White Horse Temple

White Horse Temple

Nora Zheng
488 Words/2 Minutes, By Nora Zheng, Updated February 04, 2023

The introduction of Buddhism marked the first time ancient Chinese civilization absorbed foreign culture on a large scale. In 64 AD, Emperor Mingdi of the Han Dynasty dreamt about a golden figure at night. When he was awake, he dispatched ambassadors to the Western Regions in search for Buddhist sutras. So the Chinese history, for the first time, recorded the story of a journey to the west. Three years later, the ambassadors, accompanied by Indian eminent monks, returned with white horses that were loaded with Buddhist sutras and statues, and they were kindly received by Emperor Mingdi in the Han Dynasty. The next year was the construction of the temple outside Xiyong Gate of Luoyang. It was given the name “White Horse Temple” for commemorating the horses’ arduous task of carrying the Buddhist sutras. This was how the first Buddhist temple was erected in China’s vast territory-right by the riverside of Luohe River and the capital city of the Han Dynasty.

White Horse Temple was China’s first Buddhist temple worshipping bodhisattvas, from which Buddhism spread to every corner of the vast Chinese territory. Therefore, it has long been revered as the mother of Chinese Buddhism in the Buddhist circle.

Inside the temple tower, Buddhist pagodas are a myriad of palaces, which are encompassed by groves and old-aged trees. It’s all solemn and tranquil. Major structures of the temple are located on the axis stretching from the south to the north. Additionally, the five grand halls in the front and the back are well-arranged in their layout. Inside the halls place 23 exquisite statues of the Yuan Dynasty, all of which are lifelike and come in various shapes. They are made from silk and hemp, each of which weigh 3 to 5 kilograms. Though they haven’t been renovated for 700 years since the Yuan Dynasty, their colors remain as bright as they were initially painted. They are the most precious artifacts in the temple and preserved as priceless gems rarely seen elsewhere.

The temple has many No.1s: it’s China’s first-built temple; it is home to China’s first ancient pagoda-Qiyun Pagoada; it houses the first Bhikkhuni bodhimandala of the central region of China-Qiyun Pagoda Yard; it accommodated the first Indian monk who came to China and houses the earliest-introduced Sanskrit Buddhist sutras; it is the first place where Buddhist sutra was interpreted; the first Han monk that was initiated into monkshood here. These No.1s contribute to White Horse Temple’s top rank among all China’s Buddhist temples and record it in the first page in the annals of China’s Buddhist history. Today, visitors domestically and abroad would go there and listen to 108 ringing of the chime to be free from human desire.

Nora Zheng

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