White Horse Pagoda, China

Legends and myths of the ancient Dunhuang - White Horse Pagoda

Dunhuang is one of the main cultural and tourist centers in China, located in the northwest province of Gansu. The city and its surroundings are famous for their numerous historical and natural attractions, including the ruins of ancient cities and Buddhist temples, famous cave-temple complex of Mogao, Yadan National Park and, of course, the famous White Horse Pagoda, built in 386 AD in Dunhuang.

The construction of the pagoda associated with many legends. According to one of them the pagoda was built and named in honor of the horse of the Buddhist monk Kumarajiva who, took the Silk Road on his way to the East, stopped to spend the night in the city. At night, in a dream Buddha told him that his faithful friend - the white horse would go to the other lands, when the monk woke up, he realized that the horse could not endure the long and difficult journey and died. The city-folk, who later adopted Buddhism, built a pagoda next to the horse’s grave – as a symbol of the monk’s loyalty to his four-legged friend.

However, the most commonly used version is considered another legend. In speaks about one of the founders of Buddhism in China - Xuan Jiang and his white horse. According to this legend, the famous monk, passing through Dunhuang fell into the trap set by evil spirits and his horse had to sacrifice its life to save his master. The city-folk called pagoda – the White Horse Pagoda in gratitude for saving the life of Xuan Jiang. One thing is certain- the pagoda was built as a symbol of friendship between man and animal.

Pagoda is a 12-meter-high building, which has the features of all ages. Each Chinese dynasty that ruled China, rebuild it after its fashion, adding something of its own to the architecture of the pagoda building. The pagoda was of particular importance during the operation of the Silk Road. It was the place where lonely weary travelers passing through Dunhuang could stay and find lodging for the night.

The townsmen treated this monument with respect because the pagoda is associated with the names of many famous Buddhistic monks, who used to stay there. The White Horse Pagoda is one of the most important monuments not only of Dunhuang, but also of the Great Silk Road, so it is included in many tourist destinations of the most famous trade route in the world, passing through Dunhuang.