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The White Horse Temple

The White Horse Temple is located on the north bank of the Luo river, is about 12 kilometers east to the Luoyang city,it was established in the 11th year of Yongping(68AD),Eastern Han Dynasty ,has been with nearly 2000 years’  history,.This is the first Buddhist monastery ordered to be founded by the Emperor Ming of Easten Han Dynasty ever since Buddhism was introduced into and spread in our country.The White Horse Temple is regarded as  “the Ancestral Chamber of Chinese Buddhism ” and “the Origination of Chinese Buddhism “,it is also known as “the first ancient temple of China” and “the famous temple in the world”.

It was said that the Emperor Ming of Easten Han Dynasty named liuzhuang one night dreamed about a golden god who is over 20 meters tall and with halo above his head,came from the west land,flied around his palace.A minister told him that is just the Buddha of india,the Emperor Ming felt very pleased at it and assigned Caiyin,Qinjing etc.eighteen officials to going to the westen regions to ask for the Budfhist scriptions,they met the indian hierarches Shemoteng and Zhufalan at Darouzhi(Afghanistan  today) and invited them to come to Luoyang to preach buddhism.Thus in the 10th year of Yongping(67AD ), two hierarches, together with the Easten Han’s envoys came  to Luoyang, carrying  the Buddha statue and Buddhist scriptions on a white horse’ back. Emperor Ming received them ceremoniously by himself and they were treated as  distinguished guests to live in the State Guesthouse “Honglu Temple “.Next year, Emperor Ming appropriated fund  to build a Buddhist temple in the suburbs  1.5km from the Xiyong Gate of Luoyang city, in memory of the white horse carrying scriptions, named it “The White Horse Temple “.Living here,hierarches Shemoteng and Zhufalan completed translating  the first chinese buddhist scription ——《Sutra in Forty-two Sections 》,and during the following 150 years , many hierarches from the west came to stay in The White Horse Temple to translate scriptions , totally 395 volumes of Buddhist scriptions has been translated into chinese here. The White Horse Temple was fully deserved the  first place of sutra translation of China. 

During the nearly 2000 years from Easten Han Dynasty ,the White Horse Temple has experienced several times of rise and fall, it has the largest scale and most worshippers especially during the reign of Emperor Wuzetian.  Restauration in the 34th year of Emperor Jiajing  of Ming Dynasty formed its  scale and layout today. 

The White Horse Temple is  a rectangle courtyard faces  south, covers the area of 40000 square meters,the main buildings are the Hall of Heavenly King, the Hall of Great Buddha, the Grand Hall of Mahavira:In, the Hall of Guide,the Cooling Terrace and the Pilul Pavilion. They were built along  the south -north central axis successively,  the whole layout was designed regularly with classical and simple style.In the square in  front of the temple’s  gate , there are newly built Stone Memorial Gateway,Free Life Pond and Stone Arched  Bridge, On both sides of the gate, there is individually one  tamed white horse  same size as  the true  being laden with heavy things,just like was  back from the Westen regions five minutes ago. Hung above the t emple’s  Main Gate,there is a wooden  tablet inscribed with three gilded Chinese characters of “White Horse Temple ” written by Zhaopuchu, the former President of China Buddhist Association .The Main Gate is called Shan Gate, consists of three arched gateways, resembles the three gates of liberation in Buddhist doctrine:emptiness liberation, no-aspects liberation, desireless liberation .When you walk through this gate, means you will get spiritual relief and be a free person. 

Entering the gate, same  with other temples, stands  a bell tower in the east and a drug tower in the west, but differently,there is a tomb successively beside them two,they are temple’s founders ——Shemoteng and Zhufalan’s  places of eternal sleep. On the Bell Tower,hunging a big bell, every new year’s day,the White Horse Temple will hold a Ceremony of Striking Bell to welcome the new year,bell tone can be heard at a distance of over 10km.“ Bell Tone of Temple” has been one of famous attractions of Luoyang city.

The Hall of heavenly King: A statue of Buddha Maitreya facing the gate can be seen firstly, smiling and kindly.In the east and west, The Four Heavenly Guardians are worshipped ,The ritual implements holding in their hands  resemble favourable weather and good harvest

The Hall of Great Buddha: is the main hall of  the temple and the grand Buddhist ceremonies are hold here.There are seven statues worshipped on the altar in the middle  of the hall, the central one is Buddha Shakyamuni.It’s  said this is the Buddha was preaching Sutra for the last time, saying nothing only with a flower in his right hand,letting disciples comprehened.On his left is Kasyapa with understanding smile,the Bodhisattva  Manjusri with Paramita Sutra in hand;On the right is his  little disciple Adnan and Bodhisattva Samantabhadra holding ritual implement.Buddha Shakyamuni,Bodhisattva  Manjusri and Bodhisattva Samantabhadra are called  “Three Saints of Buddhism ”.On the  east and west stand two goddesses scattering flowers when Buddha preaching Sutra. 

The Grand Hall of  Mahavira:In the center of hall, there is a double layer  wooden niche inscribed with a golden wings roc bird and three dragons, this pattern  comes from a Buddhist legend .In the niche, three Buddhas sit on the lotus throne crossing their legs, the central is Buddha Shakyamuni, also called “Mahavira”,means “hero who have magic power ”,on his left is Medicine Buddha in  “oriental pure glazed world ”,right is Amitabha in “westen paradise ”.Before three main Buddhas,stand opposite are two guardians of Buddhism, Skanda and Weili. In the east and west, are statues of eighteen arhats with various of shapes and expressions, and with the height of 1.55-1.61 metres.These 23 statues was moved here from the Forbidden Palace in 1973,they were made by a kind of special dried lacquer handicraft process, which makes them very light, especially statues of eighteen arhats is the only set left in the whole country made by this handicraft, and this kind of handicraft has failed to be handed down from last generation in the late Ming Dynasty, so these historical relics became more precious. On the east and west walls are wooden carved Thousand Buddhas Niche,there are 5056 Buddhas worshipped in it.

The Hall of Guide:According to the Buddhist Sutra, when a Buddhist disciple’s practice reaches a degree, he will be guided by Amitabha to western paradise.The main Buddha Amitabha is making a gesture of greeting with right hand stretching forward, his left hand is refering to the western paradise。On the right of Amitabha,is Bodhisattva Guanyin holding the Jade Bottle with willow in it and his left is Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta with a bunch of lotus in hand ,they two are assistants of Amitabha and they three are called “the Three Saints of The West ”.The two assistants successively resembles Amitabha’s mercy and wisdom. The Hall of Guide was destoryed by fire during the reign of Emperor Tongzhi, Qing Dynasty and rebuit in Emperor Guangxu years, is the latest and smallest hall of the temple.

The Cooling Terrace and the Pilul Pavilion:This is the place for Emperor Ming of Easten Han Dynasty to read books and for two hierarches to translate sutra and preach Buddhism. That is here the first chinese buddhist sutra 《Sutra in Forty-two sections》has been translated.Taking the Pilu Pavilion as the center, side halls, monk’s dormitories are built around it, thus form into a quadrangle courtyard,The Pilu Pavilion is the last hall of the temple,the main Buddha in it is Pilu Buddha, another name is Vairocana Buddha. resembles ”sunshine being every where, power of Buddha being boundless”.On the left of Pilu Buddha is Bodhisattva  Manjusri,right is Bodhisattva Samantabhadra,they three is called “the Three Saints of Hua-yen ”

Besides these main Buildings on the central axis,there are Vegetarian Canteen,Meditation Room ,Praying Room , Hall of Sixth Patriarch , Jade Buddha Hall,Reclining Jade Buddha Hall, Depositarry of Buddhist texts etc accessory architectures,all are built with bilateral symmetry and in order. Here the Reclining Jade Buddha is worth mentioned . In the appeal of Hierarch Yinxian, some layman Buddhist of guangzhou and shenzhen donated money to have a block of burma jade carved into a great Buddha reclining on the pedestal which is five meters long and weighs eight tons. In December,1996,accompanied by Hierarch Yinxian,this statue was moved to this hall and on 19, December,1997,The White Horse Temple specially hold a solemn consecration ceremony for it.

The Qiyun Pagoda Court lies 200 meters southeast to the Temple’s Shan Gate,is the only Bhiksuni Dojo of Henan province,covers the area of 15 mu.The Pagoda stands in the center of the court,it was firstly built in Eastern Han Dynasty to deposit Sakyamuni’s relics , later it has been destroyed several times by wars and rebuilt in the 15th year of Dading reign of Jin Dynasty(1175),it is a 13-storey pagoda of tight tile,about 25 meters high,and is the earliest extant architecture of Jin Dynasty on the ground in luyang area.In 1990,three Praying rooms,three vegetarian rooms in the west,three reception rooms,meditation room in the east were built by government.On both sides of the gate ,is a large-sized stele corridor,collecting a lot of tablets,carved walls,calligraphy works,all about buddhist legend and history.

Indian Buddhist Hall covers the area of 6000 square metres, has an archivolt roof like a great bell upside down with skylight inlaid,through which sunshine falls on the Buddha statue,on the holy and pure water of the artificial brook on the bottom,just like a lotus in full bloom,makes the Buddha a.nd hall more solemn and mysterious.

Burma Buddhist Hall is a two-storey building,108 meters long from south to north,65 meters wide from east to west,it was built imitating the Konbaung Dynasty’s Mandalay Royal Palace,with carved beams and painted rafter,showing extraordinary imperial momentum.On the top of it stands a golden tower also imitating Shwedagon Pagoda,but smaller in size,the whole tower is covered in golden colour,appears brilliant and splendid.

The Thailand Buddhist Hall is 108 meters both in length and in width,in it there are Dagoba,Four-sided Buddha,the Hall of Great Buddha,Museum,Bell and Drug Tower,Pavillion.

All they are exquisite and luxurious,full of Thailand style.In the first storey of the Dagoba,there are 9 Buddhist statues of different period of time and three statues successively represents the cool season,hot season and rainy season,altogether 12 statues worshipped.In the Hall of Great Buddha,a great statue of Sakyamuni Buddha was worshipped,with mild and kind appearance.The is a gilded copper statue,7.2 meters tall,weighs 8 tons .It was built imitating Phra Buddha Chinnaraj-the Buddha most beautiful in Thailand and Thais sincerely believe

These three halls are the witness and resemblance of friend and cultural exchange between China and India,China and Burma,China and Thailand.

The White Horse Temple is tightly connected with many Chinese Buddhist “NO.1”,It is really worthy of the name of“The Origination of Chinese Buddhism” and“The Ancestral Chamber of Chinese Buddhism”

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