by INDRANI BAGCHI, TIMES NEWS NETWORK, DECEMBER 08, 2004
NEW DELHI, India -- India's offer to build a Buddhist temple in Luoyang in China's Henan province betrays a strong sense of historical deja vu.
The White Horse Temple in Luoyang was the first-ever Buddhist temple to be built in China, in 67 AD. Legend goes, the Han emperor Ming Di, of the Eastern Han dynasty, dreamt of the Buddha and sent his officials westwards to India to obtain scriptures.
The officials encountered two Indian Buddhist monks in present-day Afghanistan, Kasyapa Matanga and Dharmaranya. They returned to China with the monks, Buddhist sutras and a portrait of Sakya Muni carried on a white horse.
The emperor built the first Buddhist temple and renamed it the Baima Temple after the horse. Luoyang has carved for itself a special place among Buddhist pilgrims.
Apart from the temple, the Longmen caves with 17 metre-tall Buddhas have their own attraction, regarded as among the famous Buddhist art carvings in China, dating back to 493 AD.
In fact, last year, when the former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China, he took off for an entire day to visit Luoyang. He was only the second Indian leader to do so, preceded by P V Narasimha Rao in 1993.