Annual International Peony Festival in Luoyang, China
The peony is revered throughout China but Luoyang is considered the peony capital. In 2012, the city celebrated the 30th anniversary of the International Peony Festival.
Peony Capital of China Hosts Annual Festival
In China, the peony is the “King of the Flower Kingdom” and a national emblem. Peonies are native to many Asian regions, southern Europe and western North America however this Chinese festival is truly international with flowers shipped to Luoyang from around the world. Thousands of peony plants are showcased in addition to countless peony beds in parks and private gardens located in and around the city.
Chinese celebrities headline the televised festivities. Foreign and national dignitaries and tens of thousands of curious sightseers flock to pay their respects to the beloved blooms. To date, passionate enthusiasts have propagated more than 600 new varieties in the peony beds of Luoyang. Although peony experts have cultivated the flower for centuries, additional variants are introduced each year.
Preparations for the Peony Festival Are City-wide
The planning for this event is ongoing, organizing each annual festival takes months. Event co-ordinators enlist local organizations to help recruit thousands of volunteers. Yet the bulk of the work starts just weeks before the throngs of tourists begin arriving.
The opening ceremony alone often utilizes nearly 10,000 costumed volunteers. Local university students perform as singers, dancers and less-skilled volunteers for synchronized ‘color shows’ utilizing things like pom-poms or flower-like umbrellas. Colorful potted plants are arranged in elaborate displays in parks, on the steps of large buildings and even on bridges. Official festival banners are affixed to thousands of posts.
Buses are borrowed from private companies, taxis tidied, additional parking areas are paved and high school students take over pedestrian control duties so police can direct traffic. Volunteers, especially those with foreign-language skills, are selected to help host the hordes of sightseers that swarm the flower beds like bees in springtime.
Buddhist Temples, Tang Dynasty Relics and More
After its capital, Zhengzhou, Luoyang is the second largest city in the province of Henan. It is considered Chinese tourists’ best-kept secret. The city’s popularity is not based on the famed flower alone. It’s also known as an ancient capital, noted in history books as the seat of government of thirteen dynasties. Luoyang lures travelers with many not-to-be-missed sights:
- The Longmen Grottoes – Hillside cliffs harboring thousands of ancient Buddhist carvings. Many of the images have been defaced, but the area is now a United Nations World Heritage Site
- White Horse Temple – repository of the first Buddhist writings to be brought – by white horses – to China and the temple complex built to house them
- Museum of Ancient Tombs – tombs of the emperors of the Northern Wei Dynasty (Buddha Maitreya (Mile) | China | Northern Wei dynasty (386–534) | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org).)
- Six Horse Museum – Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770- 403 B.C.E.), burial pits of emperor’s horses and carriages
- A starting point for the Silk Road – the ancient trade route
- Convention and Exhibition Center lake with musical fountain larger than that of the the Bellagio Water Show – Tourist Attraction | Fountains of Bellagio – Bellagio Hotel & Casino (mgmresorts.com) in Las Vegas
- Luoyang Museum – Tang Dynasty exhibits include more than 1500 tri-color (san sui) glazed pottery and bronze ware
Of all the places to visit, anyone on a trip to China during April must visit Luoyang. Registration records indicate that less than 100 foreigners reside in the Luoyang area with six-and-a-half million inhabitants. Locals in this enclave in the heart of China still give Westerners instant celebrity status. Peonies, historical sites, and friendly people all contribute to the popularity of this rural city that hasn’t yet adopted a sense of sophistication.