1. Chinese Buddhism
Chinese Buddhism or Han Buddhism has shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas including art, politics, literature, philosophy, medicine and material culture.
The translation of a large body of Indian Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the inclusion of these translations together with works composed in China into a printed Canon had far-reaching implications for the dissemination of Buddhism throughout the East Asian cultural sphere, including Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
Chinese Buddhism is also marked by the interaction between Indian religions, Chinese religion and Daoism.
2. Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE)
Various legends tell of the presence of Buddhism in Chinese soil in very Ancient Times:
While the scholarly consensus is that Buddhism first came to China in the 1st century CE during the Han dynasty, through missionaries from India, it actually is not known precisely when Buddhism entered China.
Generations of scholars have debated whether Buddhist missionaries first reached Han China via the maritime or overland routes of the Silk Road:
The Maritime Route hypothesis proposed that Buddhism was originally practiced in Southern China, the Yangtze River and Huai River region.
On the other hand, it must have entered from the North-West via the Hexi Corridor to the Yellow River basin and the North China Plain in the course of the 1st century A.D.
The scene becomes clearer from the mid-2nd century onward, when the first known missionaries started their translation activities in the capital, Luoyang.
The Book of the Later Han records that in 65 CE, prince Liu Ying of Chu (present day Jiangsu) "delighted in the practices of Huang-Lao Daoism" and had both Buddhist monks and laypeople at his court who presided over Buddhist ceremonies.
The Overland Route hypothesis proposed that Buddhism disseminated through Central Asia – in particular, the Kushan Empire, which was often known in ancient Chinese sources as Da Yuezhi ("Great Yuezhi"), after the founding tribe:
According to this hypothesis, Buddhism was first practiced in China in the Western Regions and the Han capital Luoyang (present day Henan), where Emperor Ming of Han established the White Horse Temple in 68 CE.
Today the most plausible theory is that Buddhism reached China from the Greater Yuezhi of northwest India and took the land route to reach Han China:
After entering into China, Buddhism blended with early Daoism and Chinese traditional esoteric arts and its iconography received blind worship.
It’s said that throughout the entire Han dynasty, Daoism and Buddhism were constantly confused and appeared as single religion:
A century after prince Liu Ying's court supported both Daoists and Buddhists, in 166 Emperor Huan of Han made offerings to the Buddha and sacrifices to the Huang-Lao gods Yellow Emperor and Laozi.
The first Chinese apologist for Buddhism, a late 2nd-century layman named Mouzi, said it was through Daoism that he was led to Buddhism—which he calls dadao (the "Great Dao").
Early Chinese Buddhism was conflated and mixed with Daoism, and it was within Daoist circles that it found its first adepts.
Traces are evident in Han period Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures, which hardly differentiated between Buddhist Nirvāṇa and Daoist Immortality.
Wuwei, the Daoist concept of non-interference, was the normal term for translating Sanskrit Nirvāṇa, which is transcribed as niepan in modern Chinese usage.
3. Traditional accounts
A number of popular accounts in historical Chinese literature have led to the popularity of certain legends regarding the introduction of Buddhism into China.
According to the most popular one, Emperor Ming of Han (28–75 CE) precipitated the introduction of Buddhist teachings into China. The work (early 3-5th century) Mouzi Lihuolun first records this legend:
In olden days Emperor Ming saw in a dream a god whose body had the brilliance of the sun and who flew before his palace; and he rejoiced exceedingly at this.
The next day he asked his officials: "What god is this?"
the scholar Fu Yi said:
"Your subject has heard it said that in India there is somebody who has attained the Dao and who is called Buddha; he flies in the air, his body had the brilliance of the Sun; this must be that god."
The emperor then sent an envoy to Tianzhu (Southern India) to inquire about the teachings of the Buddha.
Buddhist scriptures were said to have been returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named. Two Indian monks also returned with them, named Dharmarātna and Kāśyapa Mātaṇga.
An 8th-century Chinese fresco at Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu portrays Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BCE) worshiping statues of a golden man; "golden men brought in 121 BCE by a great Han general in his campaigns against the nomads".
However, neither the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) nor Book of Han histories of Emperor Wu mentions a golden Buddhist statue.
4. The first translations
The first documented translation of Buddhist Scriptures from various Indian languages into Chinese occurs in 148 CE with the arrival of the Parthian prince-turned-monk An Shigao:
He worked to establish Buddhist temples in Luoyang and organized the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, testifying to the beginning of a wave of Central Asian Buddhist proselytism that lasted for several centuries.
An Shigao translated Buddhist texts on basic doctrines, meditation, and Abhidharma.
An Xuan, a Parthian layman who worked alongside An Shigao, also translated an early Mahāyāna Buddhist text on the Bodhisattva path.
Mahāyāna Buddhism was first widely propagated in China by the Kushan monk Lokakṣema (active c. 164–186 CE), who came from the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhāra:
Lokakṣema translated important Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, as well as rare, early Mahāyāna sūtras on topics such as Samādhi, and meditation on the Buddha Akṣobhya.
These translations from Lokakṣema continue to give insight into the early period of Mahāyāna Buddhism. This corpus of texts often includes emphasizes ascetic practices and forest dwelling, and absorption in states of meditative concentration:
Meditation and meditative states seem to have occupied a central place in early Mahāyāna, certainly because of their spiritual efficacy but also because they may have given access to fresh revelations and inspiration.
5. Early Buddhist schools
During the early period of Chinese Buddhism, the Indian early Buddhist schools recognized as important, and whose texts were studied, were:
The Dharmaguptakas made more efforts than any other sect to spread Buddhism outside India, to areas such as Afghanistan, Central Asia, and China, and they had great success in doing so.
Therefore, most countries which adopted Buddhism from China, also adopted the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya and ordination lineage for Bhikṣus and Bhikṣuṇīs.
It was the Dharmaguptakas who were the first Buddhists to establish themselves in Central Asia:
They appear to have carried out a vast circling movement along the trade routes from Aparanta north-west into Iran and at the same time into Oḍḍiyāna (the Suvāstu (Swat) valley, north of Gandhāra, which became one of their main centres).
After establishing themselves as far west as Parthia they followed the "silk route", the east-west axis of Asia, eastwards across Central Asia and on into China, where they effectively established Buddhism in the 2-3rd centuries A.D.
The Mahīśāsakas and Kāśyapīyas appear to have followed them across Asia into China.
For the earlier period of Chinese Buddhism it was the Dharmaguptakas who constituted the main and most influential school, and even later their Vinaya remained the basis of the discipline there.
6. Early translation methods
Initially, Buddhism in China faced a number of difficulties in becoming established:
The concept of monasticism and the aversion to social affairs seemed to contradict the long-established norms and standards established in Chinese society.
Some even declared that Buddhism was harmful to the authority of the state, that Buddhist monasteries contributed nothing to the economic prosperity of China, that Buddhism was barbaric and undeserving of Chinese cultural traditions.
However, Buddhism was often associated with Daoism in its ascetic meditative tradition, and for this reason a concept-matching system was used by some early Indian translators, to adapt native Buddhist ideas onto Daoist ideas and terminology.
Buddhism appealed to Chinese intellectuals and elites and the development of gentry Buddhism was sought as an alternative to Confucianism and Daoism, since Buddhism's emphasis on morality and ritual appealed to Confucianists and the desire to cultivate inner wisdom appealed to Daoists.
Gentry Buddhism was a medium of introduction for the beginning of Buddhism in China, it gained imperial and courtly support. By the early 5th century Buddhism was established in south China.
During this time, Indian monks continued to travel along the Silk Road to teach Buddhism, and translation work was primarily done by foreign monks rather than Chinese.
7. The arrival of Kumārajīva (334–413 CE)
When the famous monk Kumārajīva was captured during the Chinese conquest of the Buddhist kingdom of Kucha, he was imprisoned for many years.
When he was released in AD 401, he immediately took a high place in Chinese Buddhism and was appraised as a Great Master from the West.
He was especially valued by Emperor Yao Xing of the state of Later Qin, who gave him an honorific title and treated him like a god.
Kumārajīva revolutionized Chinese Buddhism with his high quality translations (from AD 402–413), which are still praised for their flowing smoothness, clarity of meaning, subtlety, and literary skill.
Due to the efforts of Kumārajīva, Buddhism in China became not only recognized for its practice methods, but also as high philosophy and religion.
The arrival of Kumārajīva also set a standard for Chinese translations of Buddhist texts, effectively doing away with previous concept-matching systems.
The translations of Kumārajīva have often remained more popular than those of other translators.
Among the most well-known are his translations were:
a) Diamond Sutra,
b) Amitābha Sutra,
c) Lotus Sutra,
d) Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra,
f) Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra.
8. A completed Sūtra Piṭaka
Around the time of Kumārajīva, the 4 major Sanskrit Āgamas were also translated into Chinese. Each of the Āgamas was translated independently by a different Indian monk:
These Āgamas comprise the only other complete surviving Sūtra Piṭaka, which is generally comparable to the Pāli Sutta Piṭaka of Theravada Buddhism.
The teachings of the Sūtra Piṭaka are usually considered to be one of the earliest teachings on Buddhism and a core text of the Early Buddhist Schools in China.
It is noteworthy that before the modern period, these Āgamas were seldom if ever used by Buddhist communities, due to their Hīnayāna attribution, as Chinese Buddhism was already avowedly Mahāyāna in persuasion.
9. Early Chinese Buddhist traditions
Due to the wide proliferation of Buddhist texts available in Chinese and the large number of foreign monks who came to teach Buddhism in China, much like new branches growing from a main tree trunk, various specific focus traditions emerged:
Among the most influential of these was the practice of Pure Land Buddhism established by Hui Yuan, which focused on Amitābha Buddha and his Western Pure Land of Sukhāvatī.
Other early traditions were the Tiantai, Huayan (Flower Garland) and the Vinaya School.
Such schools were based upon the primacy of the Lotus Sūtra, the Avataṁsaka Sūtra, and the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, respectively, along with supplementary sūtras and commentaries.
The Tiantai founder Zhiyi wrote several works that became important and widely read meditation manuals in China such as the "Concise Śamatha-Vipaśyanā", and the "Great Śamatha-Vipaśyanā."
10. Daily life of nuns
An important aspect of a Nun was the practice of a vegetarian food as it was heavily emphasized in the Buddhist religion to not harm any living creature for the purpose of them to consume.
There were also some Nuns who did not eat regularly, as an attempt of fasting.
Another dietary practice of nuns was their practice of consuming fragrant oil or incense as a “preparation for self- immolation by fire.”
Some daily activities of Nuns include the reading, memorizing, and reciting of Buddhist scriptures and religious text. Another was meditation as it is seen as the “heart of Buddhist monastic life.”
There are biographers explaining when nuns mediate they enter a state where their body becomes hard, rigid, and stone-like where they are often mistaken as lifeless.
11. Chan: pointing directly to the mind
In the 5th century, the Chan (Zen) teachings began in China, traditionally attributed to the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, a legendary figure.
The school heavily utilized the principles found in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, a sūtra utilizing the teachings of Yogācāra and those of Tathāgatagarbha, and which teaches the One Vehicle (Skt. Ekayāna) to Buddhahood.
In the early years, the teachings of Chan were therefore referred to as the "One Vehicle School."
The earliest masters of the Chan School were called "Laṅkāvatāra Masters", for their mastery of practice according to the principles of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra.
The principal teachings of Chan were later often known for the use of so-called encounter stories and Koans, and the teaching methods used in them.
Nan Huai-Chin identifies the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and the Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) as the principle texts of the Chan School.
12. Xuanzang's journey to the West
During the early Tang dynasty, in 629-645, the monk Xuanzang journeyed to India and visited over one hundred kingdoms, and wrote extensive and detailed reports of his findings, which have subsequently become important for the study of India during this period.
During his travels he visited holy sites, learned the lore of his faith, and studied with many famous Buddhist masters, especially at the famous centre of Buddhist learning at Nālanda University.
When he returned, he brought with him some 657 Sanskrit texts. Xuanzang also returned with relics, statues, and Buddhist paraphernalia loaded onto 22 horses.
With the emperor's support, he set up a large translation bureau in Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), drawing students and collaborators from all over East Asia.
He is credited with the translation of some 1 330 fascicles of scriptures into Chinese. His strongest personal interest in Buddhism was in the field of Yogācāra, or "Consciousness-only".
The force of his own study, translation and commentary of the texts of these traditions initiated the development of the Faxiang School in East Asia:
Although the school itself did not thrive for a long time, its theories regarding perception, consciousness, karma, rebirth, etc. found their way into the doctrines of other more successful schools.
Xuanzang's closest and most eminent student was Kuiji who became recognized as the 1st patriarch of the Faxiang School.
Xuanzang's logic, as described by Kuiji, was often misunderstood by scholars of Chinese Buddhism because they lacked the necessary background in Indian logic.
Another important disciple was the Korean monk Woncheuk (613–696).
Xuanzang's translations were especially important for the transmission of Indian texts related to the Yogācāra School:
He translated central Yogācāra texts such as the Saṁdhi-nirmocana Sūtra and the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra, as well as important texts such as the Mahā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra and the Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaidūrya-prabharāja Sūtra (Medicine Buddha Sūtra).
He is credited with writing or compiling the Cheng Weishi Lun (Vijñapti-mātratā-siddhi Śāstra) as composed from multiple commentaries on Vasubandhu's Triṁśikā-vijñapti-mātratā.
His translation of the Heart Sūtra became and remains the standard in all East Asian Buddhist sects. The proliferation of these texts expanded the Chinese Buddhist canon significantly with high quality translations of some of the most important Indian Buddhist texts.
13. Caves, art, and technology
The popularization of Buddhism in this period is evident in the many scripture-filled Caves and structures surviving from this period:
a) The Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu province,
b) the Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang in Henan
c) the Yungang Grottoes near Datong in Shanxi
- are the most renowned examples from the Northern, Sui and Tang Dynasties.
The Leshan Giant Buddha, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century during the Tang dynasty and looking down on the confluence of 3 rivers, is still the largest stone Buddha statue in the world.
Monks and pious laymen spread Buddhist concepts through story-telling and preaching from sūtra texts:
These oral presentations were written down as Bianwen (transformation stories) which influenced the writing of fiction by their new ways of telling stories combining prose and poetry.
Popular legends in this style included Mulian Rescues His Mother, in which a monk descends into hell in a show of filial piety.
Making duplications of Buddhist texts was considered to bring meritorious karma:
Printing from individually carved wooden blocks and from clay or metal movable type proved much more efficient than hand copying and eventually eclipsed it.
The Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) of 868 CE, a Buddhist scripture discovered in 1907 inside the Mogao Caves, is the first dated example of block printing.
14. Arrival of Esoteric Buddhism
The Kaiyuan's 3 Great Enlightened Masters, Śubhakarasiṁha (637-735 CE), Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra, established Esoteric Buddhism in China from AD 716-720 during the reign of emperor Xuanzong:
They came to Daxing Shansi (Daxingshan, Great Propagating Goodness Temple), which was the predecessor of Temple of the Great Enlightener Mahāvairocana.
Daxing Shansi was established in the ancient capital Chang'an, today's Xi'an, and became one of the 4 great centres of scripture translation supported by the imperial court. They had translated many Buddhist scriptures, sūtra and tantra, from Sanskrit to Chinese.
They had also assimilated the prevailing teachings of China: Daoism and Confucianism, with Buddhism, and had further evolved the practice of the Esoteric school.
They brought to the Chinese a mysterious, dynamic, and magical teaching, which included mantra formula and detailed rituals to protect a person or an empire, to affect a person's fate after death, and, particularly popular, to bring rain in times of drought.
It is not surprising, then, that all 3 masters were well received by the Emperor Tang Xuanzong, and their teachings were quickly taken up at the Tang court and among the elite.
Mantrayāna altars were installed in temples in the capital, and by the time of emperor Tang Daizong (r. 762–779) its influence among the upper classes outstripped that of Daoism.
However, relations between Amoghavajra and Daizong were especially good:
In life the emperor favoured Amoghavajra with titles and gifts, and when the master died in 774, he honoured his memory with a Stūpa, or funeral monument.
The Esoteric Buddhist lineage of China (and almost all of Buddhism in China at the time) was nearly wiped out by the Emperor Tang Wuzong, leading to the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution.
Master Huiguo, the last known disciple of Amoghavajra, foresaw this:
He was happy to see the arrival of Japanese student monk Kūkai and tried to teach him every detail in Esoteric Buddhism at that time, consisting of 2 major divisions, the Womb Realm and the Diamond Realm.
Master Kūkai went back to Japan to establish the Japanese Esoteric school of Buddhism, later known as Shingon Buddhism.
Huiguo died shortly after his meeting with Kūkai and not long before Emperor Wuzong's persecution.
The Esoteric Buddhist lineages transmitted to Japan under the auspices of the monks Kūkai and Saicho later formulated the teachings transmitted to them to create the Shingon sect and the Tendai sect.
15. Tang state repression of 845
There were several components that led to opposition of Buddhism: One factor is the foreign origins of Buddhism, unlike Daoism and Confucianism.
Han Yu (768 -824) wrote,
"Buddha was a man of the barbarians who did not speak the language of China and wore clothes of a different fashion.
His sayings did not concern the ways of our ancient kings, nor did his manner of dress conform to their laws. He understood neither the duties that bind sovereign and subject, nor the affections of father and son."
Other components included the Buddhists' withdrawal from society, since the Chinese believed that Chinese people should be involved with family life. Wealth, tax-exemption status and power of the Buddhist temples and monasteries also annoyed many critics.
As mentioned earlier, persecution came during the reign of Emperor Wuzong in the Tang dynasty: Wuzong was said to hate the sight of Buddhist monks, who he thought were tax-evaders.
In 845, he ordered the destruction of 4 600 Buddhist monasteries and 40 000 temples. More than 400 000 Buddhist monks and nuns then became peasants liable to the Two Taxes (grain and cloth).
Wuzong cited that Buddhism was an alien religion, which is the reason he also persecuted the Christians in China.
Some argue that Buddhist institutions had accumulated so much precious metal which the government needed to secure the money supply.
Ancient Chinese Buddhism never fully recovered from the persecution.
16. 5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms (907–960/979)
The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period was an era of political upheaval in China, between the fall of the Tang dynasty and the founding of the Song dynasty.
During this period, 5 dynasties quickly succeeded one another in the North, and more than 12 Independent States were established, mainly in the South. However, only 10 are traditionally listed, hence the era's name, "Ten Kingdoms".
This era also led to the founding of the Liao dynasty.
After the fall of the Tang dynasty, China was without effective central control during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. China was divided into several autonomous regions.
Support for Buddhism was limited to a few areas. The Huayan and Tiantai schools suffered from the changing circumstances, since they had depended on imperial support.
The collapse of Tang society also deprived the aristocratic classes of wealth and influence, which meant a further drawback for Buddhism.
Yuquan Shenxiu's Northern Chan School and Dajian Huineng’s Southern Chan School didn't survive the changing circumstances.
Nevertheless, Chan emerged as the dominant stream within Chinese Buddhism, but with various schools developing various emphasises in their teachings, due to the regional orientation of the period.
The Fayan School, named after Fayan Wenyi (Qingliang Wenyi, 885–958) became the dominant school in the southern kingdoms of Nantang (Jiangxi, Chiang-hsi) and Wuyue (Zhejiang).
17. Song Dynasty (960–1279)
The Song dynasty is divided into 2 distinct periods: the Northern Song and Southern Song:
During the Northern Song (960–1127), the Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) and the dynasty controlled most of inner China.
The Southern Song (1127–1279) refers to the period after the Song lost control of northern China to the Jin dynasty. During this time, the Song court retreated south of the Yangtze River and established their capital at Lin'an (now Hangzhou).
Although the Song Dynasty had lost control of the traditional birthplace of Chinese civilization along the Yellow River, the Song economy was not in ruins, as the Southern Song Empire contained 60% of China's population and a majority of the most productive agricultural land.
During the Song dynasty, Chan was used by the government to strengthen its control over the country, and Chan grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism. An ideal picture of the Chan of the Tang period was produced, which served the legacy of this newly acquired status.
In the early Song dynasty Chan-Pure Land syncretism became a dominant movement.
Buddhist ideology began to merge with Confucianism and Daoism, due in part to the use of existing Chinese philosophical terms in the translation of Buddhist scriptures:
Various Confucian scholars of the Song dynasty, including Zhu Xi (1130 -1200), sought to redefine Confucianism as Neo-Confucianism.
During the Song dynasty, in 1021 CE, it is recorded that there were 458 855 Buddhist monks and nuns actively living in monasteries. The total number of monks was 397 615, while the total number of nuns was recorded as 61 240.
18. Mongol Yuan rule (1279–1368)
During the Mongol Yuan domination, the Mongol emperors made Esoteric Buddhism an official religion of their empire which China was a part of, and Tibetan lamas were given patronage at the court.
A common perception was that this patronage of lamas caused corrupt forms of tantra to become widespread.
When the Mongol Yuan dynasty was overthrown and the Ming dynasty was established, the Tibetan lamas were expelled from the court, and this form of Buddhism was denounced as not being an orthodox path.
By the Ming dynasty, the Chan School was so firmly established that all monks were affiliated with either the Linji School or the Caodong School.
19. Eminent Monks
During the Ming dynasty, Hānshān Deqīng (1546–1623) was one of the great reformers of Chinese Buddhism:
Like many of his contemporaries, he advocated the dual practice of the Chan and Pure Land methods, and advocated the use of the Nianfo ("Mindfulness of the Buddha") technique to purify the mind for the attainment of self-realization.
He also directed practitioners in the use of mantras as well as scripture reading. He was also renowned as a lecturer and commentator and admired for his strict adherence to the precepts.
For Chan masters in this period such as Hānshān Deqīng, training through self-cultivation was encouraged, and clichéd or formulaic instructions were despised.
Eminent monks who practiced meditation and asceticism without proper Dharma transmission were acclaimed for having acquiring "wisdom without a teacher."
20. Eminent Nuns
During the Ming Dynasty, women of different ages were able to enter the monastic life from as young as 5-6 years old to 70 years old.
There were various reasons why a Ming woman entered the religious life of becoming a nun:
Some women had fallen ill and believed by entering the religious life they were able to relieve their sufferings.
There were other women, who had become widowed due to the death of her husband or betrothed so out of choice chose to join a convent.
Many women who were left widowed were affected financially as they often had to support their in-laws, and parents, therefore, joining a convent was not a bad option.
By devoting themselves to religion, they received less social criticism from society because during the Ming time women were expected to remain faithful to their husband.
During the time of late Ming, a period of social upheaval, the monastery or convent provided shelter for these women who no longer had protection from a male in their family: husband, son or father due to death, financial constraint and other situations.
However, in most circumstances, a woman who wanted to join a nunnery was because they wanted to escape a marriage or they felt isolated as her husband has died- she also had to overcome many difficulties that arose socially from this decision.
For most of these women, a convent was seen as a haven to escape their family or an unwanted marriage:
Such difficulties were due to the social expectation of the women as it was considered unfilial to leave their duty as a wife, daughter, mother or daughter in law.
There were also some cases where some individuals were sold by their family to earn money in a convent by reciting sutras, and performing Buddhist services because they weren't able to financially support them.
Lastly, there were some who became part of the Buddhist convent because of a spiritual calling where they found comfort to the religious life:
Those women had found happiness and fulfilment in the convent that they could not seek in the outside world.
Despite the many reasons for entering the religious life, most women had to obtain permission from a male in their life (father, husband, or son). Most of the nuns who have entered the religious life secluded themselves from the outside life away from their family and relatives.
Most nuns participated in religious practices with devotions to many different Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. Some examples of Bodhisattvas are Guan Yin, Amita Buddha, Maitreya, and Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja.
21. Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
The Qing court endorsed the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism.
Early in the Taiping rebellion, the Taiping rebels targeted Buddhism. In the Battle of Nanjing (1853), the Taiping army butchered thousands of monks in Nanjing.
But from the middle of the Taiping rebellion, Taiping leaders took a more moderate approach, demanding that monks should have licences.
Around 1900, Buddhists from other Asian countries showed a growing interest in Chinese Buddhism. Anagārika Dharmapāla visited Shanghai in 1893:
- intending "to make a tour of China, to arouse the Chinese Buddhists to send missionaries to India to restore Buddhism there, and then to start a propaganda throughout the whole world", but eventually limiting his stay to Shanghai.
Japanese Buddhist missionaries were active in China in the beginning of the 20th century.
22. Republic of China (established 1912)
The modernisation of China led to the end of the Chinese Empire, and the installation of the Republic of China,
- which lasted on the mainland until the Communist Revolution and the installation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 which also led to the ROC government's exodus to Taiwan.
Under influence of the western culture, attempts were being made to revitalize Chinese Buddhism:
Most notable were the Humanistic Buddhism of Taixu, and the revival of Chinese Chan by Xuyun:
Xuyun (1840-1959) is generally regarded as one of the most influential Buddhist teachers of the 19-20th centuries.
Other influential teachers in the early 20th century included Pure land Buddhist Yin-kuang and artist Hong Yi. Layman Zhao Puchu worked much on the revival.
Until 1949, monasteries were built in the Southeast Asian countries, for example by monks of Guanghua Monastery, to spread Chinese Buddhism. Presently, Guanghua Monastery has 7 branches in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia.
Several Chinese Buddhist teachers left mainland China during the Communist Revolution, and settled in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Master Hsing Yun (1927–present) is the founder of Fo Guang Shan monastery and lay organization the Buddha's Light International Association:
Born in Jiangsu Province in mainland China, he entered the Saṅgha at the age of 12, and came to Taiwan in 1949:
He founded Fo Guang Shan monastery in 1967 and the Buddha's Light International Association in 1992. These are among the largest monastic and lay Buddhist organizations in Taiwan from the late 20th to early 21st centuries:
He advocates Humanistic Buddhism, with the broad modern Chinese Buddhist progressive attitude towards the religion.
Master Sheng Yen (1930–2009) was the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan:
During his time in Taiwan, Sheng Yen was well known as one of the progressive Buddhist teachers who sought to teach Buddhism in a modern and Western-influenced world.
Master Wei Chueh was born in 1928 in Sichuan, mainland China, and ordained in Taiwan:
In 1982, he founded Lin Quan Temple in Taipei County and became known for his teaching on Chan practices by offering many lectures and 7-day Chan retreats.
23. Chinese Buddhist Association
Unlike Catholicism and other branches of Christianity, there was no organization in China that embraced all monastics in China, nor even all monastics within the same sect:
Traditionally each monastery was autonomous, with authority resting on each respective abbot.
In 1953, the Chinese Buddhist Association was established at a meeting with 121 delegates in Beijing. The meeting also elected a chairman, 4 honorary chairmen, 7 vice-chairmen, a secretary general, 3 deputy secretaries-general, 18 members of a standing committee, and 93 directors.
The 4 elected honorary chairmen were the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, the Grand Lama of Inner Mongolia, and Venerable Master Xuyun.
24. Second Buddhist Revival
Since the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, a new revival of Chinese Buddhism has been taking place. Ancient Buddhist temples are being restored and new Buddhist temples are being built.
Chinese Buddhist temples, administrated by local governments, have become increasingly commercialized by sales of tickets, incense, or other religious items; soliciting donations; and even the listing of temples on the stock market and local governments obtain large incomes.
In October 2012, the State Administration for Religious Affairs announced a crackdown on religious profiteering. Many sites have done enough repairs and have already cancelled ticket fares and are receiving voluntary donation instead.
The 108-metre-high Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya statue was enshrined on April 24, 2005 with the participation of 108 eminent monks from various Buddhist groups from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and tens of thousands of pilgrims. The delegation also included monks from the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
China is one of the countries with the most of the world's highest statues, many of which are Buddhist statues.
In April 2006 China organized the World Buddhist Forum, an event now held every 2 years, and in March 2007 the government banned mining on Buddhist sacred mountains. In May of the same year, in Changzhou, the world's tallest pagoda was built and opened.
In March 2008 the Taiwan-based organizations Tzu Chi Foundation and Fo Guang Shan were approved to open a branch in mainland China.
Currently, there are about 1.3 billion Chinese living in the People's Republic. Surveys have found that around 18.2- 20% of this population adheres to Buddhism.
Chinese Buddhism is mainly practiced by ethnic Han-Chinese in Southeast Asia.
The first Chinese master to teach Westerners in North America was Hsuan Hua, who taught Chan and other traditions of Chinese Buddhism in San Francisco during the early 1960s:
He went on to found the City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a monastery and retreat centre located on a 237-acre (959,000 m²) property near Ukiah, California. Chuang Yen Monastery and Hsi Lai Temple are also large centres.
Sheng Yen also founded dharma centres in the USA.
25. Esoteric Buddhism
In China and countries with large Chinese populations such as Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore, Esoteric Buddhism is most commonly referred to as the Chinese term Mizong, or "Esoteric School."
Traditions of Chinese Esoteric Buddhism are most commonly referred to as Tangmi, "Tang Dynasty Esoteric," or Hanchuan Mizong, "Han Transmission Esoteric School" (Hanmi for short), or Dongmi, "Eastern Esoteric," separating itself from Tibetan and Newar traditions.
These schools more or less share the same doctrines as Shingon, and in some cases, Chinese monks have travelled to Japan to train and to be given esoteric transmission at Mount Kōya and Mount Hiei.
Chinese Buddhism incorporates elements of traditional Buddhism and Daoism.
Common practices include:
=> worship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
=> through offerings of incense, flowers, food, etc.
=> offerings to Devas who reside in the heavenly realm
=> paying respect to dead ancestors during Qingming and Hungry Ghost festival
=> performance of religious ceremonies to help souls of the deceased find peace
=> forming affinities with other people, through gifts and acts of service
=> vegetarianism: monastics are required to be vegetarian, devout laity are also often vegetarian
=> compassion towards all living beings through activities such as "life release"
Common beliefs include:
=> existence of gods, ghosts and hell realm
=> reincarnation, or more technically, rebirth, according to one's karma
=> karmic retribution, ethically cause and effect
27. Incense burning
Burning incense, translated to “shaoxiang” in Chinese, is a traditional and ubiquitous religious practice for almost all pujas, prayers, and other forms of worship.
During the Zhou dynasty, Chinese believed that smoke resulting from burning wood act as a bridge between the human world and the spirits.
When Buddhism reached China, this wood evolved into sandalwood incense which was originally burned by Indian Buddhists so they could concentrate better.
India is the home of Buddhism, and has formed its characteristic convention of burning incense. Uniform and codified systems of incense-making first begin in India.
The philosophy behind incense burning is to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others, the true spirit of Buddhism. The specific knowledge of incense as a healing tool was assimilated into the religious practices of the time, specifically in early Hinduism.
It can be seen that incense burning as it is known today is a merger between Chinese culture and Buddhist culture.
28. Laypeople in Chinese Buddhism
In Chinese Buddhism, lay practitioners have traditionally played an important role, and lay practice of Buddhism has had similar tendencies to those of monastic Buddhism in China:
Many historical biographies of lay Buddhists are available, which give a clear picture of their practices and role in Chinese Buddhism.
In addition to these numerous biographies, there are accounts from Jesuit missionaries such as Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) which provide extensive and revealing accounts to the degree Buddhism penetrated elite and popular culture in China.
Traditional practices such as meditation, mantra recitation, mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha, asceticism, and vegetarianism were all integrated into the belief systems of ordinary people.
It is known from accounts in the Ming Dynasty that lay practitioners often engaged in practices from both the Pure Land and Chan traditions, as well as the study of the Buddhist Sūtras.
The Heart Sūtra and the Diamond Sūtra were the most popular, followed by the Lotus Sūtra and the Avataṁsaka Sūtra.
Laypeople were also commonly devoted to the practice of mantras, and the Mahā Karuṇā Dhāraṇī and the Cundī Dhāraṇī were very popular. The esoteric practices of Cundī enjoyed popularity among both the populace and the elite.
Mahāyāna figures such as Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, Amitābha Buddha, and the Medicine Buddha, were all widely known and revered.
Beliefs in Karma and Rebirth were held at all levels of Chinese society, and pilgrimages to well-known monasteries and the 4 Holy Mountains of China were undertaken by monastics and lay practitioners alike.