12km east of Luoyang, founded in the year of 68 AD, the White Horse Temple was the first Buddhist temple constructed on Chinese soil. Legend says that the Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han dreamed of a golden figure with the sun and moon behind its head. Two monks sent to search for the origin of the dream reached India and returned riding white horses with two Indian monks in tow, and a bundle of sutras. This temple was built to honor them. Today, Ming and Qing structures stand at the site of the original temple with two stone horses standing on either side of the entrance. Home to a thriving community of monks, including a few Westerners, the White Horse temple is primarily a place of worship rather than a tourist attraction, and over-inquisitive visitors are tactfully but firmly pointed in the right direction.
The temple compound covers an area of 200 mu (13 hectares), and faces south. A stone archway has been recently built 150 metres in front of the original gate. Between the archway and gate lies a pool with fountains, spanned by three stone bridges. Entering the temple today, one sees the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, Hall of Greeting, the Cool and Clear Terrace and the pavilion. On each side of the pavilion are the Sutra House and the Magic Weapon House.