The semester is officially over and I have left Beijing for my study trip. I still have to finish up a term paper, but I have two weeks to finish it up! It is definitely a good idea to finish everything before the trip so you do not need to bring your laptop around with you but sometimes the end of the semester can be very busy. On the evening of December 28th, my group left Beijing and caught an overnight train to Luoyang. I had taken a train once as a child so this was an experience for me. We took a sleeper train as it would take ten hours to arrive to Luoyang. Because it was a sleeper train, there were not any seats in our car, just beds. I was lucky to be assigned the bottom bunk, giving me the most space between my bed and the bed above me. My group, along with another travel group, traveled together to Luoyang so there were approximately sixty of us. Because there were so many of us, we had an entire car to ourselves, giving us time to bond and hang out while on the train. Unfortunately, once it got too late, the lights on the train turned out so we all went to bed. The bed did not have much cushion, like most of the beds in China, but the blanket was surprisingly plush, making me feel like I was sleeping on clouds.
In the morning, we arrived to Luoyang and made our way to a bus that would take us to our hotel. At the hotel, we ate a traditional Chinese breakfast, usually consisting of porridge and bread. After dropping our luggage off in our rooms and eating breakfast, we made our way to the White Horse Temple. The temple was beautiful but resembled the many temples we had visited while in Beijing. The colors and building structures were all very similar. Once you see a few temples, they all start to look the same. After visiting the White Horse Temple, we went to the Shaolin Temple. This was probably my favorite part about visiting Luoyang. This temple is the birthplace of Chinese martial arts. It is a Ch’an Buddhist temple at Song Shan, built by Emperor Hsiao-Wen in AD 496. Boys of all ages currently study martial arts at this temple and can be some of the deadliest fighters in China. While visiting the temple, we were able to watch a performance by the students that study the form of martial arts. After watching these young men, it is safe to say that the last thing that you would want to do is get into a confrontation with one of them!
On the last day of our stay in Luoyang, we visited the Longmen Buddhist Grottoes. There are tens of thousands of statues carved into the mountain, approximately 43 pagodas, and over 100,000 Buddhist images. It was a lovely day to walk around and take pictures. It was a beautiful place to visit and unlike other sites I had visited in while studying abroad in China. Luoyang is the first stop on our travel trip and I got a good taste of what to expect from this study trip. We are constantly visiting places and traveling to different sites. I have a feeling that I will need to find some time to catch up on sleep. Next stop… Xi’An!