Buddhist temples are perfect samples of Asian architecture. In this respect, Chinese Buddhist temples are particularly noteworthy since they mirror the architecture of China and include religious elements. In this respect, the White Horse Temple in China is particularly noteworthy. I visited the temple and was impressed by its architecture and atmosphere which was really inspiring, even though I am not a Buddhist. In fact, the Buddhist temple is fashioned after imperial palaces and bears very little resemblance to the temple in India or other Buddhist countries.
Entering the front hall, one is confronted by four huge images, made from wood, two on each size. These are the Four Heavenly Kings or Devas, the Guardians of the Four Directions and the hall is named after them. In this hall, one is greeted at the entrance, by the lovable and kindly Buddha-to-be, Maitreya Buddha, with his fat paunch, looking joyously toward the entrance. Directly behind the Mi-Lei-Fwo, separated by the wall, is the great deva Wei-To, the Porjector of Buddhist temples and the faith. He is depicted clad in full armor and holding a gnarled staff.
Wei-To is under the four Heavenly Kings, is accorded the title of “Protector of Buddhist Books”. He is facing the Great Hall known as the Ta-Hung-Pau-Tien which is separated from the front hall by a wall or courtyard. In the Great Hall the main altar is found and on it is an image of Sakyamuni Buddha and his two for most disciples, Mahakasyapa and Ananda. The arrangement and choice of personages is very skilful. On the east and west walls of the Great Hall are arranged the figures of the Eighteen Arhats who are represented as possessing various supernatural powers.
Along the north wall, there are the images of Jan-teng Fwo, the ancient Buddha who predicted Sakyamuni’s Buddhahood. Also, there is the image of the Protector of Buddhism in the hall. It is here Buddhists offer their prayers and offerings of flowers, fruits and other gifts which are placed on the table in front of the main altar. Behind the central images of this hall and facing northwards, is placed the image of Kuan-Yin Pusa. The third of the Back Hall is divided into several smaller halls.
The first hall is the altar of the Buddha, the right housing the funerary tablets of the founder of the temple, while the left is the Teaching or the Meditation Hall. On the side of these two main buildings are the living quarters, the dining area and the kitchen for monks. The visit of this Buddhist Temple produces a profound impression on an individual. In this respect, it should be said that it is not necessary to be a devoted Buddhist to be impressed by the spiritual power of the temple. In fact, the exterior of the temple prepares visitors to the perception of the religious spirit of the building.
At the same time, the true perception of the religious message begins when you enter into the temple. The images of deities simply surround the visitor and influence the perception of the interior. The visitor can hardly avoid being influenced by a very specific atmosphere of the building. The images of deities are backed up by the specific singing. At the same time, visitors of the temple who are truly worshiping Buddha radiate inspiration and their sacred attitude to all images and elements of the temple provokes the visitor to follow their example at the subconscious level.
In fact, the temple is constructed in such a way that a visitor steadily moves through the temple and cannot avoid the impact of the religious elements. In addition, it is worth mentioning the fact that the temple is one of the prominent examples of the traditional Chinese architecture. This means that the temple has not only a significant religious value but it has also a considerable cultural and historical value. In such a way, the maintenance of the temple turns out to be very important not only for adepts of Buddhism but also for local culture.
At any rate the temple is visited by a large number of tourists annually. Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the White Horse Temple is a remarkable piece of Chinese imperial architecture. However, it represents an extraordinary value for devoted Buddhists who can satisfy their religious needs attending the temple. At the same time, the temple is also very interesting for tourists.