Not satisfied with being the ancient capital of China, Luoyang is also home to the first ever Buddhist temple in the Middle Kingdom and is considered by many as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. Established in AD60 under Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty, White Horse Temple is an absolute must see for any visitor to the region.
Located about 10km east of Luoyang, the temples and grounds make a fabulous day out for any visitor to the region. What makes the White Horse Temple especially interesting are the functioning Thai, Indian and Burmese temples which have been added to the site over the years.
White Horse Temple is situated between Luoyang and the world renowned Shaolin Temple, making it a good stop off point en-route to Shaolin and the birthplace of Kung-Fu.
History of White Horse Temple:
In AD64 after a strange dream, Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD25 – AD220) sent a delegation of his men to India to seek out Buddhist scripture. After three years the men returned with two Indian monks who brought with them a white horse carrying Buddhist sutras and figures on its back.
The Emperor asked the monks to stay and translate the scriptures and as a gesture of thanks built a monastery which he called the White Horse Temple, and thus Buddhism in China was born.
Geography of the White Horse Temple
Located 10km east of Luoyang, the large grounds include the 35 metre (115ft) Quiyun Pagoda, the earliest such structure in China dating to the Jin Dynasty (AD1115 – AD1234). As you walk east towards the pagoda, which is hidden from view by large trees and high brick walls, you pass small pools of bubbling water and shaded courtyards lined with bright red-brick walls.
Directly to the west of the pagoda lie the various Chinese temples. Incense wafts through the air and depending on what time you visit, the echoes of chanting monks reverberate softly around the walls.
Head further west and you will see the glistening gold of the three-eaved Thai hall which was built in 1997 to house a 7.2 metre, 8 tonne gold-foiled statue of the Buddha given by the minister of Internal Affairs of Thailand.
To the south of the Thai temples lies the Indian temple. During a 2004 visit to White Horse, the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari noted the Thai temples and expressed a wish to build an Indian Temple to honour China and India’s long history of Buddhist communication.
I visited White Horse Temple on a crisp November afternoon with blue skies, little pollution and an incredible sunset. There were very few other visitors it being a weekday and the experience was incredible.
The place was as tranquil as you would expect from a Buddhist place of worship and the vibrant late autumn colours complimented the bright colours of the temples. Living in Luoyang I have visited most of the city’s top attractions, and I would say White Horse Temple is definitely my Number One!
Admission Prices to White Horse Temple:
Peak Season (summer): ¥50
Low Season (winter): ¥35
Admission includes entry to the temples and grounds of the Chinese, Thai, Indian and Myanmar/Burmese temples.
Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:30
Allow at least two hours to see all the temples.
Before the entrance to the temple there are public toilets (typical Asian squat types) that are kept relatively clean and again inside the grounds you can find further facilities.
There are also many stalls close to the entrance selling everything from incense to souvenirs, drinks and snacks.
How to get to White Horse Temple:
Luoyang is easily reachable from cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an. From Beijing the train takes 4 hours, from Shanghai 6 hours and from Xi’an just 1.5 hours. It’s also possible to fly and Trip.com offer some of the cheapest tickets, but taking trains in China is a rewarding experience that shouldn’t be missed.
To book the train to Luoyang you can use the Trip.com website or app and everything is in English. Once you have booked your ticket, make a note of the reference number and take it to the ticket window of any station in China to pick up your ticket or get an e-ticket online.
Once in Luoyang, make your way to Mudan (Peony) Square and take bus No 9 11 stops to the Old Town (30 minutes ¥1) and change to bus 56 or 58 (30 minutes ¥1.5).
From Luoyang train station take bus number 56 (40 minutes ¥1.5).
A taxi from anywhere within the city should take under an hour and cost in the region of ¥50 to ¥60. If you can speak Chinese then DiDi (Chinese Uber) is a very useful app to have.
As Luoyang is the old ancient capital of China and start of the Silk Road, there are many additional places of interest. From kung-fu monks to ancient frescoes and giant Buddhas. It’s worth spending at least a few days to explore as there is so much to see. Have a look at the following places of interest:
Shaolin Temple – The birthplace of Kung-Fu.
Longmen Grottoes – Over 100,000 carvings of the Buddha set into caves.
Luoyang Old Town – City walls, art shops and street food.
Museum of Ancient Art – Ancient frescoes and the tombs of Emperors.
About the Author
Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.
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