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White Horse Temple

 

The White Horse Temple is located 12 kilometers away from the east of Luoyang City, Henan Province.

The White Horse Temple enjoys the reputation of the No.1 Ancient Temple of China. It lies on the south of Mangshan Mountain, and faces the Luohe River in the south. The construction of the temple started in the 11th year (68) during the Yongping reign of Emperor Mingdi in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). The White Horse Temple has a history of over 1900 years. It is the first temple built since Buddhism spread to China in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). According to historical records, Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty dreamed of a golden man flying above the courtyard. After he woke up, the emperor sent Cai Yin and Qin Jing as envoys to western regions to invite Buddha and learn Buddhism. The two envoys underwent much hardship and met two eminent Indian dignitaries She Moteng and Zhu Falan on the way. Cai Yin and Qin Jing came back to Luoyang City with the two monks, and a white horse carrying the sutras. Emperor Mingdi ordered the construction of the temple to the north of the imperial road outside the Xiyong Gate of Luoyang City. The White Horse Temple, built after the style of Indian temples, was the place for She Moteng and Zhu Falan to translate Buddhist sutras and write sermons. In order to memorize the white horse for its carrying back of the sutras, the temple was named the White Horse Temple.

The White Horse Temple has undergone many repairs and renovations in all previous dynasties. The present appearance is much different from its original one. What we see today was restored during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), with an area of 34,000 square meters. Facing south, the main buildings of the temple stand on or along the central axis, including the Temple Gate, the Heavenly King Hall, the Great Buddha Hall, the Main Hall, the Jieyin Hall, and the Pilu Pavilion, etc. Beside those main buildings are the Reception Chamber, the Cloud-water Chamber, the Ancestors Chamber, the Guests Chamber, the Buddhist Chamber, and the Abbot Courtyard and so on. The huge White Horse Temple has over 100 rooms.

The central axis line starts from the Temple Gate, a roofed entrance arch with three doors. A pair of stone horses stands on the two wings in front of the outer wall. The Heavenly King Hall is the first hall inside the temple. In that hall sit the clay-molded statues of four Heavenly Kings, Maitreya Buddha and Skanda Bodhisattva. Behind the Heavenly King Hall is the Great Buddha Hall, which is the main hall of the temple. The grounding platform is about 1 meter high. The hall measures five bays in width and four bays in depth. It is double roofed, with four Chinese characters meaning Buddha shines over the earth in the center. In its center sit the statues of Sakyamuni, Chiligyi, Ananda, Manjusgri, Samantabhadra, etc. There is a huge bell that weighs 2,500 kilograms hung in the hall. That bell is a historical relic from the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty.

The third hall is the Main Hall, and houses three Buddhas: Sakyamuni, Medicine Buddha, and Amitabha Buddha, flanked by the eighteen Arhats. They treasures of arts of the Yuan Dynasty are vivid in modeling and graceful in painting. The wooden shrine in the hall houses over 5,000 statues of Buddha. The fourth hall is the Jieyin Hall. Behind the bamboo forest is the Qingliang (cool and refreshing) Terrace, with old pine trees flourishing, and halls connecting with each other. Four sides of the terrace are piled with green bricks. The Kunlu Pavilion stands prominent on the terrace. Halls on its east and west house respectively the statues of the two eminent monks, She Moteng and Zhu Falan, who were buried inside the Temple Gate after they passed away. In front of the tombs are the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. The Horse Temple Bell Ring was once one of the eight great sceneries in Luoyang City.

Fifteen meters east of the temple, in the lush trees, stands the Qiyun Pagoda, also called the Pagoda of Sakyamuni's Relics. The cubic shaped pagoda has 13 storeys, and is 25 meters high. Its construction started in the fifteenth year (1175) the Dading reign of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). It is one of the most ancient buildings preserved in Luoyang City. Outside the Temple Gate stand two green stone horses opposite to each other, which were made in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

As the first Buddhist temple in China, the White Horse Temple plays a significant role in the history of Chinese Buddhism and China's international cultural exchanges. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the People's Government paid much attention to the temple and thoroughly restored it several times from 1952 to 1973. It has become an attraction to domestic and foreign tourists.

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