White Horse Temple was the first officially built Buddhist temple in China. Legend has it that Emperor Mingdi of Han Dynasty, while asleep in his south palace one night, dreamed of a golden-colored god with bright halos flying over his palace. The next morning, he told his ministers about the dream, and they suggested that the god may be the Buddha from India. As a result of this revelation, the emperor decided to sent two of his courtiers, Cai Yin and Qin Jing, as commissioners to the West Region in pursuit of Buddhism. When Cai and Qin arrived in Yuezhi (now in Afghanistan), they came across two renowned Tianzhu (The name that ancient India was called in ancient China) Buddhist monks who were preaching Buddhism doctrines there. Cai and Qin invited the two monks to go and preach in China.
Over the years, the White Horse Temple had been reconstructed and renovated numerous times, but the renovation during the period of Empress Wu Zetian in Tang Dynasty was the largest and most complete. Facing the south, the rectangular complex consists of Tianwang Palace, Dafo Palace, Daxiong Palace, Jieyin Palace, Pilu Palace, Qiyun Pagoda, and others. These imposing palaces contain vivid, lifelike statues. Around White Horse Temple, there are scenic spots related to many historical events.
According to historical legend, Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty dreamed of a golden man flying above the courtyard. After he woke up, he was delighted and sent 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. Under their invitation, the two monks came to China with them and a white horse carrying the sutras together.In the year of AD 68, the emperor ordered to build a temple to keep the scriptures. In order to memorize the white horse for its carrying back of the sutras, the temple was named the White Horse Temple.
Hall of the Heavenly Kings is the first hall in this temple, with clay-molded statues, the four kings was decorated in the Qing Dynasty. Explore further, you will meet the main hall-The hall of Great Buddha. Built in Ming dynasty, this hall is full of Buddha statues, including Sakyamuni, statues of Wenshu, the bodhisattva of Wisdom, and Samantabhadra, etc. Glancing at the northeastern corner, there is a big ancient bell weight over one ton, where the famous New Year bell striking activity celebrated.
Behind the Great Buddha Hall is the well decorated Hall of Mahavira. With 22.8 meters long and 14.2 meters wide, it’s the biggest hall here. Among the thousands Buddha statues, the Sakyamuni, Amitabha, the Medicine Buddha and the eighteen arhats standing around are all made from silk and hemp, which are most precious.
After visit those halls, you are coming to Cool and Clear Terrace, where is the place of original sutras stored and translated. Today, this place is more like a courtyard, dotted with faint fragrance of cypress and cassia trees for tourists to enjoy the quietness.
Luoyang Travel Guide