The First Buddhist Temple in China(白马寺)

Rumor has it that after the Xuan Zang (Tang San Zang) returned from his Journey to the West, he retired to the White Horse Temple, which was named after his ride. But it was just a rumor. The White Horse Temple has not the slightest linkage to the well-loved Chinese classical novel. :)

The official story: During the Dong Han Dynasty, a tall, golden man with a glowing aurora appeared in Emperor Ming dream. He gathered his group of advisers and shared his dream. One adviser reported that there was a god named Buddha in the West, whose body was 12 feet tall and shined in gold. A group of envoys was then sent to the Far West to inquire about the Buddha’s doctrine. The group encountered two Indian Buddhist monks in Afghanistan and persuaded them to travel to China. In AD 67, the monks arrived in Luoyang city on two white horses. Pleased with their arrival in China, Emperor Ming built a temple in their honour and named it after their ride, as the White Horse Temple. The monks resided here and translated the Buddhist scriptures into the Chinese language.

说到白马寺,不少游人会把它与唐僧西天取经的故事联系到一起,误以为白马寺的白马指的是《西游记》里的白龙马。但事实上,白马寺与唐三藏与他的白马毫无关联。单从时间上来看,唐僧是唐朝的一位僧人,俗名陈祎(是的,历史上是真的有这个人物的存在),而白马寺是在东汉时期建造的,要比“唐僧取经”早了500多年。

据古书记载,白马寺的由来来自于“金人入梦,白马驮经”这个典故。据说在东汉的某个晚上,汉明帝梦见了一个身高丈六,头顶放光的金人自西方而来。第二天早上,汉明帝召集文武大臣,把梦境与大臣们分享。一位大臣启奏说,西方有神,人们称其为佛,就像皇帝梦到的那样。汉明帝于是派出一批使者出使西域拜求佛经。这一“西天取经”的万里征途在经过大月氏国(阿富汗一带),遇到了印度高僧摄摩腾和竺法兰,见到了佛经和佛祖释迦摩尼的白毡像。他们诚恳地邀请二位高僧东赴中国弘扬佛法。永平十年(67年),二位高僧应邀和东汉使者一道,用白马驮载着佛经、佛像来到洛阳。汉明帝见到佛经佛像十分高兴,并在一年后下令在这里兴建僧院。为了纪念白马长途跋涉、驮经之故,而将寺庙命名为“白马寺”。

白马寺是佛教入传中国后兴建的第一座寺院。在白马寺之后,中国所有的僧院便广称为“寺”,白马寺也因此被认为是中国佛教的发源地,

文化大革命期间,一切宗教活动被迫停止,白马寺也遭到大规模毁坏。寺院内有着千年历史的泥塑十八罗汉、印度高僧带来的贝叶经、以及无数珍贵的佛像与经卷统统被毁,就连寺庙也差点被烧掉。

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白马寺的山门,它代表的是三解脱门,佛教称之为涅盘门。

白马寺占地约3万4千平方米,有4个主殿堂(天王殿、大佛殿、大雄殿、接引殿)为中轴,两侧对称附属建筑的有钟楼、鼓楼、以及许多小寺堂(门堂、客堂、斋堂、祖堂、禅堂,等等)。寺院坐北朝南,布局规整,主次分明。

The White Horse Temple covers an area of 3400 square meters, with 4 main halls aligned in a single file at the center of the compound, flanked by several complementary buildings.

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As part of “The Purge” during the decade-long Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), all religious practices were put to a halt and a great amount of historic and cultural infrastructures and relics were burnt and destroyed. The White Horse Temple was one of them. It was not until 1983 that the temple was listed as one of the country’s protected heritage site and had its religious function restored.

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The Drum Tower facing its twin Bell Tower in serenity

钟楼对面有座对称的建筑,名叫鼓楼。

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This is the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the first large hall in the temple complex where a statue of Maitreya (The Laughing Buddha) is nested and flanked by 4 heavenly kings, each representing one fourth of the universe.

*NOTE: I did not take any photograph of the Buddhas inside the halls because accordingly to the locals, it is a sign of disrespect and there will be bad luck followed if you did so.

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 香火不断的天王殿

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In the main courtyard, large incense burners are kept for worshipers to pay respect to their gods. The altars are also filled with offerings made by the devotees, presenting a divine spiritual setting.

Inside the Main Hall, statues of the Shakyamuni Buddha, Manjushri and Samantabhadra can be found. Together, they are known as the Shakyamuni trinity in Buddhism.

信徒们在大佛殿(主殿)中央的香炉前虔诚祈祷。殿的中央供奉有释迦牟尼文殊菩萨普贤菩萨像(三佛被视为佛教中的“华严三圣”,又称“释迦三尊”)。

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 A quiet corner amidst the overcrowded temple.

Though I am not a religious person, it was still an eye-opening experience to walk around the compound – so this is where Buddhism began in China. :)

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 我虽不信佛,但漫步在中国第一古刹内,见证佛教在这片土地上2千年的历史,还是挺震撼的。


Travel Tips and Information:

  • Address: White Horse Temple, Luo Long District, Luoyang, China
  • Opening hours: 7:30 – 19:00
  • Entrance Fee: RMB 50
  • How to get there:
    • By taxi: 40 mins from city centre, costs about RMB 70
    • By Bus: Take Bus No. 56 from Luoyang Train Station, or Bus No. 58 from Guan Lin Temple, get off at the final station.
  • Estimated time for sightseeing: 2 hours
  • More information on channelnewsasia.com/henan

旅游小贴士:

  • 开放时间:7:30至19:00,景区开放时间节假日、淡旺季会有调整
  • 门票:50元
  • 打车:从洛阳市区打车到白马寺:大约40分钟,打车费用约70元
  • 坐公车去:从洛阳火车站乘56路公交车终点下车,或是从关林庙乘58路到终点站下车
  • 建议游玩时间:2小时
  • 更多资讯,请查看亚洲新闻网

Read more about my journey in Henan, the cradle of Chinese civilisation: 

  1. Peony Festival in Luoyang
  2. A Visit to Emperor Wu Zetian’s Palace

跟随我的脚步,发掘河南之美

  1. 洛阳牡丹花会
  2. 一代女帝,武则天

 

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