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Vajpayee visits Buddhist heartland of China

Taking time off his busy schedule, Vajpayee reached central Chinese city of Luoyang and took a round of its several Buddhist sites.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2003 01:46 IST

After two days of intense discussions with the Chinese leadership in Beijing, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Wednesday visited Luoyang, the ancient capital of the Middle Kingdom.

Taking time off from his hectic schedule, Vajpyee went round the historic city in central China's Henan province famed for its Buddhist relics.

Vajpayee visited Baima Si or the White Horse Temple, considered the first Buddhist monastery built in China, one of the most venerated Buddhist shrines in the country.

It was constructed in 64 AD at imperial command to house the first two Buddhist monks from India, Kasyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna. The two monks travelled to China to spread the word of the Buddha and brought with them buddhist sutras and an image of the Buddha on white horses.

It was here that the Indian Sanskrit scriptures were first translated into Chinese.

"A visit to the White Horse Temple by an Indian leader is considered a special and rare honour by contemporary Buddhist clergy, believers and sympathisers as also local officials," local officials said.

Vajpayee also toured the famous longmen caves {regarded as the three most famous Buddhist-sculpted sites in China.

Running about one km along the east and west banks of the Yi river, the densely dotted rock faces have numerous caves containing over 100,000 Buddhist sculptures, the earliest dating back to 493 AD.

First Published: Jun 25, 2003 09:29 IST