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Baima Temple

Baima (White Horse) Temple is situated in the east of Luoyang City, Henan Province, and is the first Chinese place where Buddhist rites were performed. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.

It is said that Baima Temple got its name from a story. An emperor in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220) dreamed of a gold man and then ordered in the 10th year (67) of the Yongping reign to seek Buddhist doctrines from the Western Regions. The obtained Buddhist scriptures and statues were carried back to Luoyang on the back of white horses; therefore, a temple named Baima (White Horse) was built in the 11th year (68) of the Yongping reign. In the past two thousand years, Baima Temple experienced several rises and declines. Among all reconstructions of past dynasties, the scale of reconstruction in the first year (685) of the Chuigong reign of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was the largest. Now, the temple mainly keeps the overall arrangement of the one reconstructed in the 35th year (1556) of the Jiajing reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Now Baima Temple covers an area of 40,000 square meters. Its main buildings include Heavenly King Hall, Great Buddha Hall, and Main Hall. Among these halls, the Main Hall is the most magnificent one and houses statues of three Buddhas (Maitreya, Prabhutaratna and Sakyamuni) and 18 arhats. These statues are vivid with different expressions and postures. A big bell is hung in the Great Buddha Hall. It is interesting that due to similarity of temperament, when the bell rings, the bell in the Bell Tower in Luoyang City, 25 li (1 li = 500m) away from Baima Temple, will also ring. At zero o'clock midnight of New Year's Day each year, people always come here to ring the bell.

There is one tomb each at the southeastern and southwestern corners of the temple respectively where two accomplished monks from India were buried. A pagoda named Qiyun Pagoda of about 200 meters once stood at the southeast of Baima Temple. This pagoda was destroyed in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) by war and in the 15th year of the Dading reign of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), a 13-storeyed square pagoda was built at the same place, and the pagoda is called Baima Temple Pagoda now. The pagoda has a unique style, and is of high artistic value as well as one of a few ancient buildings of the Jin Dynasty extant in the Chinese Central Plains.

Baima Temple is the earliest place where Buddhist scriptures were translated during the initial stage of dissemination of Buddhist doctrines in China. Here, Kashyapamtanga and Dharmaraksha, two accomplished Indian monks, translated the first Buddhist Scripture into Chinese from Sanskrit: The Sutra in Forty-two Sections Spoken by the Buddha. Afterwards, Dharmakala translated the first commandment into Chinese from Sanskrit: Buddhist Disciplines for Monks. Since then, China has had formal Buddhist disciplines. According to historical records, such ancient accomplished monks and sutra translation masters from the Western Regions as An Shih Kao, Zhu Fulang, and An Xuan once also translated Buddhist scriptures into Chinese in Baima Temple. They translated large volumes of Buddhist scriptures. Along with spread of these works, Chinese Buddhism gradually reached its zenith in the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907).

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