China possesses rich cultural, social and political profiles because; most of the historical events were documented. The intelligence of the Greeks seems to have permeated its territories over different Chinese dynasties, which existed before the present China, in East Asia.
One of the most fascinating cultural histories is the existence and the expansion of Buddhism in China. However, it is worth noting that Buddhism was founded in India, long before it spread allover East Asia. It took a series of centuries for Buddhism to enter China because; the ancient Chinese did not from other communities in East Asia. Moreover, most of the rulers in the ancient Chinese dynasties did not allow traders to enter their territories. For instance, rulers who ruled before the Han Dynasty denied non-Chinese merchants from introducing their cultures, instead; they preserved the ordinary Chinese culture.
In retrospect, the four centuries, upon which the Han dynasty existed, experienced remarkable cultural and socio-political changes. One of the most significant changes that took place during the Han dynasty was the expansion of trade across East Asia, through which with Chinese and exchanged cultural practices (Buddha Dharma Education Association par. 1).
Buddhism bore variant traits to the indigenous religions of Daoism and Confucianism because it was dualistic in nature. Ordinarily, Chinese practised non-dualistic religious doctrines, in which, a self-generating and impersonal continuum within which matter and spirit were encompassed within a cosmos (Whyte par. 5). That is probably the reason as to why, Buddhism in China, in most literature, is referred to as the imported religion.
However, it is worth noting that Buddhism doctrines remained consistent since its formation by Siddhartha Gautama, in the 6th Century B.C.E (Vail 1). Siddhartha Gautama, who was commonly referred to as the Buddha or the Enlightened One, was born in a small kingdom of the Shakya family, in India, about 2500 years ago (Theobald par. 1). Buddha developed the core doctrines of the religion, which characterized Buddhism as a concise set of spiritual practices and teachings.
Buddhism doctrines contained, among other religious teachings, the description on how to attain perfect enlightenment about the truth of the universe. The core doctrines of Buddhism emphasized immensely on the essence of Buddhas teachings, based on the literal meaning of Buddha; one who has awakened to the truth (Koyasan Shingon Buddhism par. 1).
It is believed that the existence of Buddhism in China today encompasses invaluable clues on the way the Chinese tradition was defined (Teiser par. 2). Historically, Buddhism in China was introduced in the 2nd Century A.D, during the Tang dynasty, and it became one of the most established religions in the Chinese traditional profile. Thereafter, its dominance diminished significantly towards the end of the Tang dynasty because; its powers were perceived to as a potential threat to the social order of the Chinese society (Whyte par. 5).
The officials of the late Tang dynasty viewed Buddhism from such a perspective probably because; it was a foreign tradition to the ordinary Chinese. Shortly, after the end of the Tang dynasty the influence of Buddhism subsided, especially during the Song dynasty and paved way for Daoism and Confucianism religions, which were non-dualistic (Theobald par. 1).
Buddhism was dualistic in nature; thus, it appealed to some Chinese. Therefore, some of its fundamental verities were embedded on the two dominant religions; thus, it remained to be a significant element in the Chinese tradition.
Buddhism appears to have gained its popularity in China, shortly after the end of the Han dynasty, which had preserved Confucianism as the acceptable State religion.
However, it is worth noting that one of the most significant factors, which favored the flourishing of Buddhism, was the disunion of China, owing to the succession stalemate among the successors of Han. As a result, Chinas unified status vanished with the emergence the three kingdoms: the Wei, Wu and Shu, around 205 A.D, after the fall of the Han dynasty in 184 C.E (Ebrey 61).
China was reunited again, in 280 A.D, by Jin who established the Jin dynasty, but a civil war broke out within the Jin dynasty, in 300 A.D, leading to the disintegration of the dynasty into Northern and Southern dynasties. and ruled the Northern dynasties over the next two and a half centuries, whereas, the Southern dynasties were ruled by Chinese rulers (Ebrey 60).
During the four centuries of division, Buddhism spread within China in different magnitudes. For instance, there was remarkable popularity of Buddhism in the Northern dynasties, which were dominantly ruled by . On the other hand, Southern dynasties were ruled by four successive, who did not cultivate the culture of foreigners; thus, the spread of Buddhism was retarded; instead, Confucianism dominated the Southern dynasties.
In general, history of Buddhism appears to intersect with monumental episodes in the Chinese political chronology (Teiser par.5). Its spread in China was influenced by the political landscape. Consequently, its doctrines were philosophized to encompass some principal practices of the Chinese political administration.
For instance, philosophized doctrines of Buddhism emerged around the 1st Century, after the formation of Mahayana Buddhism (Koyasan Shingon Buddhism par.2). However, it is worth noting that all sects within Buddhism shared the original doctrines of that religion but, they only differed on philosophy on how to become enlightened about the universe.
Another factor, which enhanced the spread of Buddhism, in China was the existence of the Greek civilization, through which learning was introduced. Religious texts were composed on papers; thus, facilitating learning of the Buddhism teachings by scholars.
Consequently, Chinese schools based on Buddhism emerged across China. Some of the old Chinese schools, which were based on Buddhism faith, included the Pure Land School and the Chan. Other schools, which were established during the Tang dynasty, were Huayen and Tiantai schools (Foy par.5).
These schools stressed on the significance of believing in the salvation of Amitabha Buddha and these teachings formed the foundation of Chinese Buddhism (Whyte par.5). It is believed that the long process of adaptation of the Chinese Buddhism led to the establishment of temples and monasteries, which served as the training centers for monks and nuns.
Today, Buddhism is said to be the only foreign religion, which has flourished in China amongst the indigenous religions. Its consistent existence in China can be attributed to its diverse nature, which enabled it to be incorporated in the Chinese traditional cultures. Another feature of Buddhism which enabled it to gain popularity, in China, was its approach to salvation through grace.
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