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The White Horse Temple: China’s Very First Buddhist Temple

The White Horse Temple: China’s Very First Buddhist Temple

The White Horse Temple is a Buddhist temple located not far from Luoyang, Henan, in China. This temple is reputed to be the first Buddhist temple in China, as, according to tradition, it was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty. The temple has survived for almost 2000 years. Over this period of time new buildings were added to the temple complex, whilst reconstructions and restorations were made on the older ones.

The Arrival of Buddhist Monks in Luoyang

The White Horse Temple is situated about 12 km (7.5 mi) to the east of Luoyang, in the central-eastern Chinese province of Henan. Tradition has it that the temple was established in 68 AD, during the reign of Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty. For years prior to the temple’s founding, the emperor had sent two ambassadors to the Western Regions to collect Buddhist sutras . When the ambassadors returned to Luoyang, the Eastern Han capital, four years later, they brought with them not only Buddhist sutras, but also many Buddhist statues , and even two Buddhist monks. The emperor was extremely delighted, and ordered a temple to be built to house the monks, and to store the sutras and statues.

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Since the sutras and statues were transported on the back of white horses, the emperor decided to honour the animal by naming the temple the White Horse Temple. A pair of stone horses can be seen at the entrance of the temple. The statues are actually from a much later period known as the Northern Song Dynasty, which ruled China about a millennium after the White Horse Temple was founded. The pair of stone horses most likely represent the white horses who brought the sacred Buddhist objects back to China. It has been noted that the statues display a sad countenance, perhaps due to the solemnity associated with the task they were given.

The White Horse Temple faces south and can be divided into three parts: the main temple, the western area of the temple complex, and its eastern area. Naturally, the main temple is the central attraction of the White Horse Temple, and is consists of five separate halls. Unlike most of the other parts of the temple complex, the structures in the western area were built in more recent times. This area is known also as the Foreign Temple Complex or the International Zone, where several foreign Buddhist temples can be seen. As for the temple’s eastern area, its highlight is the Qiyun Pagoda, which dates to the 12th century.

Legend has it that the name of the Buddhist temple came from the white horses who carried the Buddhist monks, statues and sutras to China. ( LBHPHOTO / Adobe Stock)

The Five Halls of the White Horse Temple

The five halls of the main temple are the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Hall of the Great Buddha, the Hall of Mahavira, the Hall of Guidance, and the Clear Cool Terrace. The Hall of the Great Buddha is the White Horse Temple’s main hall. This hall was built during the Ming Dynasty, and the primary Buddha worshipped in this hall is the Sakyamuni Buddha, whose statue is flanked by those of his disciples, Kasyapa and Ananda. Additionally, two bodhisattvas – Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, and Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Universal Benevolence - are worshipped in this hall.

Although the Hall of the Great Buddha is the temple’s main hall, the largest and grandest of the White Horse Temple’s halls is the Hall of Mahavira, which covers an area of 22.8 m (74.8 ft) by 14.2 m (46.6 ft). The ceiling of the hall is adorned with colourful lotus patterns, under which is a two-storey shrine covered in carvings of dragons and birds. This shrine is also surrounded by 10,000 small Buddha carvings on the walls. Although there are many statues in the Hall of Mahavira, the three most prominent ones are those of the Sakyamuni Buddha, the Amitabha Buddha, and the Medicine Buddha. These three Buddhas are the central figures of the altar and they are surrounded by the 18 arhats. These statues, which are made of silk and hemp, date to the Yuan Dynasty, and are considered to be invaluable treasures.

By contrast, the smallest hall in the White Horse Temple is the Hall of Guidance. The main buddha worshipped here is the Amitabha Buddha, who is believed to lead his devotees to the Western Paradise after their deaths. The statue of the Amitabha Buddha is flanked by the Bodhisattva of Moonlight and the Goddess of Mercy, both of whom are also associated with the Western Paradise . These two statues are made of clay and date to the Qing Dynasty.

Like the statues of the 18 arhats in the Hall of Mahavira, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings also dates to the Yuan Dynasty . The main focus of this hall is the statue of Maitreya, known also as the Laughing Buddha in China. According to a legend, this buddha was once incarnated as a beggar monk who possessed a purse that contained all the treasures of the world. Indeed, in Chinese culture, Maitreya is closely connected with contentment and abundance. Although the hall was built during the Yuan Dynasty, additions were made during the Qing Dynasty. This is seen, for instance, in the shrine above the statue of Maitreya. This is a large, gilded wooden shrine, with 50 dragons carved onto it. The statues of the Four Heavenly Kings, from whom the hall acquired its name, were also made during the Qing Dynasty.

The last of these five halls is the Cool Clear Terrace, which is a brick terrace located in the yard at the rear of the main temple. In spite of its location, this is arguably the most significant hall in the temple, as it was here that the Buddhist sutras and statues were first stored when they brought back from the Western Regions. Additionally, it was here that the two monks translated the sutras into the Chinese language, and hence may be considered as the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism.

The Qiyun Pagoda was built in 69 AD. It can be reached by crossing a garden and a bridge near the main temple. It has been destroyed many times throughout history. ( gui yong nian / Adobe Stock)

Foreign Influence in the International Zone

As mentioned earlier, the western area of the White Horse Temple is known as the Foreign Temple Complex or the International Zone, and was built in more recent times. This area contains three “foreign” temples – the India Temple, the Myanmar Temple , and the Thailand Temple. Each of these temples contains distinctive architectural features of Buddhist buildings from their respective countries. For example, the Great Buddha Hall, which is the main building of the India Temple, was modelled after the Great Stupa at Sanchi , whilst the main building of the Myanmar Temple was inspired by the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

Finally, in contrast to the modern buildings in the Foreign Temple Complex, the Qiyun Pagoda in the eastern area of the White Horse Temple was constructed in 69 AD. The original, Eastern Han pagoda, however, was destroyed at some point of time, and was subsequently rebuilt. The pagoda that visitors to the temple would see today dates to the Jin Dynasty, and was built in 1175. The Qiyun Pagoda is reputed to be the oldest pagoda in China. Despite this claim to fame, however, the pagoda does not receive as many visitors as the main temple, making it an ideal spot for those who wish to enjoy some peace and quiet. Lastly, there is a curious phenomenon that can be experienced at the Qiyun Pagoda. If one were to clap one’s hands whilst standing 20 m (66 ft) to the back of the pagoda, the resulting echo would sound like a croaking frog.


The White Horse Temple: First Buddhist Temple in China

White Horse Temple, the oldest temple in China, was established by Emperor Ming during the Eastern Han Dynasty. (web photo)

The White Horse Temple, the oldest temple in China, is located about 6 miles from the city of Luoyang in eastern China&rsquos Henan Province. It is a place that disciples of the buddha school recognize as the palace of buddhist ancestors and the place where buddhist theory was taught.

it was built by Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (29 A.D.&ndash75 A.D.), and there is a legend about its establishment.

According to the historical book of records, Emperor Ming dreamed of a pleasant scene in which a shining golden god flew into his palace. Emperor Ming called his ministers to inquire about his dream. Minister Fuyi said: &ldquoOn April 8 of the 24th year of King Zhou in the Zhou Dynasty (971 B.C.), the landscapes rocked and the rivers flooded. At night the splendid light beams of five colors flashed in the western sky."

The official historian Su estimated that it was a sign of a great saint&rsquos birth in the Western Paradise. "The saint came to earth to rescue people from their suffering and miseries. His moral principles would be introduced into our country 1,000 years later. Now, 1,000 years have passed, and it is about time. I have heard that there is a western saint respectfully called &ldquoBuddha,&rdquo so it may be the &ldquoBuddha&rdquo Your Majesty has dreamed of.&rdquo

In order to understand the Buddha, Emperor Ming sent 12 delegates to the Western Regions to look for Buddha and explore Buddhism.

The 12 people overcame tremendous difficulties and dangers and finally arrived in Tai Yueshi country located in the Western Regions where Buddhism had been widely spread and numerous temples existed. The team then collected a number of Buddhist scriptures as well as statues and invited the Tianzhu senior monks ,She Moteng and Zhu Falan from India to preach Buddhism in the central plains (central China). In Emperor Ming Yongping&rsquos tenth year (67 A.D.), they returned to Luoyang, the capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Emperor Ming was very pleased and formally summoned the two senior monks. He cordially invited them to stay in Honglu Si, an Institute under the Diplomacy Office, and sincerely requested that they translate the Buddhist scriptures they brought back.

The next year, Emperor Ming issued an edict to build a monastery outside Yung Gate of Luoyang. "Si" originally meant a government office. However, since monks She Moteng and Zhu Falan first came to stay at &ldquoSi,&rdquo and as they were also foreign guests, their new home was still called &ldquoSi&rdquo as a gesture of courtesy. Since then, the Chinese Buddhist temple has been called &ldquoSi&rdquo in Chinese. In addition, as it was a white horse that had carried all of the Buddhist scriptures and statutes, to commemorate the contribution of that white horse, the new monastery was named White Horse Si, or, the White Horse Temple.

The two senior monks She Moteng and Zhu Falan, preached at White Horse Temple and jointly completed the translation of the 42-Chapter Sutra, the first Chinese version of Buddhist scriptures. After She Moteng passed away, Zhu Falan continued to translate a number of scriptures. Their translations of the scriptures were all treasured in the Main Hall for the monks to worship. It was said that in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 A.D.&ndash 534 A.D.), when the Buddhist monks worshiped the scriptures, the scripture suddenly glowed with five-colored luminous lights and lit up the Main Hall brightly. It was even more amazing that the image of a Buddha was visible within the light beams.

During the reign of Tang Dynasty Empress Wu Ze Tian (624 A.D.&ndash705 A.D.), the White Horse Temple was very popular, and there were more than 1,000 monks living there. However, the Temple was greatly damaged during the An Si Rebellion (755 A.D.&ndash763 A.D.) and the Huichang Suppression of Buddhism (840 A.D.&ndash846 A.D.). The damaged White Horse Temple was only found later through broken pieces of inscriptions on the stones and ruins. Repairs to the temple were later conducted by Sung Dynasty Emperor Taizong (939&ndash997), Ming Dynasty Emperor Jiajing (1507&ndash1567), and Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi (1662&ndash1722).

The existing White Horse Temple occupies 47,840 square yards and contains more than 100 temples lining up vertically. The major halls located in a central line from south to the north and from the gate into the mountain are as follows: the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Hall of the Great Buddha, the Hall of Mahavira, the Hall of Guidance, and the Buddha Pilu Court.

In the center of the Main Hall of the Great Buddha, there is a large statue of Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by two of his disciples, Jiaye and Ananda, and figures of Manjusri and Samantabhadra.

In the southeast corner of the Hall, there hangs a Ming Dynasty cast iron bell weighing 5,525 pounds. It was said that during breezy nights or fresh dawns, the sounds of that bell could be heard dozens of miles away, and the big bell which hung in the city&rsquos East Avenue clock tower could resonate with it thus the scene could be described as &ldquothe bell resounds up to the Buddha&rsquos Palace and down to astound the ghosts of hell.&rdquo

After the Hall of the Great Buddha is the Hall of Mahavira, where Sakyamuni, Amitabha, and Medicine Buddha are surrounded by 18 Arhats with different poses and expressions. The statues are very precious since they were built with exquisite craftsmanship using silk and hemp in the Yuan Dynasty (1271&ndash1368).

After the Hall of Mahavira is the Hall of Guidance and finally the Buddha Pilu Court. Pilu Court was built in the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D.&ndash907 A.D.), which worships Buddha Pilu, the Pure Dharma Body of Buddha Sakyamuni, with Bodhisattvas Manjusri and Samantabhadra standing at two sides. The monument behind the Court was engraved with the 42-Chapter Sutra.

In the southeast and southwest corners of White Horse Temple, are the graves of She Moteng and Zhu Falan. About 220 yards southeast of the Temple, there is a tower 26 yards high with 13 layers of brick, called Qi Yun Tower. The original name of the tower is Jiashelita Tower, Golden Square Tower, or the White Horse Temple Tower. It was built in the Tang Dynasty, destroyed in the Song Dynasty (960 A.D.&ndash1279 A.D.) and restored in the Qin Dynasty (1115&ndash1234).

The most popular tourist attractions of White Horse Temple are as follows: Clear and Cool Terrace, Midnight Bell, QI Yun Tower, Vine Orchid Tomb, Broken Script Monument, and the Sutra Burning Platform.


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.


10 Most Incredible Temples in China

China has a history that spans thousands of years, and there is perhaps no better testament to its long and varied past than its temples. These sacred and peaceful havens are the perfect display of China’s diverse religious influences—Buddhist, Confucianist, Taoist, and sometimes a combination of all three!—as well as its distinct architectural style.

From traditional Tibetan retreats to ancient imperial sites, China’s temples are truly unique and unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. With a temple, or several, in almost every city, ranking them seems a near-impossible feat, but we’ve done our best to narrow them down to some of our favorites.

Temple of Heaven (in Beijing)

One of the capital’s best-known landmarks, the Temple of Heaven is an architectural marvel with a colorful, centuries-long history. First built in the early 15th century by the Yongle Emperor (who oversaw the construction of another famous site, the Forbidden City), this temple was once the destination of an annual pilgrimage by the emperor, who would pray and offer sacrifices to the gods to help ensure a good harvest.

Actually a complex of temple buildings strewn across a park that covers almost 300 hectares, the Temple of Heaven’s many structures underwent extensive damage during the Opium Wars in the late 19th century, but they have since been restored to their former glory. The unique round structure of the main temple sets this site apart from its other counterparts across China, making this unique landmark rife with cultural significance a must-see for visitors to Beijing.

Lingyin Temple (in Hangzhou)

Former capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from the year 1127 to 1279, the city of Hangzhou is home to a number of historically important structures, all set in an area of great natural beauty. The hills surrounding Hangzhou and its famous West Lake are scattered with temples, the most renowned of which is Lingyin Temple, literally Temple of the Soul's Retreat.

First founded in the 4th century, Lingyin Temple boasts a varied history, and despite being rebuilt more than a dozen times, it is now one of the largest and most successful Buddhist temples in all of China. In addition to its impressive architecture, Lingyin Temple’s main draw are the nearby Feilai Feng grottoes, a network of verdant caves that house stunning and beautifully preserved Buddhist rock carvings that date back over a thousand years.

Shaolin Temple (near Luoyang)

Martial arts aficionados may recognize the name of this temple, as it is the birthplace of one of the oldest and most famous styles of kung fu. Not far from the historic city of Luoyang, this original temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism is where Shaolin kung fu originated hundreds of years ago. Shaolin Temple’s first resident monks, from as far back as the 6th century, were respected martial artists and soldiers, and kung fu continues to be practiced here. This history alone makes the temple worth a visit, not to mention its impressive traditional architecture.

Shaolin Temple is also home to the UNESCO-certified Pagoda Forest, a collection of over 200 stone and brick pagodas that serve as tombs. These numerous pagodas, some of which are more than a thousand years old, are a stunning sight and render Shaolin Temple an even more fascinating location.

Hanging Temple (near Datong)

First established during the Qin dynasty (221 to 206 BC), the area surrounding the northern city of Datong is full of historical sites and artifacts, the most notable of which is one of the world’s most peculiar temples. As its name suggests, the Hengshan Hanging Temple, or Xuankong Si, is precariously affixed to the side of a sheer cliff 75 meters off the ground. First built 1,500 years ago, this architectural masterpiece has withstood the test of time, and its seemingly treacherous position earned it a spot on Time’s list of the 10 most precarious buildings in the world.

The Hanging Temple’s position is not the only notable thing about this temple, however. It is also the only temple on the planet where all three of China’s most prominent religions are practiced, combining Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism into a fascinating cultural amalgam that is all its own. This combination of factors makes the Hanging Temple one of China’s most interesting religious and historic sites, and by far one of our favorite temples in the Middle Kingdom!

Nanshan Temple (in Sanya)

While most visitors are attracted by its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters that seem to have come straight out of the Caribbean, the island province of Hainan is also home to a vibrant culture. One of the best illustrations of that is its magnificent Nanshan Temple, the centerpiece of which is a bronze statue of Guan Yin Buddha that stands at 108 meters in height, outsizing even the Statue of Liberty!

Built in 1988 to commemorate Buddhism’s 2,000-year influence in China, Nanshan Temple beautifully captures China’s long religious background. The temple is made even more charming by the heavenly sub-tropical setting of Hainan, and has become a popular tourist destination since its construction. While not the oldest of temples by Chinese standards, the seaside Nanshan Temple and its incredible, one-of-a-kind Buddha statue make for an impressive sight.

Jokhang Temple (in Lhasa, Tibet)

Visitors to Tibet usually come for two main reasons: to admire stunning alpine scenery and to soak in the mystical atmosphere of Tibet’s religious sites. Jokhang Temple, in the city of Lhasa, is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered the most sacred and important temple in the entire region. Worshippers from all over Tibet flock here, and being home to dozens of monks, it is the perfect place to get a truly authentic sense of Tibetan Buddhist practice.

In addition to its religious significance, Jokhang Temple boasts a fascinating history that dates back to the year 652, when it was built to house Buddhist statues brought as dowries by the then-king’s two brides. A combination of traditional Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian design, the temple is a site of great architectural interest as well, making it a must-visit attraction for any traveler to Tibet.

White Horse Temple (near Luoyang)

History buffs should not skip a visit to this unique temple, as it is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in all of China. Established as early as 68 AD, White Horse Temple near Luoyang boasts a very long and storied history that is unparalleled among Chinese temples. The number of colorful legends and tales surrounding this temple are astounding and truly give you a sense of its importance as a site of religious learning and worship throughout history.

Today, the temple is made up of various halls that are full of ancient statues, including a famous jade statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. White Horse Temple also houses beautifully manicured gardens, which truly come alive every April during Luoyang’s annual Peony Festival.

Lama Temple (in Beijing)

Beijing’s Lama Temple, also known as Yonghe Temple, is a magnificent structure in a bustling neighborhood in one of the world’s biggest cities, and has come to be known as the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. First built as an imperial residence in 1694, the site was converted into a lamasery in 1722 and so it has remained ever since. An active monastery of the Tibetan Gelug sect, it is common to see monks in brightly colored robes and locals alike praying and burning incense, giving the temple a very authentic and peaceful atmosphere.

The temple’s five grand halls house a number of beautiful statues, including an 18-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha that entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1993 as the world’s tallest statue made out of a single piece of wood. These religious relics, combined with its unique and magnificent architecture, make Lama Temple well worth a visit during your stay in Beijing.

Confucius Temple (in Qufu)

Perhaps no figure from Chinese history is better known than Confucius, and his teachings inspired a religious and philosophical tradition that has gone onto influence the very fabric of everyday life in China. There’s no better place to witness and appreciate the immense significance of Confucius’s legacy than his hometown of Qufu, a small city in the eastern province of Shandong.

Fittingly, Qufu is home to the country’s largest and most important Confucian temple, which was established in honor of the famous sage not long after his death. Over the centuries, numerous emperors and other important figures have made pilgrimages to Qufu to venerate and offer sacrifices in honor of Confucius. Rebuilt and renovated extensively throughout its long history, today’s Temple of Confucius is among the largest of all temple complexes in China, consisting of nearly 500 different rooms spread across an area of 16,000 square meters. This temple, immense in both size and significance, is unmissable for those interested in the Confucian tradition.

Da Ci’en Temple (in Xi’an)

From the world-famous Terracotta Army to its centuries-old city wall, the city of Xi’an is full of ancient wonders, and its renowned Da Ci’en Temple is no exception. Home to the iconic, seven-storey Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci’en Temple is a Buddhist sanctuary that boasts a history spanning over a millennium and remarkable architecture, all set within a busy urban neighborhood.

First established in 652, Da Ci’en Temple and the towering pagoda that has made it famous were constructed and managed by the legendary Buddhist monk and scholar Xuanzang, whose pilgrimage to India is immortalized in the novel Journey to the West. During his tenure as head of the temple, Xuanzang founded the East Asian Yogacara school of Buddhist thought, and Da Ci’en Temple remains the most sacred location for this tradition and its followers. The religious significance of this temple, combined with its majestic pagoda, make it one of Xi’an’s most famed sites.

Although China’s borders contain simply too many temples to count, this list should help you focus on the most impressive and important ones. These many exquisite and colorful temples are the perfect illustration of the country’s long history and diverse religious influences, and no visit to the Middle Kingdom is complete without taking in at least one of these amazing structures. ■

The China Guide is a Beijing-based travel agency that customizes private tours, educational student tours, and incentive trips across China. We have more than ten years of experience creating tours for all kinds of travelers from the United States, Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and beyond. We promise all our tours have no hidden fees, no factory stops, no touristy restaurants, just memorable experiences! Learn more about us or contact us to start planning your perfect China trip.


White Horse Temple

Although its original structures have all been replaced and older Buddhist shrines may have vanished, this vast, active monastery outside Luoyang is regarded as China’s first surviving Buddhist temple, originally dating from AD 68. When two Han dynasty court emissaries went in search of Buddhist scriptures, they met two Indian monks in Afghanistan the monks returned to Luoyang on white horses carrying Buddhist sutras and statues. The impressed emperor built the temple for the monks it's also their resting place.

More than 500 years later, the monk Xuanzang began his 'journey to the west' pilgrimage from here, and served as the abbot of White Horse Temple upon his return.

In Mahavira hall, it is astonishing to note that the main sculpture is hollow and weighs only 5kg. Outside, keep an eye out for the bronze 'longevity peach' – give it a good rub, then brush your hands over your head or whichever body part you think might need a little extra luck.

Tucked amid the smoky incense burners and usual Buddhist halls are some unusual sights plan on spending at least two hours here. In the back of the complex, beneath a raised hall, is the Shiyuan Art Gallery (释源美术馆, Shìyuán Měishùguǎn), displaying temporary exhibitions. Also in the back of the complex is a surprisingly chic teahouse (止语茶舍, zhǐyǔ cháshě), an excellent place to take refuge and relax with a bowl of weak tea (free: help yourself from the warmer).

West of the historic grounds is the remarkable International Zone, featuring Thai, Burmese and Indian Buddhist temples. It's certainly worth strolling around.

At the opposite end of the grounds are gardens and the ancient 12-tiered Qiyun Pagoda (齐云塔, Qíyún Tǎ), encircled by worshippers. People say that if you stand 20m back from the pagoda and clap your hands, the echo sounds like a croaking frog.

The temple is 13km east of Luoyang, around 40 minutes away on bus 56 from the Xīguān (西关) stop. Bus 58 from Zhongzhou Donglu in the Old Town also runs here.


5. Hanging Temple – Wonder on the Cliff

Type: Chinese Buddhist Temple, Taoist Temple, Confucian Temple

History: over 1500 years

Recommended Visiting Time: 2

Location: Hengshan Mountain, Hunyuan County, Datong

Highlights: Southern Pavilion, Northern Pavilion and Changxian Bridge

As its name implies, the Hanging Temple is a temple built into a cliff incredibly and 50 meters above the ground. It was constructed without any supportive structures and the present pillars were added later because no one dares to visit the temple without visible support. Time magazine listed it in the world'stop ten most odd unstable s buildings. In fact, the construction is based on the principles of mechanics and uphelders are hidden inside the bedrock. In addition to its miraculous architectures, the Hanging Temple is also notable as the only exiting temple with combination of China&rsquos three traditional religions &ndash Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism .

The main buildings in the Hanging temple are Southern Pavilion, Northern Pavilion and Changxian Bridge. The Southern Pavilion is a three-storyed building equipped with Chunyang Palace, Sanguan Hall, Sangong Palace and Leiyin Hall. Sangong Palace is the biggest hall of the temple and Sanguan Hall keeps the tallest sculpture of the temple. The Northern Pavilion has Wufo Hall, Guanyin Hall and Sanjiao Hall. The statues of the founders of three religions - Shakyamuni of Buddhism, Laozi of Taoism and Confucius of Confucianism are worshipped in the Sanjiao Hall. Beautiful carvings and various statues can be seen in the temple.

Tips: Make sure you arrive there early in the morning, because the place is very small and if you find a long queue you might risk losing a lot of time before getting inside.


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.


Baima Temple, The Birthplace of Chinese Buddhism


Baima Temple is the first official government sanctioned Buddhist temple in China. Founded in 68 AD, Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han dynasty commissioned the temple after two Indian monks brought the first Buddhist scriptures to China.

But first things first, is this place really worth visiting? Yes, but not as a standalone destination. Unless you’re a Buddhist temple fanatic and love the history, going to Baima Temple by itself probably isn’t worth the trek from wherever you’re starting out from (most likely Xi’an). But, as an add-on to a visit to the Longmen Grottos (龙门石窟) (a gigantic Buddha and other deities carved into caves, which is absolutely worth seeing even as a standalone destination), Baima Temple is perfect (we’ve been on Buddhist temple overload across Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, and China, but we still enjoyed Baima Temple). If you take a morning train to Luoyang, you can easily see both Baima Temple and the Longmen Grottos in one day.

Name: 白马寺 / Báimǎ sì / White Horse Temple

Location: 洛阳,河南 / Luoyang, Henan Province

Getting there: 20 minute cab ride from the Luoyang train station | 1.5 hour train from 西安北-洛阳龙门 / Xi’an North-Luoyang Longmen, 174.50RMB one-way

The stories goes that Emperor Ming had a dream one night and saw a golden man or something or other that resembled Buddhist deities. Because of the dream, Emperor Ming sent out two of his emissaries to go find some monks and Buddhist scrolls to bring back to China.

The emissaries made it as far as modern day Afghanistan when they bumped into two Indian monks. The monks agreed to return to Luoyang, the then capital city of China, and rode in on two white horses (hence the name White Horse Temple). Today, two stone horses stand outside the main gate of the temple as a tribute to the Indian monks.

Emperor Ming erected the temple for the two monks and the rest is history. Starting with The Sutra in Forty-two Sections Spoken by Buddha, hundreds of Sanskrit scrolls were translated into Chinese and disseminated from Baima Temple.

As with many of China’s wooden relics, wars and fires destroyed Baima Temple over the years. Starting in the 14th century, periodic renovations have preserved the look and feel of the temple. Today, the temple is pretty much entirely new. However, the ancient style and character of the temple is still well represented. For example, the Baima pagoda is a 13-storeyed square pagoda that stands in similar fashion to the two prior pagodas that were destroyed there during the Song and Jin dynasties.

Plan on spending a leisurely 2-3 hours at Baima Temple, as the overall area covers a fairly large plot of land and there are plenty of individual chambers to visit inside the temple grounds.

Getting to Baima Temple is easy. Take a morning train from Xi’an’s northern train station (the high-speed railway station) and get off at Luoyang. An 8:50am train departing from Xi’an is plenty early. The trip takes about an hour and a half. From the Luoyang train station, Baima Temple is about a 20-minute cab ride. You’ll be accosted by eager cab drivers at the train station, so have your bargaining cap on. Your best bet is bundling rides to Baima Temple and Longmen together. Drivers will try to tell you Baima temple is really far away, but it’s not. For Baima Temple alone you’re probably looking at a 50-80RMB round-trip. If you bundle it with Longmen, you can probably get it for just a little more. (Note, Longmen is literally 10 minutes from the train station).

There is also a Shaolin Temple a bit farther out than Baima Temple. While we didn’t get a chance to explore it, if you’re spending a night in Longmen the Shaolin Temple may be a good place for number three on your Luoyang hit list.

There’s currently a large construction site at the temple where the Shwedagon Pagoda in Burma is being replicated at full scale size. The idea is to honor the cultural ties between countries that Buddhism has forged. Looking at the buildings completed so far, the replica does indeed look exactly like the temples we’ve seen in Thailand. Replica or not, it’s always nice (and rare) to see China acknowledging the cultural traditions of other countries.


Watch the video: Temples Of China, India, Thailand, Myanmar Together. Walking In Luoyang White Horse Temple. 洛阳白马寺 (December 2021).