India to gift Buddhist temple to China

IANS., 6 May 2010

NEW DELHI, India -- An Indian-style Buddhist temple, which was inspired by the Sanchi Stupa and took five years to build at a cost of $4 million, will be dedicated to the Chinese people by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil during her visit there next month.

The temple is located at Luoyang, one of China's ancient capitals, in central China's Henan province. It is adjacent to the White Horse Temple (Baima Si) built in the first century A.D. in honour of two Indian monks who travelled on horseback, carrying with them religious texts and an image of the Buddha.

The idea of a temple was proposed by the Chinese in 2003 when then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Luoyang. He promptly accepted the idea, realising the importance of a Buddhist shrine as a means for people-to-people contact.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit in 2008. The temple is ready for dedication May 27 as India and China celebrate 60 years of diplomatic ties.

India has provided technical, financial and other support for the temple that stands on a 6,000 sq metre plot provided by the Chinese government.

The construction task was assigned to New Delhi-based architects Akshaya Jain and Raka Chakravarty, who won an architectural design competition organised by the Ministry of External Affairs. Assisted by Kshitij Jain, the duo kept in mind that the design was to draw inspiration from the Sanchi Stupa with an idol of the seated Buddha in the preaching posture.

Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh is known for its Stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The most famous of these monuments, the Sanchi Stupa, was originally built by emperor Asoka.