Baima Temple is the first official government sanctioned Buddhist temple in China. Founded in 68 AD, Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han dynasty commissioned the temple after two Indian monks brought the first Buddhist scriptures to China.
Unless you’re a Buddhist temple fanatic and love the history, going to Baima Temple by itself probably isn’t worth the trek from wherever you’re starting out from (most likely Xi’an). But, as an add-on to a visit to the Longmen Grottoes, Baima is perfect. If you take a morning train to Luoyang, you can easily see both Baima Temple and the Longmen Grottoes in one day.
The stories goes that Emperor Ming had a dream one night and saw a golden man or something or other that resembled Buddhist deities. Because of the dream, Emperor Ming sent out two of his emissaries to go find some monks and Buddhist scrolls to bring back to China.
The emissaries made it as far as modern day Afghanistan when they bumped into two Indian monks. The monks agreed to return to Luoyang, the then capital city of China, and rode in on two white horses (hence the name White Horse Temple). Today, two stone horses stand outside the main gate of the temple as a tribute to the Indian monks.
Plan on spending a leisurely 2-3 hours at Baima Temple, as the overall area covers a fairly large plot of land and there are plenty of individual chambers to visit inside the temple grounds.