White Horse Temple is the first officially built Buddhism temple in China. Its construction is closely related to the famous historical Buddhism event "Yongping Qiufa", which means the pursuit of Buddhism doctrines by Emperor Mingdi in Yongping period of Han Dynasty in China. Legend has it that Emperor Mingdi of Han Dynasty slept one night in his south palace and dreamed of a golden-colored god with shining lights over head flying aloof his palaces. Later in the morning he learned that the god was indeed the Buddha. Therefore, he sent two of his courtiers-Cai Yin and Qin Jing- as his commissioners to the West Region in pursuit of Buddhism. When Cai and Qin arrived Yuezhi (now in Afghanistan), they came across two renowned Tianzhu (The name that ancient India was called in ancient China) Buddhism monks who were preaching Buddhism doctrines there. Cai and Qin invited the two famous monks to preach their Buddhism doctrines in China. Carring their Buddhist scriptures and statues by white horse all the way toward Luoyang, they finally arrived the ancient Chinese capital in the tenth year of Yongping period (A.D. 67). Upon their arrival, Emperor Mingdi gave the mandate to construct a temple after the style of ancient India architecture and had it named "White Horse Temple" in their honor.
Ever since its completion, the White Horse Temple experienced several times of destruction and reconstruction as well as renovation, but the renovation during the period of Empress Wu Zetian in Tang Dynasty is the largest and the most complete one. Facing the south, the rectangle complex consists of Tianwang Palace, Dafo Palace, Daxiong Palace, Jieyin Palace, Pilu Palace, Qiyun Pagoda etc. In White Horse Temple, you can have a feast of eyes on not only those imposing, sublime palaces and vivid, lifelike statues but also those scenic spots related to many historical happenings.
Within the time-honored gates of White Horse Temple, there is one tomb amid each grove of flourishing cypresses on the west and east side of the courtyard respectively. They are the well known "Tombs of Two Monks". On the stele before the tomb on the east is inscribed "Tomb of Qidao Yuantong Master Moteng of Han Dynasty" . On the stele before the tomb on the west is inscribed "Tomb of Kaijiao Zongchi Master Zhufa of Han Dynasty". In these two tombs the two monks from ancient Indian to China, Jiashimoteng and Zhufalan were buried. The honorary titles on the steles of the two tombs were granted by Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty. Within Qingliang Palace, two statues of the two honorable monks were built by their Chinese disciple’s to express their.
Qingliang Palace, also called "Courtyard in the Sky", is another famous attraction in White Horse Temple. It is said that one of its abbots during the Kangxi period of Qing Dynasty once wrote a very eloquent poem to glorify its splendor. The complex that Qingliang Temple makes up is 43 meters long, 33 meters wide and 6 meters high. Made of black bricks, the typical building is of ancient oriental architectural style. The Pilu Palace, Palace for Vairochana Buddha, is the main building of this complex. The typical up curving eaves of it seems like a bird spreading its wings to fly into the high sky. Supporting minor palace and abodes of monks with their own small courtyards are neatly constructed and ordered. Within those yards are cypresses and laurel trees of hundreds years of age which help make a serene atmosphere. Its is said that the Qingliang Palace at first was the place where Emperor Mingdi of Han Dynasty spent his schooling years in childhood as well as his summer resort and, later the place where the ancient Indian monks lived and translated Buddhism scriptures.
On the east side of the gate of White Horse Temple, there is an exquisite towering pagoda of classic elegance called Qiyun Pagoda (literally meaning the pagoda as high as clouds). It is made of bricks and is square in cross section. Consisting of 13 stories, it is 35 meters high. Its typical structure distinguishes itself a very unique and rare pagoda in China. Qiyun Pagoda used to be a dagoba of White Horse Temple. The pagoda now tourists see was rebuilt in the 15th year of Dading period of Jin Dynasty (A.D. 1175) and is the oldest building preserved in Luoyang today.