China — White Horse Temple 白馬寺

Friday 29 January 2010, by Buddhachannel Eng.

Langues :

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White Horse Temple was the first Buddhist temple in China, established under the patronage of Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han capital Luoyang in the year 68.

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White Horse Temple

白马寺 - 白馬寺

Located at the 12 kilometers east of Luoyang city, the White Horse Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in China and is renowned as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. Although it is not the largest nor the most beautiful Buddhism monument in China, this temple with its large number of Buddhism items housed there, is well worth a trip.

An interesting legend related to the temple goes that a white horse carried the first Buddhist script from India here in ancient time hence the name White Horse Temple. History records that the site was original the place used by the second Han Emperor-Liu Zhuang as a summer resort and for study. In 68 AD, when Buddism reached its heyday in India, two Indian monks brought Buddhist scriptures to Luoyang on the back of a white horse. The emperor, who was a devout Buddhism believer, built the temple to house the scriptures and named it White Horse Temple. It was said that there were once thousands of monks living in the temple. It was even used as a refugee sanctuary during the social turmoil of Wang Mang in the Eastern Han Dynasty.

The two monks who brought scriptures from India were buried here. Many monks from outside China have visited the monk and many of them have spent the rest of their time in that temple. The famous Tang Dynasty monk-Xuanzang started his 17 years long pilgrimage trip to Indian from the temple. After returning, Xuanzhang became the abbot of the White Horse Temple, where he disseminated the scriptures of Buddhism for the rest of his life.

It is one of the oldest Buddhism temple in China and has been internationally regarded as the "cradle of China’s Buddhism".

How to get there? - Take bus No. 56(Luoyang Railway Station-White Horse Temple)

Entrance Fee:35 yuan
Recommeded Time for a Visit: One hour
Opening Time: 7:30 am-5:30 pm

- Source : chinahighlights.com


Located in the western part of China’s central Henan Province, Luoyang is one of China’s seven ancient capitals. Comprised of six city districts and eight counties, Luoyang occupies an area of 15,492 square kilometers, with a total population of 6.16 million, 1.4 million urban. Luoyang city proper covers an area of 544 square kilometers.

Luoyang served as the capital for nine dynasties over a period of more than 1,500 years. 96 emperors from the prehistoric Xia Dynasties, through Shang, Western and Eastern Zhous, Cao Wei, Sui, Later Liang, Later Tang and Later Jin Eastern Han established their seat of power there. Luoyang’s importance in history means that it has significant influence in China’s cultural heritage and has many historical sites. Although the political upheavals in the last century destroyed some of its grand historical heritage, Luoyang still retains many of its significant ancient landmarks which are the main tourist draw cards.

In and around Luoyang, visitors will find the White Horse Temple, the first Buddhism temple in China, Longmen Grottoes, a place renowned as a treasure house of Buddhist culture and art. The natural scenery around this area is also fascinating.




According to the Book of Later Han history, Emperor Ming was said to have dreamed one night in the year 64 of a golden person standing 20 metres tall and with a radiating white aureola flying from the West. The next day he told his ministers, and the minister Zhong Hu explained to him that he had probably dreamed of the Buddha from India. The emperor then sent a delegation of 18 headed by Cai Yin, Qin Jing and Wang Zun to seek out Buddhism. They returned from Afghanistan with an image of Gautama Buddha, the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters and two eminent monks.

The monks names have been variously romanized as Kasyapamatanga and Dharmavanya, Moton and Chufarlan.

The next year, the emperor ordered the construction of the White Horse Temple three li east of the capital Luoyang, to remember the horse that carried back the sutras. It was China’s first Buddhist temple.


The first version of the Chinese Sutra of Forty-two Sections (四十二章經) was produced within the temple. The temple then increased in importance as Buddhism grew within China, and spread to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The introduction of Buddhism in China was also a significant influence on Chinese morals, thought and ethics.

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The White Horse Temple
the first Buddhist temple on Chinese soil


In 258. a royal Kuchean monk, Po-Yen, translated six Buddhist text in to Chinese at the temple, including the important Infinite Life Sutra.

In 1175, an inscription on a stone tablet next to Qilun Pagoda—a 35 m (115 ft) tall, multi-eaved square-based tower located to the southeast of the White Horse Temple—stated that a previous fire occurred five decades previously and destroyed the temple and the Sakya Tathagata sarira stupa, a predecessor to the pagoda. The same inscription of 1175 stated that a Jin Dynasty official had the stone Qilun Pagoda erected soon after. The pagoda is built with the design style imitating the square-based pagodas of the Tang Dynasty.

In 1992, with the assistance of Thai and Chinese donors, the Hall of the Thai Buddha was constructed slightly west of the old temple. In 2008 the temple was expanded with the construction of an Indian-style stupa; the new pavillion was jointly built by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of India.


The temple compound covers an area of 200 mu (13 hectares), and faces south. A stone paifang (archway) has been recently built 150 metres in front of the original gate. Between the archway and gate lies a pool with fountains, spanned by three stone bridges.
Entering the temple today, one sees the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, Hall of Greeting, the Cool and Clear Terrace and the pavilion. On each side of the pavilion are the Sutra House and the Magic Weapon House.

- source Wikipedia

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