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Henan Province, 322km (200 miles) E of Xi'an, 150km (93 miles) W of Zhengzhou

Situated in western Henan Province at the junction of the Grand Canal and the ancient Silk Road, Luoyang (literally "north of the river Luo") was the capital of nine dynasties from the Eastern Zhou (770-221 B.C.) to the Late Tang (923-36). Today, this industrial town with a population of 1.3 million is better known as home to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site Longmen Grottoes (Longmen Shiku), a must-see for anyone interested in Buddhist art and sculpture. A visit in April will allow you to take in Luoyang's famous Peony Festival as well.