It was a whirlwind of a trip but our photographers rallied through and took some amazing shots of Henan. The group visited Kaifeng, Jiaozuo, Luoyang, Yuntai Mountain and Shaolin Temple in the span of 5 days. Below are some of the sights visited and local food sampled. Check back with us soon to see the full photo exhibit of the photos from the trip.
Day 1 – Kaifeng
The first stop on the trip was at Millennium City Park, located on the west bank of picturesque Longting Lake. The park is a life-sized scale of the famous painting, Qingming Festival by the Riverside, a work of art by Northern Song Dynasty painter Zhang Zeduan. It depicts the life of the locals over 1,000 years ago during the Qing Ming Festival, a holiday to honor the ancestors. Walking through the park, we did feel as if we’ve stepped back in time to the heyday of the bustling ancient capital.
The Dragon Pavilion, ironically not a pavilion, is a great hall built upon a 13-meter thick brick base and features the Dragon Pavilion Park, with picturesque vantage points of the region’s lakes and rivers. The Imperial Road to the Park is flanked by two prominent lakes, Yang Lake and Pen Lake. These two contrasting bodies of water reflect the natures of their Song Dynasty namesakes, Yang Jiye, the honored bound general and Pen Renmei, the notoriously conniving minister.
Standing at over 55 meters tall, the Iron Pagoda is a significant achievement of 11th century architecture. The Pagoda’s 13 stories begin at a width of 4.2 meters and gradually shrink in diameter as it rises into the sky. From the time of its second construction, the Iron Pagoda has continued to survive whatever nature could throw at it, including the notorious antagonist of buildings, the earthquake. The Pagoda’s profound resilience has earned it the reputation of being “earthquake proof,” quite an achievement for a thousand year old tower. There are 50 different design patterns that grace the surface of the Pagoda, most notably the depictions of flying spirits and legendary unicorns.
The best part of any trip is sampling the local cuisine. Our first lunch in Kaifeng was at one the oldest and most reputable dumpling restaurants, HuangJia BaoZi. The dumplings here are wrapped and steamed to order, ensuring consistent quality. Biting into each dumpling, you have to be careful that the soup does not spill all over you. We also sampled another local delicacy, carp in sweet and sour sauce, topped with crispy fried noodles. The skin was crispy and the flesh flaky, fried to perfection.
As the sun set, we headed to the Kaifeng Night Market, a lively scene filled with delicious smells of the snacks being sold by the food stalls.
Day 2 – Jiaozuo
The city of Jiaozuo lies to the east of Xinxiang, with a total area of 4,071 square kilometers and a population of 3.3 million. As a crucial joint of the North and South, West and East, it plays an essential role in the transportation of central China. Due to its rich resources, superior geographical location and cultural relics, Jiaozuo is afforded with unique natural and historical sights, such as Yuntai Mountain and Chenjiagou Village, the birthplace of the famous shadow-boxing.
Originally called Changyang Village, it was later changed to Chenjiagou Village by Chen Bu, a native of Zezhou, who’s descendants have lived in the village for generations. Master Chen established a martial arts organization in the village that combined the traditional customs of boxing practice with Taoist breathing exercises, utilizing the concept of yin and yang. The students of Chenjiagou Village were kind enough to give us a private demonstration of taichi and shadow boxing.
Continuing on, we departed for Yuntai Mountain, the sister park of Grand Canyon National Park. Fog was setting in at the mountain and we had very limited time, dashing to the site of the Hongshi Valley and its waterfalls. As we descended the steps to the bottom of the valley, we all knew our legs would hate us the next day but what a view! Hongshi valley is such a popular destination for local and foreign visitors alike, it was rare to find the valley empty of visitors, allowing our photographers a fantastic opportunity for a clear shot of the ethereal valley.
Day 3 – Luoyang
The Heluo Area centered by Luoyang, a city among the earliest approved Historical Cities of Culture by the State Department, is a significant birthplace of Chinese civilization. Luoyang has become an international metropolis since the Han and Wei Dynasties. The notable ancient landscapes of the city include the Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang Museum, Han Emperor Guangwu Mausoleum, and House of a Thousand Epitaphs of the Tang Dynasty.
Any visit to Luoyang is not complete with visiting the Longmen Grottoes, considered one of the four Major Grottoes in China. Construction began in the year 493 by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty and was continuously built for the next 400 years until the Song Dynasty. The most imposing and magnificent of all the caves, the Fengxian Temple Grotto, was carved during the Tang Dynasty and contains the most beautiful and best examples of sculpture, despite weathering and erosion.
A stroll through Old Town Luoyang felt as if we were stepping back in time to the olden days of the city, as it was centuries ago. It was such a quaint area, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Day 4 – Shaolin Temple
We finally made our way to Shaolin Temple, one of the highlights of the entire trip. Everyone has heard of Shaolin Temple and its famous martial arts, but who really knew where it was in China. Having the opportunity to visit the birthplace of modern day martial arts was awe-inspiring.
Built in the midst of the turbulent 5th century Northern Wei Dynasty, the legendary Buddhist master, Dharma, arrived at Shaolin Temple in 527 AD. The Dharma came to China on a mission to spread the wisdom of Buddhism to the Chinese people. The Temple grounds consist primarily of the Changzhu Yard, which is the temple’s main building. Here, the Temple monks and deacons reside and carry out their practices. It was awe-inspiring to walk through the courtyard and enjoy a brief demonstration of the famous Shaolin Kung Fu.
Day 5 – Time to go home
It was sad to see the trip come to an end, but what an amazing experience. We did have a long layover on the return flight from Zhengzhou to Los Angeles, via Shanghai. What else to do at the airport but an airport food tour. A delicious end to a wonderful journey.