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Millenniums of glory: Luoyang, oriental capital of culture and science (2)

By Kou Jie, Liu Ning (People's Daily Online)    17:22, December 04, 2020

Ancient culture thrives to date 

After millenniums, the White Horse Temple still serves as a cultural and religious center in China and the world. (People’s Daily Online/Kou Jie)

Nestled between a luxuriant mountain and a rapid river, the White Horse Temple stands out in silhouette. Solemnity and ancient beauty oozes through the cracks of the weathered Buddhist statues, while the winding cobblestone trails encircling the temple bear the imprint of time and footprints of pilgrims.

The birthplace of Chinese Buddhism, the temple was built under the patronage of Emperor Ming (58-75 AD) in the Eastern Han dynasty, who sent emissaries to seek for wisdom and friendship overseas. The emissaries brought back foreign sages, with countless Buddhist scriptures and books laden on two white horses. The temple was then built as an appreciation of the horses’ contribution, as well as a mark of ancient China’s cultural exchange with the world.

Today, a museum was built on site, attracting countless visitors both from China and abroad to enjoy ancient art and architecture. The temple itself remains an important tie between China and other nations. In 2008, a Buddhist shrine, that is a close replica of the Sanchi Stupa, was completed in the temple by the Indian government, serving as a symbol of China-Indian cultural exchange, while Thai and Cambodian style shrines are now under construction for a similar purpose.

The White Horse Temple is not the only historical site in Luoyang that preserves ancient culture while continuing to thrive in the modern era. Dubbed “the oriental capital of museums,” Luoyang has about 100 museums that harbor more than 4 billion cultural relics. The city’s abundant historical heritage has inspired local, cultural and creative industries, making it a new pillar of the city’s economy.

In the exhibition hall of the Luoyang Museum, advanced technologies and cultural innovation have injected a few raisins of modernity into the dough of history. Excited visitors are studying ancient artworks by using 3D screens and VR glasses, while crowded customers are selecting souvenirs designed by local cultural and creative companies, such as electronic passports that allow visitors to collect unique stamps from museums across China, as well as handbags embroidered with ancient patterns and traditional calligraphy.

“So far we have developed 37 kinds of creative products based on Luoyang’s cultural relics. Our cultural innovation has inspired visitors to study China’s history and culture, as well as creating lucrative income,” said Shi Yue, director of the relic protection and cultural development department of the Luoyang Museum. 

Peony porcelain combines ancient porcelain-making techniques with modern design, making it China’s national gift to foreign leaders. (Photo provided by Li Xuewu)

In addition to museums, Luoyang has also breathed new life into ancient history through its themed cultural festival and tourism activities. Known for its 1,500-year history of peony cultivation, Luoyang has established the Peony Cultural Festival, an annual festival to celebrate the blossom of the beautiful flowers. In 2020, despite the negative influence of COVID-19, the festival attracted over 29 million visitors, creating an income of more than 27.8 billion yuan.

Talented individuals have also seized opportunities to dig nuggets of gold from the booming cultural and creative industries. Li Xuewu, a local artist who uses ancient porcelain-making techniques to create modern peony-themed decorations, started his cultural company in 2009.

Each year, over 50,000 peony-themed porcelain are sold both in China and abroad, creating an annual income of over 60 million yuan. Li’s artwork is selected by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as national gifts to foreign leaders, while his peony-porcelain jewelry received a warm welcome from the wives of foreign presidents during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit held in Qingdao in 2018. 

Peony porcelain jewelry have now become a new trend of fashion, receiving a warm welcome from the wives of foreign leaders who attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit held in Qingdao in 2018. (Photo provided by Li Xuewu)

“In Luoyang, the old has never faded away and has nourished new opportunities. Our ancestors have brought our culture to the world through the ancient Silk Road, we are now doing the same – spreading our modern culture along the Belt and Road,” added Li.

Thanks to the successful combination of ancient culture and modern innovation, Luoyang now ranks number 10 among all Chinese cities in cultural creative industry, which is worth 28 billion yuan, accounting for five percent of the city’s GDP in 2020.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Kou Jie, Liang Jun)

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