White Horse Temple

White Horse Temple, Luoyang Attractions, Luoyang Travel GuideThe Baima Temple (Baima Si) is one of (if not the), oldest Buddhist Temple in China. From the outside, the Baima Temple looks as if it houses the common collection of ornaments, decorated with cartoon style colors and images that are so prevalent in many of China's cities. However, this is in fact one of the most impressive and truly holy temples in the entire province. Located 12km east to the ancient capital city of Luoyang, facing the Luo River in the south and sitting back to the Mang Hill in the north, is the White Horse Temple, and also named Baima Temple. Established by the Han Dynasty in 68 AD when Buddhism started to spread, this temple is believe to be the first Buddhist temple built by the government in China.

Legend goes that Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 AD) once sent his minister on a diplomatic mission to western region to learn about Buddhism. After finished study, they came back with two eminent Indian dignitary monks - She Moteng and Zhu Falan, and a white horse carried the first sutra and the figure of Buddha from India to this spot in 68 AD. Hence, the temple gets the name and the prevalence of horse statues about the entire area. At this time, Buddhism in India and Nepal had just reached its peak and this was almost certainly the first time Buddhism had reached China. So It is more than likely that earlier Buddhist temples were built along the Silk Routes in what is today's Xinjiang (the path by which Buddhism entered China), but this is widely held to be the first officially sanctioned Buddhist temple built in China proper.

The temple was initially built to house the two statues and the sutra books that two eminent monks on horseback brought back with them from India. The temple was completed within a few years but has been repeatedly renovated and expanded following heavy periods of destruction and warfare. After the building of the White Hose Temple, the two eminent monks moved into it to translate Buddhist codes and make sermons. It was in this temple that the first version of the Chinese Forty-two Sutras was produced. Ever since then, Buddhism exerted more and more influences on the life of the Chinese, and the Buddhism spread to as far as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. More and more famous monks came to China and did translation work at the temple. The introduction of Buddhism into China not only greatly influenced the moral ethics, thoughts and cultures of the Chinese people, but also contributed a lot to the exchange of international cultures. Since its establishment, White Horse Temple has experienced vicissitudes of centuries. It was rebuilt for several times, in which the restoration during the reign of Emperor Wu Zetian was especially notable in its large scale. Therefore it is no wonder that the White horse Temple is referred to as "the cradle of Buddhism".

Today's White Horse Temple is a rectangle courtyard facing south. The gate of the White Horse Temple was built in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), two stone horses (likely from the Song dynasty) stand guard outside the gate to the temple, mostly a Míng construction. Covering a total area of 40, 000 square meters, and a stone memorial archway was newly built 150 meters in front of the gate, behind which is the Freeing Captive pool. Three stone arch bridges stand over the pool. Crossing the square and going past the gate, the temple mainly consists of Tianwang Hall, Great Buddha Hall, Daxiong Hall, Jieyin Hall, Qingliang Terrace and Pilu Pavilion, which are all distributing along the north-south central axis. In addition, most of the statues here today date back to the Yuan Dynasty and the reign of the Mongolians over China. Inside, the Temple complex is refreshingly peaceful and leafy with a large statue of Sakyamuni dominating the main hall. The most charming aspect of this place, is that this one of the few remaining working temples in the city. The fruit on the altars, cloth suspended from the ceiling and candles burning are all testament to this. This factor should be borne in mind by travelers and rituals and traditions respected by visitors.