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.
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.
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.
The Drum Tower facing its twin Bell Tower in serenity
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.
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.
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. :)
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
Read more about my journey in Henan, the cradle of Chinese civilisation: