our train ride was 1.5 hours long, we decided to get some food to eat on the train.  I got a KFC burger - easy to eat!  The train ride was very smooth and punctual.  In the video, I also show you the toilet in the train.  It was clean.

In this second video, I immediately show you the highlight (the most famous cave) of Longmen Grottoes - this huge rock carving of a giant Buddha and many other figures.  You can find a full description of what this place is about on this Wikipedia entry.  We don't believe in Buddha, but we were here to admire the rock carvings!  Overall, it was quite a sight  Pity, however, this place has been badly destroyed and mutilated over the years.  We were told during the Cultural Revolution, the damage was super extensive.  So we saw many empty caves, headless statues etc.  We didn't spend too long here, but managed to see the most famous cave which is at the start of my video below.

As promised, some pictures.  Xi'An North High Speed Rail Station was huge, the largest station in Northwest China.

2nd class cabin, it is in a 2-3 configuration. Comfortable, and trains were punctual.  The seats weren't very wide, but the incline was very good! Can easily take a nap.

Toilets were clean.  This one was a squat toilet.  My video shows you more of the train toilet. (yes, I went to do a toilet inspection.)

We brought our own food and water to eat and drink on board.  Doing so allowed us to head to the tourist site immediately once the train arrived at Luoyang Longmen.  Didn't want to waste any time finding food.

From the High Speed Rail station, we took a taxi to the Visitor Center.  At the Visitor Center, we bought our tickets to enter the site.  There was an optional electric cart.  Having read earlier reviews, we took the cart as well.  It wasn't expensive, and the ride was rather long.  Saved us plenty of walking.  You can see snippets of this ride in the second video.

After we reached the main site, there was naturally plenty of walking and stair climbing to do.  Didn't want to tire ourselves so early!  These are the steps with the wooden/golden handrails that would bring us to the most famous cave.  This is featured in my second video.
Unfortunately, the Longmen Grottos haven't been well preserved.  Plenty of damage.  Oh well.

This angle shows you the steps to climb up, to see the various 'holes'.  Frankly, more holes than statues now.

This shows you the interior of one the larger caves.  I'm sure when it was first carved, it would been quite splendid as a piece of art. But, the wear and tear is really quite bad.  Still, you can make out the statues.

Overall, it was an interesting visit, and only made possible by the very impressive and reliable China High Speed Rail system.  So the lesson for me, for this field trip, was not so much this UNESCO world heritage site, but more of just how well connected Chinese cities are now with their High Speed Rail system!

Thanks for reading my blog.

China Eastern Airlines Business Class Xi'An to Shanghai to Singapore Review 

China Eastern Airlines Business Class Singapore to Xi'An Adventure! 

Sheraton Xi'An North Club Room and Club Lounge!


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