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There is evidence of Buddhists in China as early as the 3 rd century, but Buddhism was not popular in China for years. Buddhism was probably introduced after the Han emperor Ming Ti had a dream of a flying golden deity that was interpreted as a vision of the Buddha. After this dream, the emperor sent emissaries to India who returned to China with the Sutra in Forty-two Sections. It is kept in a temple outside the capital of Lo-yang. Buddhism was brought to China from the trade routes of Southeast Asia, and grew slowly. Buddhism first became popular in China during the Han dynasty, and was full of magical practices, like the popular Chinese Taoism.
The first Chinese Buddhists taught that the soul was indestructible. Nirvana was the belief of immortality and peace. They also taught karma, which taught the people to be compassionate. There was always a connection between Taoism and Buddhism until the end of the Han dynasty. Everybody believed that Lao-tzu, had been reborn in India as the Buddha. Many Chinese emperors worshiped Lao-tzu and the Buddha on the same alter.
The first translations of Buddhist sutras into Chinese used a Taoist vocabulary so the Chinese could understand it better. One of the most important reasons why Buddhism grew in China during this period was because of translation. The most important translator was a very smart monk named Kumarajiva who had studied the Hindu Vedas, the occult sciences, astronomy, and the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras. During the 5 th and 6 th centuries Buddhist schools were started in China and India. Buddhism was becoming very powerful in China, there had been a large increase in the monk population, and Buddhism was becoming popular with the common people. When the Sui dynasty was started in China, Buddhism became the official religion.
The golden age of Buddhism in China occurred during the T'ang dynasty. Even though the T'ang emperors were usually Taoists, they favored Buddhism. The government took control over the monasteries and the legal status of monks. At this time, several Chinese schools developed their own way to teach the Buddhist texts. There was huge increase of Buddhist monasteries and the amount of land that they owned. During this period many scholars made pilgrimages to India.
These journeys really increased Buddhism in China because the pilgrims brought books back and shared all of their knowledge that they had gained along their journey. Buddhism could not replace its Taoist and Confucian rivals, so in 845 the emperor Wu-tsung began a major persecution. 4, 600 Buddhist temples and 40, 000 shrines were destroyed, and 260, 500 monks and nuns were forced to return to their old lives. Buddhism in China never recovered completely after the persecution of 845. It kept the same background and it still continued to play a significant role in the religious life of China. It kept the name Buddhism, but it was expressed in different books.
An example of one of these books is the y lu, or recorded sayings, of famous teachers that were taught by monks. It also had more creations such as the Journey to the West and The Dream of the Red Chamber. Buddhism blended with the Confucian- Neo-Confucian and Taoist traditions to form one big religion that contained all three traditions. There were many schools that were built, but the two that were the most well known were the Ch " an school which was known for its emphasis on meditation, and the Pure Land tradition, which emphasized dedication towards Buddhism. The former school had the largest impact on the upper class. The school became popular through the arts.
For example, Ch " an artists during the Sung dynasty had a huge impact on Chinese landscape painting. The Artists used pictures of flowers, rivers, and trees, painted with quick strokes, so that the people would understand how empty and terrible reality is. The Pure Land tradition had a larger influence on the whole population and was sometimes associated with secret societies and peasant revolts. The two obviously weird traditions were usually connected.
They also mixed it with other Buddhist things like the masses for the dead, which had originally been made popular by the doctors of Esoteric Buddhism. During the early years of the 20 th century, China had a Buddhist reform movement that was supposed to satisfy the Chinese Buddhist tradition and changing the Buddhist teachings and schools to todays standards. The Sino-Japanese War and a communist government have not been helped out the Buddhist religion. The Buddhist community was controlled during the Cultural Revolution.
Since 1976 the Chinese government has tried to be more patient, but they are not sure if Buddhism will become popular again in China. Bibliography:
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