Capital of nine dynasties
Since time immemorial the northern borders of the Chinese empire were repeatedly
terrorized by minority tribes. The feared governors and the emperor himself usually used the Yellow River as their last natural barrier against these aggressive invasions. With this, and the natural drought that often plagued Xi'an, Luoyang became
favored by successive emperors and dynasties as capital, both because of prosperity of land and ideal geographic location.
The first dynasty ever to have its capital in Luoyang was the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (771 BC), and it was during these 400 years that the city was to reach a height of great prosperity. With the collapse of the dynasty the city hit a historic low period. This continued for a good few years, even when the city was
favored as capital at the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 BC). This low period went on for 500 years, until towards the end of the Han Dynasty, when good times rolled again.
The Wei (220-265 AD) and Jin (265-420 AD) Dynasties then both had brief and not overly successful reign in Luoyang. The last emperor of the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD) was to reverse the trend again. This reign, moving from Xi'an to Luoyang apparently after the emperor suffered pangs of guilt for murdering his father to ascend the throne, marked more golden times. During the Tang Dynasty that followed the only Empress proper of China's history, Wu Zetian, centered her reign in Luoyang, as did her Tang successors. This was the peak of Luoyang's cultural history.
Yet more dynasties were to have their capital in Luoyang, and these, along with the dynasties listed above, have endowed the city with a wealth of cultural heritage.
Luoyang is the hometown of the peony. Throughout the centuries, numerous poets have painted poems and poetic prose glorifying it. Although there has never been a nation-wide official survey as to which flower should be voted the national one, the peony is generally acknowledged to be China's best.
The peony, over 90 in species by color and shape, is the symbol of wealth for Chinese people, which is the main reason why these pretty flowers frequently appear on Chinese embroidery work and on the smooth qipao, the popular Chinese dresses.
It has long been the custom of the local folks to admire the peony during springtime, which is in full bloom in April. As a result, the locals of Luoyang set up a Peony Festival every year, from April 15 to April 25, during which time lantern, film and literary works about it are all displayed for people to appreciate.
In the past few years the festival has become more and more popular and it is well worth going to see. The best of the peonies during this time can be found in the Wancheng Park.