Access point for the incredible Lóngmén Grottoes outside town, Luòyáng (洛阳) was one of China’s true dynastic citadels. The city was the prosperous capital of 13 dynasties, until the Northern Song dynasty shifted its capital east along the Yellow River to Kāifēng in the 10th century.
The provincial Hénán capital of Zhèngzhōu (郑州) is a rapidly modernising, smog-filled metropolis with few relics from its ancient past (due to Japanese bombing in WWII). Zhèngzhōu can be largely zipped through, serving as a major transport hub and access point for the Shàolín Temple and the left-field Maoist collective of Nánjiēcūn.
Sōng Shān & Dēngfēng
In Taoism, Sōng Shān (嵩山) is considered the central mountain (中岳; zhōngyuè) of the five sacred peaks, symbolising earth (土; tǔ) among the five elements and occupying the axis directly beneath heaven. Despite this Taoist persuasion, the mountains are also home to one of China’s most famous and legendary Zen (禅; Chán) Buddhist temples: the inimitable Shàolín Temple.
Nánjiēcūn (南街村) is China’s very last Maoist collective (gōngshè), and a visit here is a surreal trip back in time – a journey to the puritanical and revolutionary China of the 1950s, when Chairman Mao was becoming a supreme being, money was yesterday’s scene and the menace of karaoke had yet to be prophesied by even the most paranoid party faithful.