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Two of Chinese Buddhism's most iconic and culturally significant sights can be combined on a short stay in Henan province.

A short Bullet Train ride from Xi'an are the UNESCO protected Longmen Caves, where over 100,000 Buddhist statues are carved into a limestone cliff along the Yi River. Add to these countless stupas, steles and inscriptions and you have one of the most impressive and well-preserved collections of ancient Buddhist art in all of China. Much of the art here dates back as far as the 5th century, when nearby Luoyang became the Chinese capital under the Wei dynasty and it continued to be added to during the course of the next 600 years and into the Tang dynasty. Throughout the complex you can see various artistic styles and understand their significant role in the development of Asian civilisation and what they tell us about ancient Buddhist culture and history.

Located near the base of the Songshan Mountain, the world famous Shaolin Temple is renowned for the eponymous martial arts form and Zen Buddhism which were practiced by the resident monks for centuries. Although the monks were eventually dispersed and the temple suffered greatly, having been rebuilt many times, visitors can today learn about life here through the Ming and Qing era architecture and the kung fu performances and training centre. One thing not to be missed at the Shaolin Temple is the startling view over the Pagoda Forest, the biggest of its kind in China. Around 240 large brick tomb pagodas stand as memorials to former monks, some dating back to the 8th century.

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