White Horse Temple

White Horse Temple

White Horse Temple

Who built the White Horse Temple in China? It was commanded by Han Emperor Ming. In the year 64 of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the emperor sent a delegation of his men to study Buddhism in the western world. After three years, two eminent Indian monks, She Moteng and Zhu Falan, came back with the delegation. They brought with them a white horse carrying Buddhist sutras and Buddhist figures on its back. This was the first time that Buddhism appeared in China.

To express his thanks to the two monks and their white horse, the emperor ordered the building of a monastery which he named the White Horse Temple during the following year. During this time, the two monks were busy translating sutras in the temple until they completed the Chinese sutra 'Forty-two Chapter Sutra', which attracted many monks and meant that the temple became a centre for Buddhist activity in China. It is for this reason that the temple is honored as the 'Founder's Home' and the 'Cradle of Buddhism in China'.

The White Horse Temple is covered with green ancient trees and appears solemn and tranquil. Outside the gate, there is a pool with fences around and lovely fish in the water. It is for the believers to set free the captive animals. After crossing the pool via a stone bridge, you will enter the temple. To the east and west of the gate are the tombs of She Moteng and Zhu Falan, which are one of the six most famous sights here. In the east corner stands a tablet pavilion. The Chinese characters written on the tablet are the work of a Chinese calligrapher abbot Shamen Wencai, designed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-368). They are written in his familiarly free and easy style and describe the history of the White Horse Temple.

The Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, Hall of Guidance and the Cool and Clear Terrace appear in proper order in the temple, as they were when it was first built.

White Horse Temple

Horse shoes are lucky charms in some countries. In Hanoi, a horse's hoof prints were once considered good luck and the city honors a white horse as its patron saint. A temple to this revered spirit, the White Horse or Bach Ma Temple (in Chinese, formerly used by the Vietnamese for literary or poetic purposes, bach means white and ma is horse), is located at 76 Hang Buom Street in the city's old quarter.

Many years ago, Hanoi was swampy and several small rivers ran through the area. The White Horse Temple originally lay on the bank of the To Lich River which is now filled in but used to flow into the Red River. The To Lich was once quite wide. At certain times of the year it flowed into the Red River and at other times it flowed away from the river to the west. As a result of the confluence of the two rivers, the currents became choppy and hazardous for ships. So a temple was built to the river god. There were several myths about the powerful spirits who exerted power here. One was the saint To Lich who is said to have been a virtuous and educated man. When he died, the river and the area near where he lived were called To Lich. He was worshipped as the earth god of the banks of the river. Whenever the land was disturbed by digging for new building, his permission was required and offerings were made to him. If the spirit was not pleased about the construction, the project would be doomed. In addition to To Lich, there was an earth god called Long Do or Dragon's Belly (long means dragon and do means navel).

From 866 to 875, when the area of Hanoi was part of the Chinese province of Giao Chi, a Chinese mandarin called Cao Bien was the governor. When Cao Bien began construction of his walled administrative quarters, he had heard local folk tales of an old man with a white beard who was the area's earth god. One day while inspecting his construction site, Cao Bien saw billows of clouds twinkling like stars in five colors. The earth became cold sending chills through Cao Bien. A bearded man on a golden dragon appeared among the clouds . He wore boots, a red hat and purple robes. Suddenly the air was filled with an intoxicating fragrance and heavenly music was heard. Cao Bien understood it was the powerful spirit who inhabited the earth and who required offerings and prayers if a project in his domain was to succeed. That night in a dream, the old man told Cao Bien, " I am Long Do, I saw that you were building a citadel so I came to see you."

Instead of submitting to the power of the indigenous spirit, Cao Bien tried to exert a superior magic. In an attempt to exorcise the spirit and take control, he buried bronze and iron charms under the temple. These talismen and amulets were believed to have sacred powers. After the burial, a storm came along and churned up the waters and blew down all the trees. Lightening struck and melted the amulets. Cao Bien was so frightened he returned north, to China. Later administrators made offerings to the God of the Dragon's Navel.

After Vietnam became independent from China in the eleventh century, Ly Cong Uan (also known as King Ly Thai To) left his capital in Hoa Lu for what is now Hanoi. For a year and a half he tried to build walls for a new citadel, but because the land was marshy the walls collapsed. He renovated the former altar to the spirits of Long Do and To Lich and made offerings. In a dream a white-haired man appeared to the king and bowed and said, "Long live the King. I want this empire to last as long as the Thi Son mountain. " (Thi Son is a mythical mountain.)

Then, while the king was praying he was dazzled by the sight of a great white horse galloping west from the temple and leaving clear hoof prints. When it had encircled an area of land, the horse disappeared back into the temple. The king understood this apparition as an incarnation of the river god, To Lich, and took it as an omen to build the citadel on the ground marked off by the hoof prints. Indeed, the final construction remained intact. The king made the white horse the spirit of Thang Long and believed it would look after the country. In the course of history, the street has caught fire three times and all the houses were burned but the temple on the banks of the To Lich river always remained intact.

The temple, acknowledged by the state as an historic site, is a low building. On the tip of the roof are the traditional symbols found on Vietnamese religious structures: two dragons bowing to a flaming disk that represents the sun. The temple is composed of six buildings: a vestibule, a reception hall, the front sanctuary and several inner sanctuaries. From the street, one enters the vestibule where there is a large drum to the left and a bronze bell on the right. Next, one steps down into an open reception area. The fact that this section is lower than the street level reminds us that in the old days the building was on the riverbank. Later, to avoid flooding, the streets around the site were built up. In the reception hall, ladies often sit at a table gossiping, drinking tea and chewing betel nut after praying. A calligrapher sometimes sits nearby. He will write up a supplicant's wishes on special prayer notes. The notes are offered along with incense on the alter and burned in the fireplace. Also in this area is an altar for the mother goddess Lieu Hanh. The Bach Ma Temple has a miniature pond and mountain, common to many Vietnamese religious structures, which protect the temple from evil spirits.

The front and inner sanctuaries hold altars honoring Buddha. Although this was originally a Taoist temple relating to folk beliefs in primitive earth gods, Buddha has been incorporated into the pantheon. But this is not a pagoda. The term pagoda refers to a place where the main object of worship is Buddha. Behind the Buddha statue is the throne to Long Do. There is also an altar to three goddesses. The central one is red and is the Mountain Goddess, the one in white is the Sky Goddess, and the one in green is Goddess of the Waters.

Further back in the temple the atmosphere becomes more sacred. Altars are lavishly decorated with offerings of flowers and fruit, incense burns sweetly. On the left of the altar is an ornately carved red lacquer palanquin. This honorary chair is used to carry the throne of Long Do. In the inner sanctuary, the White Horse God is honored in the form of a life-size wooden statue. Long Do and To Lich are represented by a brown-faced statue. On either sides of this altar are two amusing wooden statues of kneeling servants. Their arms are extended, holding incense sticks. The faces of the statues are dark brown, perhaps representing the fact that they might be Cham prisoners-of-war used as slaves.

Although it is not the largest nor the most beautiful of Hanoi's religious monuments, the White Horse Temple forms the historic heart of Hanoi and recalls the folklore of the city's founding. The temple stands on Hang Buom Street, a street once known as the home of sail-makers (buom means sail). A half block to the east of the White Horse Temple is the former Cantonese Association house, of distinctly Chinese style. Note the tubular roof tiles in contrast to the flat Vietnamese tiles. Other than the citadel, the temple is the oldest site in Hanoi and is known to have stood for over a thousand years.

White Horse Temple (白马寺)

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This is a truly obscure place, but a gem nonetheless. The White Horse Temple is perched on the vertical face of a rocky mountain in Haidong. Relics from the Song Dynasty, can be found inside.

Haidong is located in Qinghai, the least visited province in China. And almost none of the very few visitors to Qinghai make their way to Huzhu district, where the temple is.

There are many temples named White Horse in China the most famous being the White Horse Temple in Luoyang, Henan Province, known for being the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism. Apart from cursory mentions of the Qinghai temple online, there is virtually no available information on it.

White Horse Temple - History

In the morning, the emperor told his officials what he had seen, and one of them, named Fu Yi, said the emperor had dreamed of the Buddha, a god of the West. Then the emperor sent Cai Yin, Qin Jing, and others to Tianzhu (now India) for Buddhist scriptures.

When Cai, Qin, and their group arrived in what is now Afghanistan, they met Kasyapamatanga and Dharmaranya, two eminent Indian monks, who were preaching Buddhism there. In A. D. 67, they loaded Buddhist scriptures written in Sanskrit and a portrait on white felt of Sakyamuni, the Buddha, onto a white horse and returned to Luoyang with the two Indian monks. The emperor lodged the monks at the Honglu Temple, which had a guesthouse for foreign emissaries. When living quarters for the monks were built in the temple the following year, the temple was renamed Baima (White Horse) Temple so people could remember the white horse that carried back the Buddhist scriptures and the portrait of Sakyamuni.

The Baima Temple has been through many changes. What we see today is a rectangular courtyard complex facing south, reconstructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), with an area of 40,000 square meters and a roofed entrance arch with three doorways. The entrance is built of blue stones, including several pieces from the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Arranged along a central axis that extends northward inside the entrance are the Hall of the Heavenly King, the Mahavira Hall, the Receiving and Directing to Paradise Hall, the Vairocana Pavilion, and the majestic Hall of the Giant Buddha, with its upturned eaves and painted brackets.

On the east side of the halls and the pavilion are the Guest Hall, the Hall of Prayer, the Hall of Abstinence, and the living chambers of the monks. On the west are the Hall of the Founder of Buddhism, the Hall of Meditation, and the Preaching Hall. There are two opposite courtyards, and the complex as a whole is well proportioned. It has the flavor of traditional Chinese architecture and shows a distinction between more important and less important structures.

All the halls housing statues of Sakyamuni, Maitreya, Amitabha, the Buddha of Medicine, and various bodhisattvas are built on the central axis following the terrain, and each hall stands higher than the one in front. The Vairocana Pavilion on Qingliang Terrace stands especially prominent and magnificent.

The Qiyun Pagoda was built after the temple was renamed Baima Temple and is known as the first pagoda in China. Originally, it was a pavilion-like wooden structure with paintings depicting Buddhist scriptures. It burned down toward the end of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and was rebuilt in 1175 as a 13-story square brick structure with closely arranged eaves. It is 25 meters in height and 7.8 meters on each side at the bottom. The eaves are built with small, exquisite overlapping bricks.

When one claps one's hands 20 meters away from the pagoda, the echo reflected from the eaves sounds like frogs croaking.

The White Horse Temple

The White Horse Temple (Baima Si) in Luoyang, Henan Province, was the first Buddhist temple in China, established by Emperor Mingdi in the year 68 AD. It is also renowned as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism.

According to history, Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220 AD) once sent his minister on a diplomatic mission to western region to learn about Buddhism. After finished study, they came back with two eminent Indian dignitary monks – She Moteng and Zhu Falan, and a white horse carried the sutra and the figure of Buddha. In order to memorialize the white horse’s contribution of taking back the sutra, Emperor Ming ordered the construction of the temple and named it White Horse Temple.

The temple compound covers an area of 13 hectares. A stone paifang (archway) has been recently built 150 metres in front of the original gate. Between the archway and gate lies a pool with fountains, spanned by three stone bridges.

Entering the temple today, one sees the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, Hall of Greeting, the Cool and Clear Terrace and the pavilion. On each side of the pavilion are the Sutra House and the Magic Weapon House.

Daily available between 07:30 to 17:30
Address: 10km to the north of Luoyang
Ticket Price (in RMB): RMB35

The legendary White Horse Temple at Luoyang, China is the first Buddhist temple in China. It is reported to have been established in the year 68 AD under Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han capital Luoyang.

The legend of the arrival of Buddhism in China:

“Emperor Ming had a dream vision about a Buddha who established Buddhism and send 2 emissaries to search for Buddhist scriptures. They encountered two Indian Buddhist monks in Afghanistan, and persuaded them to join them and return to China, bringing their book of Buddhist scriptures, relics and statues of Buddha with them on two white horses. On their arrival the king built a temple in their naming it the White Horse Temple or Baima Temple, as an appreciation of the two white horses that had carried the two monks. The monks resided at the new temple and here they translated the Buddhist scriptures into the Chinese language. The Buddhist religion prospered from here and with the arrival of Bodhidarma, another monk from India in the 5th century, Chinese Buddhism evolved, spreading to other countries.” (quoted from the wikipedia article)

White Horse statue at the entrance of the White Horse Temple at Luoyang Photo: Joshua W ccbysa2.0

Astrogeographical position for morphogenetic field level 3 which describes the energetical topics and atmosphere of the temple together with the surrounding area: for field level 3 which includes the whole of the White Horse Temple area the site is located in self-protective earth sign Virgo the sign of yoga and meditation culture, celibacy, reason, monkhood, self-cleaning, health, self-protection, fasting and a major indicator for meditation techniques. As the indicator for indian (hindu) culture Virgo relates the temple site to the cultural exchange between China and India, Through buddhism the indian meditation culture and with the buddhist scriptures also the indian (Sanskrit) language exerted an intense influence on the culture of religion in China.

The 2nd coordinate of the White Horse Temple is located in highly alert, self-defensive, mental water sign Scorpio the sign of fortresses, sculpting, learning by watching and copying, mental and social hierarchies, caste systems and in religion an indicator for dogma and ideologies. In its role as the sign of sculpting and imaging Scorpio is the indicator for the emblematic white horse statue as the symbol for the initiation into Buddhism.

Astrology and Sacred Sites: The Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang

Luoyang is also the site of one of the finest examples of ancient chinese art: the Longmen Grottoes.

Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang

The Longmen Grottoes are about 100.000 buddhist statues in 1.400 caves on the banks of the Yi River south of Luoyang carved out of the rock between 493 AD and 1127 AD.

Astrogeographic position for Field Level 3 which describes the whole area of the Longmen Grottoes: one coordinate of the site is located right next to the cardinal divide between practical air sign Gemini the sign of signposts, signs, language, communication, learning and technology and emotional water sign Cancer the sign of river beds and indicator for the location of the site right next to the river. The 2nd coordinate lies in creative, innovative spiritual air sign Aquarius the sign of the sky, heaven, self-finding, paradise, flying, abstraction, inspiration, emancipation and self-liberation.

Gemini as the sign of Signposts

Neither Gemini nor Cancer are astrological or astrogeographical indicators for decoration and ornamentation as would be Libra and Sagittarius. This means that the sculpting project is not to be seen as for the purpose of decoration in the first place as in the case of a site like for example the Buddhas of Bamyan (located in Libra with Scorpio). Gemini as the sign of learning and teaching could indicate that religious and/or political education, practical training of sculptors and development of techniques were major issues here. The historical role of Buddhist religion lay in its potential to allow a dogmatic impact similar to the later monotheist religions (Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions). This potential had been made use of in a number of countries since the times of the reign of Ashoka over India between 262 and 223 BCE for the purpose of establishing a state religion to hold the country together. Through Gemini´s as the sign of technology, communication, manipulation and propaganda its resonance with the place could be a hint at the function of the sculpting projects as an element of indoctrination of the local population.

In regard to the excessive and continuous duplication of the idea of creating sculptures and the exploitation of the ressources (rock) it is also functional air sign Gemini`s role here which is to be examined as the astrological factor to be related with the inflationary tendencies of the sculpting projects.

Gemini may not be an indicator for Gautama Buddha himself. But in several ways I have observed it as a major indicator for Buddhism. As Buddhism does not relate to the concept of god like other religions it is related to the assumption of superiority of a godless religion. And Buddhism is being instrumentalized widely for neglecting god. The reflexes that can arise from a supposed superiority of the intellect over mystification may be practically useful and good for many purposes. But the mental belief in illumination can sometimes limitate and degenerate the spiritual reconnection to the ideal of technical solutions for the problems of mankind. Such concepts of the technologies of illumination are typical for many aspects of bourgeois buddhism. In astrology Gemini represents the sign of intelligence. And as the word “Buddhi” literally means “intelligence” the name of Buddhism directly relates the strife for intelligence and the main faculty of Gemini with the name of Buddhism. But of course it would be a big mistake to reduce Buddhism to it`s resonance with the realms of Gemini.

Cancer as the Sign of Modernity in Art

The role of Cancer in culture, art and religion is directly related to Cancer`s meaning as the sign of emotional identity and authenticity. Cancer does not depend on form and shape as other signs do. It more directly relates to the content and emotional impact of works of art and architecture. Therefore places in Cancer have the potential to reconnect the mental projections, associations, ideas, forms and habitual patterns of design on which works of art are based with the emotional plane by reflecting their impact on personal emotionality. Not only is Gautama Buddha assumed to have been born with a Cancer ascendant. The relation of Cancer with the Buddhist religion allows the reflection and resonance of the supposed enlightenment within the reality of the individual emotional body. Therefore Cancer surely is a plausible corrective for functional and mental illumination. For the role of Cancer in Buddhism compare also: Jokhang Temple in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

The Political and Religious connotations of the position in Aquarius

The second coordinate of the grottoes is located in creative, innovative, spiritual air sign Aquarius the sign of the sky, self-finding, religious quests, the casteless (outcast) status of monks and the reconnection with the spiritual origin of life. As the Buddha was a monk and castelessness his status the astrogeographic position in Aquarius indicates an intense resonance with the aspect of the spiritual quest through castlessness as an original motif in the legends about Buddha`s life though not really of later Buddhism.

The astrogeographic coordinate in Aquarius may be interpreted as an indication for the attempt of the local kings to replace older religions, fight back established priest castes and replace older dynasties related to older religions. For this role of Aquarius compare the astrogeographic position of the revolutionary new capital of Akhenaten: Aquarius and Leo – The Capital of the Sun God Aton. Compare wikipedia article: “The earliest history of the creation of Longmen Grottoes is traced to the reign of Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei dynasty when he shifted his capital to Luoyang from Dàtóng.”

Whether or not and in how far Aquarius can be discussed here as a potential indicator for the aspects of creativity in the works of art is an extremely interesting and important question. First of all there are several aspects to creativity which when confused make a clearer understanding and definition of the subject impossible.

Aquarius as an air sign and through it`s role for the spiritual plane is the deliverer of inspiration (information) from Pisces the realm of the unconscious, timeless and the full potentials of the unlimited resources for solutions. The water bearer transports the waters of inspiration from the spiritual plane (Pisces) to the giver of forms for earthly manifestations (Capricorn). Therefore it is Aquarius`s role in art to transport the inspiration from the plane of the abstract to the plane of specification. Therefore Aquarius could be a valuable indicator for the initial phase of such sculpting projects of course.


Notably, the emperor ordered the suffix 寺 (pinyin si) to be used in the temple's name, as a display of respect. Previously, this character had been used to denote ministries of government. In later periods, all temples came to use this character in their name and it was dropped from the names of government ministries. As a result, the temple's name is sometimes translated as White Horse Ministry, a translation true to the time. However, White Horse Temple is the correct, literal reading to modern Chinese people.

White Horse Temple

According to Chinese ancient history, the White Horse Temple is the first Buddhist temple in China, established in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han capital Luoyang. This small-sized temple is considered by most believers as &ldquothe cradle of Chinese Buddhism&rdquo.

White Horse Temple has numerous halls divided by several courtyards and manicured gardens, covering an area extending to about 13 hectares (32 acres). Significant statues include Shakhyamuni Buddha, Maitreya-the laughing Buddha, the Jade Buddha, and figures of saints such as Guru Avalokiteshvara, Amitabha and arhats. Stone statues of the two white horses, which brought the Indian monks to China and of two mythical lions are seen at the entrance.

The temple boasts great antiques which has remained intact for over 1,900 years. The Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, Hall of Guidance and the Cool and Clear Terrace appear in the temple as they were first built.

As the first large hall in the temple complex, the Hall of Heavenly Kings presents the statue of Maitreya, known as the laughing Buddha, sitting in the forefront. This statue is flanked on the eastern and western sides by four heavenly kings, each representing one fourth of the universe. In addition, there is also a statue of Skana - a high ranking general and defender of Buddhist law - with back to the Maitreya statue.

Covered with exquisite pantiles, the Hall of the Great Buddha boasts the most spectacular architecture in the whole temple. A statue of the Buddhist patriarch Sakyamuni is presented in the middle of the hall, by which standing two of his disciples-Kasyapa and Ananda. All statues demonstrate a fairly high level of craftsmanship of the Ming Dynasty.

As the smallest hall in the temple, Hall of Guidance is the place where the Amitabha Buddha is worshipped. It is said that at the words of &ldquoAmitabha Buddha&rdquo, one will be led to the Paradise after death and therefore Amitabha is known as the Buddha of Guidance, hence the name of the hall.

As the most magnificently decorated hall in the temple, Hall of Mahavira attracts visitors with its fabulous roof that is carved with colorful lotus patterns and walls hung with thousands of the wooden statues of Buddhist figures.

Recommended visit time: 1 hour

Transportation: the White Horse Temple is about 13 km east of Luoyang City, you could take bus Line 56 or 58 (about 40 minutes) and get off at the White Horse Temple.

White Horse Temple

Located 12 kilometers east of Luoyang, Henan Province, White Horse Temple is nested between the Luo River and Mang Hill. The temple was founded in AD 68 during the Eastern Han Dynasty, with a history of thousands of history. It is the first Buddhist temple in China after Buddhism was introduced into China, as well as a famous Buddhist Temple in the world. It is honored as &lsquothe Cradle of Buddhism in China&rsquo. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, the emperor dispatched several monks to India for the sake of obtaining Buddhist scriptures. They were brought back to China on a white horse, which is why the White Horse Temple got its name. The existing ruins now were constructed in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, with an area of 34,000 square meters. With its distinctive red walls, exquisite palaces and towering pagoda, the temple sits gently amid green pines and cypress groves, adding a solemn and silent quality to the complex.

Here are some forms of the legends relating to the foundation and naming of the temple. Following Emperor Ming's dream vision about a Buddha who established Buddhism in India, two of Ming's emissaries departed to search for Buddhist scriptures. They encountered two Indian Buddhist monks in Afghanistan, and persuaded them to join them and return to China, bringing their book of Buddhist scriptures, relics and statues of Buddha with them on two white horses. Pleased with their arrival in China, the king built a temple in their honour and named it the 'White Horse Temple' or Baima Temple, as an appreciation of the two white horses that had carried the two monks. The monks resided at the new temple and here they translated the Buddhist scriptures into the Chinese language. The Buddhist religion prospered from here and with the arrival of Bodhidarma, another monk from India in the 5th century, Chinese Buddhism evolved, spreading to other countries. The huge White Horse Temple has over 100 rooms.

White Horse Temple is a historic sit with possesses more than 1,900 years with a well-preserved appearance. This great antique architecture can be divided into some parts namely the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, Hall of Guidance and the Cool and Clear Terrace appear in proper order in the temple, as they were when it was first built. Beside those main buildings are the Reception Chamber, the Cloud-water Chamber, the Ancestors Chamber, the Guests Chamber, the Buddhist Chamber, and the Abbot Courtyard and so on. The huge White Horse Temple has over 100 rooms.

Watch the video: White Horse Temple - China - Lonely Planet travel video (December 2021).