A side trip neatly combined with the Longmen Caves is a visit to Songshan, one of China’s Five Great Mountains, which rises behind the town of Dengfeng, an hour’s drive east of Luoyang.
Streams of martial arts enthusiasts travel to the area to visit or study at the famous Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese Kung Fu. One of the great spectacles of this part of the world is the daily exercise ritual when thousands of Kung Fu students dressed in matching suits perform synchronized routines in local temple courtyards, squares and hilltop platforms.
Testifying to the town’s great antiquity, the Zhongye Miao temple on the eastern outskirts of Dengfeng was founded 2,000 years ago but recreated in its present form during the Ming era.
Wander the paved courtyards and relax under the shade of ancient trees, with the elegant ceramic roofs silhouetted against the wooded hillside behind. With time, you can follow a path all the way up the mountain for spellbinding views over the Yellow River basin to the north.