The White Horse Temple is situated 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) east of Luoyang City, Henan Province.
The White Horse Temple, patronized in 68 CE by Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han Dynasty’s capital, is the first Buddhist temple to be built in China. According to a folk story, Emperor Ming dreamed of the Buddha circling over his head one night. Afterwards, two emissaries of Emperor Ming departed to search for Buddhist scriptures. The pair of emissaries encountered two Indian monks and persuaded them to come to China.
In 67 CE, they arrived in Luoyang with Buddhist texts and statues of the Buddha brought by two white horses. In appreciation for the two Indian monks, Emperor Ming ordered people to build a temple and named it the White Horse Temple as an appreciation of two white horses.
White Horse Temple in Luoyang city is regarded as the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism. Occupying an area of 10 acres (40 thousand square meters), the White Horse Temple is the best preserved ancient building complex in the region. The original temple was even larger and more magnificent. The current White Horse Temple was constructed during the Ming and Qing Dynasty on the original site. They were refurbished in the 1950s and again in March 1973 after the Culture Revolution. It has numerous halls separated by courtyards which include Tianwang Hall (Heavenly King Hall), Great Buddha Hall, Daxiong Hall, Qingliang Terrace, and so on.
Standing behind the temple gate, Tianwang Hall was constructed during the Yuan Dynasty and has been twice refurbished during the following Ming and Qing Dynasties. Inside, the statue of Mitreya Buddha was enshrined with statues of four Heavenly Kings on both sides. Located behind Tianwang Hall, the Great Buddha Hall was the second hall of the temple. In the center of the hall stand three statues of Sakyamuni, Maha Kassapa (one of the Buddha’s chief disciples) and Ananda (another prominent follower of the Buddha).
These three statues were carved based on a Buddhist story in which Sakyamuni kept silent and just smiled during a ceremony of discussing a Buddhist sutra or parable. Only Maha Kassapa understood his meaning so Maha Kassapa became his successor.
The three Buddhas are placed in a large gilded sutra carved from wood. Sakyamuni is sitting in the center with Medicine Buddha on the left and Amitabha Buddha, the teacher of Western Pure Land Buddhisam, on the right. The vivid statues of eighteen Arbats sit both side of the Hall.
As the first Buddhism temple, White Horse Temple was designated as one of the national key cultural relic protection sites by the Chinese government in 1961. Today, White Horse Temple is a 4A tourist attraction which attracts many tourists from all over every year.
Admission Fee: 50RMB
Opening Time: 7:30 – 17:30
How to get there: No.58 Bus from White Horse Temple to Guanlin Temple ( fee: 1.5 RMB)