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White Horse Temple
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White Horse Temple (simplified Chinese: 白马寺; traditional Chinese: 白馬寺; pinyin: Báimǎ Sì, Wade-Giles: Paima szu) is, according to tradition, the first Buddhist temple in China, established in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han capital Luoyang.
It is located approximately 40 minutes by bus No. 56 from the Luoyang train station. The temple, although small in size in comparison to many other temples in China, is considered by most believers as "the cradle of Chinese Buddhism". The geographical landmarks to the south of the temple are Manghan mountain and Lucoche River.
The main temple buildings, a large complex, were reconstructed during the Ming (1368 to 1644) and Qing (1644 to 1912) dynasties. They were refurbished in 1950s, and again in March 1973 after the Cultural Revolution.
It has numerous halls divided by several courtyards and manicured Gardens, covering an area extending to about 13 hectares (32 acres).
The display plaques in Chinese and English give ample descriptions of the Buddhist Deities installed in various halls. Significant Statues include Śākyamuni Buddha, Maitreya-the Laughing Buddha, the Jade Buddha, and figures of saints such as Guru Avalokiteśvara, Amitābha 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. Under international funding, the temple has undergone many changes, both structurally and internally. The most recent cooperative project, with India, was completed in 2008 when the Sanchi Stupa and the Sarnath Buddha statue were erected.
This temple was called the "Pi-ma-sai" meaning White Horse Temple" where 'pi' means "white", 'ma' means "Horse" and 'sai' or 'ssi' is "temple". 'Ssi' in Chinese also means residence of "Buddhist priests".
However, this may be a "folk etymology" as there were other early temples in different centres with the same Name. The Monk Zhidun (or Chih Tun) (314–366), who was a famous propagator of Buddhism in the southern capital is recorded as having discussions with Fenghui at the Baima si (Pai ma) Monastery in Jiankang (Chienk'ang) (previously [[Jianye]), the capital of the Eastern Jin (317-420). There was also a Baima si at Xiangyang where Daoan and his disciples stayed c. 365.
To further complicate the search for the origin of the name, it should be remembered that there were peoples known as the 'White Horse Qiang' and 'Di' who lived in the 'White Horse Valley' on the upper reaches of the Min Xiang (river), which flows south from the Min Shan (mountains) near the town of Zhangla Chang-la: 32.50° N, 103.40° E., and that there are still people calling themselves the 'White Horse Di' living there.
It is possible, but unprovable, that the name Baima derived from some of these peoples, who may have been influenced by Buddhism at an early period, rather than from literal white horse(s) carrying scriptures. It does seem strange that there should have been other early monasteries with the same name, if the legend of the origin of the White Horse Temple in Luoyang was really true.
Background, legends and importance
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.
At the invitation of the Chinese Emperor Ming Di, two Indian Monks namely, Matanga and Gobharana, translated the Buddhist classics at the Baimai Temple at Luo Yang, which was then the nation’s capital.
Gobharana translated the 'Dasa Bhumi' or the 'Ten stages of Perfection', apart from five others. The temple then increased in importance as Buddhism grew within China, and spread to Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
The temple's story begins with the Dream of Emperor ]]Mingdi\\ and his establishing the temple in 68 AD honouring the two Indian Monks and the white horses that brought them to China with Buddhist scriptures.
The two Monks translated many scriptures while living in the temple, which was named as ]]White Horse Temple]]. They also died in the temple precincts and are buried in the first courtyard of the temple. Following the establishment of the temple, 1000 Monks lived here practicing Buddhism.
- "There is a current tradition that Emperor Ming dreamt that he saw a tall golden man the top of whose head was glowing. He questioned his group of advisers and one of them said: "In the West there is a God called Buddha.
That is why the Emperor sent envoys to Tianzhu [[[Wikipedia:Northwest|Northwest]] India] to inquire about The Buddha’s Doctrine, after which paintings and Statues [of the Buddha] appeared in the Middle Kingdom."
There are numerous differing accounts explaining how the temple was established. Yang Hsüan-chih says in the preface to his book, A Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Lo-yang (completed c. 547 CE), that, after his Dream, Emperor Ming ordered that Statues of The Buddha be erected at the K'ai- yang Gate (Opening to the Morning Sun Gate) of the Southern Palace and on near the [[Ch'ang]yeh Terrace]] (The Eternal Night Terrace). He, however, makes no mention of the temple.
The Emperor is said to have sent a Monk or Monks to India or Scythia who returned carrying the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters on a white Horse. The Sutra was received by the Emperor and housed in a temple built outside the walls of Luo Yang. It was China's first Buddhist temple.
The legends related to this temple have direct link to the emergence and spread of Buddhism in China. Two visions are stated in this context. The first vision was witnessed by Chow Wang, the fifth ruler of the Tang dynasty.
The astrologers of his court predicted that a saint was born in that quarter of the World where he saw the bright Halo Light. It was also prophesied that the Religion practised by the saintly person, would spread to China.
In 60 CE, on an auspicious day, the Emperor had a vision (Dream) of a saintly person of golden complexion with the Sun and the Moon shining behind his back came near his throne from the Heavens and then circled his palace.
Emperor Mingdi forthwith selected emissaries named 'Taai Yin', Tain King, 'Wangtrun' and others, in all totaling 18 people, to go towards the west to India in search of the Religion practiced by Buddha.
After travelling through several countries bordering India such as 'Getse' and 'Yuchi' (the Saka Tartars), and the Bactrian Greece they reached Afghanistan (Gandhara country) where they met two Buddhist Monks (Arhats) named Kasyapa Pandita (a Brahmin from Central India) and 'Bharana' Pandita.
They accepted the invitation of the emissaries to go to China.
They then proceeded to China on two white horses accompanied by the emissaries. They carried with them a few Sacred Texts of Sutras - the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters- Statues of Buddha, portraits and also sacred Relics.
He ordered that the Sacred Texts and religious paraphernalia of the Taoist be placed on the eastern gate and the Sacred Texts, Relics and Buddha image of the westerners in the hall of seven Gems on the west.
The Taoists expected that their texts would survive the Fire test. This did not happen as all the texts of Taoists were burnt and that of the Buddhists from the west survived. With this test, the Emperor was convinced of the Buddhist Religion and he with all his entourage of Ministers and kinsmen embraced Buddhism.
Now that there are many contradictory versions of this story that most modern scholars accept it only as a Buddhist fable, and not a valid historical event. The White Horse Temple is, in fact, not recorded in contemporary sources before 289.
It is said that the next year, the Emperor ordered the construction of the White Horse Temple on the south side of the Imperial Drive three li outside the Hsi-yang Gate of the capital Luoyang, to remember the Horse that carried back the Sutras.
Buddhism evolved in China after arriving from India, as a blend of Chinese beliefs and needs, particularly in Respect of its folk heritage. It is Mahayana Buddhism practice, which is widely followed even though the Theravada or Hinayana came to China first.
The famous Indo-Scythian Buddhist translator, Dharmarakṣa (Ch: 竺法護, Zhú Fǎhù), active ca. 266–308 AD, came to Luoyang in 266, and resided at the White Horse Temple from at least the spring of 289 to 290 AD.
During his stay in the temple, apart from his teaching assignments and other religious Activities of the temple, he translated many Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit that he had brought from India into the Chinese Language.
In 1175, an inscription on a stone tablet next to Qilun Pagoda—a 35 metres (115 ft) tall, multi-eaved square-based tower located to the southeast of the White Horse Temple—stated that a previous Fire occurred five decades previously and destroyed the temple and the Sakya Tathagata Sarira Stupa, a predecessor to the Pagoda.
The same inscription of 1175 stated that a Jin Dynasty official had the stone Qilun Pagoda erected soon after. The Pagoda is built with the design style imitating the square-based pagodas of the Tang Dynasty.
=== Middle Ages ===:
Between the 13th century and the 20th century, the temple has undergone restoration/renovation under the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). Significant restoration took place in the 16th century and some buildings still date to this period, although some have since been renovate
Under the regime of the People's Republic of China, the temple has seen many renovations in the period between 1952 and 1973. In 1973, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia visited the temple. Cambodia was a communist ally of China and Prince Sihanouk who was staying in a palatial residence in Beijing.
As an ardent Buddhist, Sihanouk expressed a wish to Premier Zhou Enlai to visit the White Horse Temple. This put the administration into a frenzy, since many parts of the Temple had been damaged during the Cultural Revolution in China and items were missing.
Post haste, 2900 artefacts, which were in other palaces and museums within China, such as the Palace of Benevolent Tranquillity on the western side of the [Forbidden City]] and Statues in the Arhat Hall (Luohan Tang) of the Temple of Azure Clouds (Biyun Si) in Beijing’s Fragrant Hills (Xiang Shan) were secretly shifted to the temple, and the White Horse Temple was fully restored.
Interestingly, the shift of artefacts to this temple from other places was decreed as permanent by Premier Zhou Enlai, and not a loan, when the authorities of the palace and Azure temple wanted the artefacts to be returned to them.
To enhance the Buddhist cultural links between India and China, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on 11 April 2005 under which it was agreed that India would build an Indian Style Buddhist temple to the west side of the White Horse Temple in the International Garden of the complex.
The Buddha statue, landscaping and technical advice of architects and experts during construction. Chinese authorities were to allot land area of 2,666.67 square metres (28,703.8 sq ft) for building the temple.
Following the MOU signed by India and China in 2005, a Buddhist shrine that is a close replica of Sanchi Stupa has been completed in 2008 within the precincts of the White Horse Temple, the first Buddhist temple in China that was also inspired by Buddhist saints from India in the 1st century AD.
An image of Buddha has also been transported from India and deified in the new temple, which conforms to the Indian Buddhist tradition.
The shrine is a two-storied structure with circular walls on both floors. The circular walls inside the temple have been embellished with murals of scenes from the Jataka tales and the Life of Buddha.
The temple faces south and is aligned along a central axis starting from the entrance gate followed by several halls and courtyards in succession.The temple compound covers an area of 200 mu (13 hectares (32 acres)), and faces south.
A stone paifang (archway), a three door covered archway, has been recently built, 150 metres (490 ft) in front of the original gate.
Between the archway and gate lies a pool with fountains, crossed by three stone Bridges. The two horses at the entrance gate facing each other are made of green stone dated to the Song Dynasty (960–1279).
The plaques briefly explain the various Statues installed in each hall. The halls are discerned in the inscriptions on the plaques, include the 'Hall of Greetings', 'Hall of Six Founders’, 'Hall of jade Buddha', the 'Hall of Heavenly Kings', Hall of Mahavira and Hall of Changing Ge (repository of ancient scriptures).
In the courtyard, large Incense burners are kept for worshippers to Light Incense sticks, creating a pungent odour. In the Main hall and other halls where various images are worshipped, the altars are filled with fruit and other Offerings made by the devotees. Multicoloured tapestry hang from the ceilings of the halls and lighted candles float in the basins, presenting a divine Spiritual setting.
This small hall has deified Statues of three western paradise (Indian) saints. Amitabha, the founder, is at the centre and is flanked by Guru Avalokiteswara, the God of Mercy on the left and Mahashataprapta on the Right.
The names of the founders as displayed, in the Order of their succession:
Bodidharma, the first founder of the temple who hailed from ancient India where he was the 28th generation Patriarch preaching the Buddhist Philosophy, the second founder was Huike, the third founder was Sengcan, the fourth founder was Daoxn, the fifth founder was Hongren and the sixth founder was Huineng.
The first large hall in the temple complex is known as ‘The Hall of Heavenly Kings’ where statue of Maitreya, known as the Laughing Buddha, is the main Deity deified Right at the forefront of the hall.
The eastern side is ruled by Chigua (guardian of the State) carrying a Pipa, the western side is controlled by Guangmu (Sharp-seer) with a dragon in his hand, the southern Direction is represented by Zengzhang (Growth Protector),
Hall of Changing Ge, built in 1995, is a repository of ancient scriptures and has more than ten types of Buddhist texts, including the Longzang Jing Dazong Jing, Dazeng Zong Jing, Tibet Jing and so forth.
The statue was misplaced at the early 20th century.
However, it was later found in Thailand and was replicated in bronze into two 97 centimetres (38 in)) tall Statues and then gilded. One of these is deified in the library and the other was sent to Thailand.
Statues of 18 Arhats adorn the side of the hall. All the Statues were made in ramie-cloth during the Yuan Dynasty. The walls on both sides are adorned with carvings of ten thousand Buddhists. A statue of Jialan is installed facing north of the backdoor.
There is a very large Bell weighing more than 1 tonne (a figure of 2.5 tonnes is also mentioned), installed during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty, near the Altar, which is still struck in Time during the Chanting of Prayers by the Monks. A community of ten thousand Monks resided here during the Tang Dynasty.
The living quarters of the Monks are situated in an exclusive Pagoda, with restricted entry, called the 'Qiyun Ta', or Qiyun Pagoda. It is approachable after crossing the manicured garden and a bridge to the left of the main temple.
This Pagoda was built in the 12th century in the fifteenth year of the Dading reign of the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234). It is a 13 tiered, 25 metres (82 ft)), high cubic shaped brick tower. It has been renovated in subsequent periods.
Although the temple is open to the public, inquisitive visitors are under close scrutiny for security purposes. The Chief Abbot of the temple keeps in touch with the political situation in The country through a TV installed in his room. The Monks are required to carry identity cards issued to each Monks.
The legend linked to this festival is that Peony flower did not follow the orders of the queen Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty to bloom during winter and she became enraged that it did not obey her command.