The capital of 13 dynasties, until the Northern Song dynasty shifted its capital to Kāifēng in the 10th century instead, Luòyáng was one of China’s true dynastic citadels. Charted on maps of the town, the mighty Sui- and Tang-dynasty walls sat in an imposing rectangle north and south of the Luò River, while the city boasted 1300 Buddhist temples. It’s hard today to conceive that Luòyáng was once the very centre of the Chinese universe and the eastern capital of the great Tang dynasty. The heart of the magnificent Sui-dynasty palace complex was centred on the point where today’s Zhongzhou Lu and Dingding Lu intersect in a frenzy of traffic.
On the surface, Luòyáng may look like any fume-laden modern Chinese town, but spend some time here and you’ll find the people more patient and the streets actually less frantic than Zhèngzhōu. Nearby, the magnificently sculpted Lóngmén Caves by the banks of the Yī River remain one of China’s most prized Buddhist treasures and the annual peony festival, centred on Wángchéng Park in April, is colourful fun. The buzzy old town, where the bulk of Luòyáng’s history survives, is in the east.