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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No. 80: Baima Temple, Luoyang, Henan

This White Horse in front of Baima Temple (白马寺) in Luoyang, Henan (河南, 洛阳市),
represents one of those who gave the temple its name: "Baima" is Chinese for "White Horse."
Baima Temple in Luoyang is reputedly the first Buddhist temple in ancient China. Named for the white horses ("bai ma") that brought two monks from India, it retains a special relationship with the Indian people.

As my wife and I entered the grounds, the first thing we noticed was a huge dome-like building inspired by the famous Buddhist structure at Sanchi in India. It was paid for by the Indian government, and the Buddha inside was also a gift from India.

Entering the gate to the main temple compound between statues of the two horses, we found, in the far left and right front corners, the two earthen mounds holding the remains of Kashyapamtanga and Dharmaraksha, the two monks from India who are supposed to have come here in 64 CE.

Outside the main compound and across a small street stands the Qiyun pagoda, also associated with the monks. Though the current structure was built in 1165, fifty years before that a wooden structure had burned which was alleged to have been built in the year 64! It in turn had been built on a mystical mound which held (they say) a relic of the Buddha, sent by King Ashoka of India a few hundred years earlier.

The main grounds also hold a fine museum and a memorial hall to the two founding monks.

We caught a taxi a short distance east to the foundation of another pagoda. Called Yongning, it was 147 meters high and could be seen from 50 kilometers away. When it caught fire in 534 (just 18 years after it was built), it burned for three months. The foundation remains, and has never been built over.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily December 2, 2013.)

GPS Info: (click the links to view the maps)



Map:


(This may look blank, but it works--I promise! The temple's
location is incorrectly placed slightly to the north of here.)



GALLERY

This stupa, designed after an ancient one in India, was dedicated in 2010
Statue of one of the monks who arrived at Baima Temple from India in 64 CE
Burial Mound of one of the monks who came to the temple from India
Qiyun Pagoda was built in 1165 on the site of a much older one (similar postcard below)

BONUS IMAGES: Some scenes from the sites above rendered as vintage postcards.

The Qiyun Pagoda (齐云塔) in Luoyang, Hebei (河南, 洛阳市), has a long
and fascinating history, and in its way contributed to the founding of
Wutaishan (五台山). Its compound is attached to Baima Temple (白马寺).
The pyramid-like mound is all that remains of Yongning Temple Pagoda (永宁寺塔) in Luoyang,
Henan (河南, 洛阳市). It was once perhaps 147 meters (nearly 500 feet) tall, which would
have made it then the world's tallest building. It burned in 534--for three months!

There are 23 pictures related to the sites in this article (some of them identical to these, but with different captions) in a FaceBook album starting here (available to all, even without a FaceBook account).

Click here to visit the next article in chronological order || Click here to view the trip details

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