A government-run Buddhist temple in China, that has been visited by many India leaders, has been hailed by experts for its role in the "intersection" of Chinese and Indian cultures and for symbolising the "splendid achievements of Sino-Indian cultural synergy".
The Baima temple in central Henan province has witnessed the mingling of Chinese and Indian cultures through the ages, Xinhua news agency reported.
Located in Luoyang city, the temple -- also known as White Horse temple -- is considered to be China's first "government-run" temple. With an area of about 3,450 square metres, the shrine was inaugurated by Indian President Pratibha Patil May 29, 2010.
According to historical documents, a Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) emperor authorised the construction of the Baima temple in honour of two Indian monks. The emperor ordered his ambassadors to seek Buddhist doctrines from the West.
The ambassadors returned to Luoyang with two eminent Indian monks in 67 A.D. The monks had Buddhist scriptures and statues, which were transported on the backs of white horses.
A temple was built, and China's first Buddhist scripture was translated from Sanskrit to Chinese by the two monks in this temple, from where Buddhism began to spread to East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Former Indian prime ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the Baima temple in 1993 and 2003 respectively.
The temple stands as an intersection for Chinese and Indian cultures, symbolising the splendid achievements of Sino-Indian cultural synergy, said a visiting Indian official, R.N. Biswas.
"Most of the young people in India know less about China; so this visit will arouse their interests and boost bilateral relations," Biswas said.
China and India have declared 2011 as the "Year of China-India Exchange", during which each side will invite 500 youths from the other side for a visit.
A delegation of 200 Indian youths recently visited the temple.
A 29-year-old Indian delegate, Vinod Sultanpuri, pointing to a peacock carved around the pillar of an Indian-style shrine in the temple, said: "It left me a familiar impression. This is our national bird."
"Buddhism originated in India, yet its styles of architecture vary around the world because they've been assimilated by local cultures along," he said.