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Home >> China City Guide >> Henan Province >> Luoyang >> White Horse Temple travel guide and tours

White Horse Temple

White Horse Temple
White Horse Temple, Luoyang
White Horse Temple, Luoyang China

The White Horse Temple, built in 68 A.D in the Eastern Han Dynasty, located 12 kilometers east of Luoyang flanked by the Mang Mountain to the north and the Luo River to the south, is the first temple since the introduction of Buddhism into China. Being significant to the spread and development of Chinese Buddhism as well as to the cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, the Baima Temple enjoys a special position in the history of Chinese Buddhism, laurelled as ¡°The Origin of Chinese Buddhism¡± and ¡°No. 1 ancient temple of China¡±.

Luoyang, the capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty, was the largest city in China and a famous international metropolis at that time. A senior Indian Buddhist missionary came here to develop Buddhism in China, bringing with him a large number of Buddhism classics. Liu Zhuang, the emperor of the Han Dynasty then, ordered the first Buddhist temple to be built in its traditional way, naming it the Baima Temple (White Horse Temple) after the white horse had carried Buddhist sutras and statues to China from a remote country at which now Afghanistan is located.

The Toll of the Baima Temple, one of eight spectacles of Luoyang, comes from the large bell hung high in the Great Buddha Hall of the temple. It is said that the melodious midnight toll at clear nights may be heard several kilometers away, lasting and floating in the quietness. What makes it even more wonderful is the resonance of another great bell 12.5 kilometers away in the bell tower of the old Luoyang town. At 0:00 of each New Year, ceremonies are held here to celebrate the New Year by ringing the bell as a tradition that has lasted for more than one thousand years.

In the dense cypress woods in the court near the Temple Gate with an ancient classic style, there lie two famous tombs, one on the west side and the other on the east, which are named the Tombs of Two Monks in honor of two Indian senior commissioners whose names read ¡°Jash Moton¡± and ¡°Juvalan¡±. On the Qingliang Platform stand their statues, showing the respect and admiration from Chinese Buddhists.

The Qingliang Platform, called ¡°the court in the air¡±, is also an attraction of the Baima Temple. It bears distinctly the characters of ancient oriental architecture, as a high platform made of grey bricks. The grand Pilu (Buddha Vairocara) Pavilion with the rising multiple-eave roof has a clear layout of a single court, affiliated with halls and monk rooms. With age-old cypresses and laurels standing still, the court is quiet and peaceful. It is said to be the place where Liu Zhuang, an emperor of the Han Dynasty, spent his summer and read books when he was young. Later, it became the living place and study of Indian senior commissioners where Buddhist sutras were translated.

The Qiyun Pagoda is a famous exquisite Buddhist pagoda of an ancient style, standing on the east side of the Temple Gate. As a quadrangle pagoda of dense-eave structure, it has 13 floors, with a height of 35 meters. It is quite outstanding among all the pagodas for its unique form. Once being the dagoba of Buddha Sakyamuni, the Qiyun tower now standing there was rebuilt in 1175 A.D. of the Jin Dynasty, which is the earliest ancient building kept in Luoyang.

In the Baima Temple, there are many pomegranates trees that enjoyed a great reputation in the capital city of the Han and Wei Dynasties. Originated in Iran, pomegranates were introduced to China together with Buddhist sutras and statues. Since then they had been widely planted in Luoyang and Chang'an (Xi'an) City. As an embodiment of the friendship between Chinese people and those overseas, pomegranates were highly praised and cherished, especially those sweet pomegranates in the Baima Temple. The Baima Temple, the top ancient one in China, is of great importance in the history of both Chinese Buddhism and the early international cultural exchanges.

The Pilu (Buddha Vairocara) Pavilion built in the Tang Dynasty was seated on the Qingilang Platform made of grey bricks which is about 7 meters high, 9 meters long and 3 meters wide. The Pilu Pavilion is a place where Buddha Vairocara, the Buddhist embodiment of Sakyamuni, is worshiped, together with two Bodhisattvas. Inscription of the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters, the earliest translated Buddhist classic introducing essential Buddhist doctrines, were embedded in the stone back wall of the pavilion. Statues of the two Indian commissioners and sutras translators are worshiped in the wing halls lying on the west and the east.

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