Thursday, February 10, 2011

Buddhism in China [Part l]

According to many Asian chronologies, Buddhism is believed to be introduced in China in 217 B.C.C. However, contemporary research based upon Chinese Imperial chronology indicates new evidence that in 65 A.D. Emperor Ming Ti of Han Dynasty sent 18 missionaries [unclear of what doctrine] to propagate religious teachings in the province of Kho Than. Currently, it is discovered the town of Kho Than is located in Sin Kiang prefecture South Western part of China. Apparently, it is found, in ancient time, that the town was part of India, and it is believed that Buddhism was introduced to Kho Than in 217 B.C. However, the chronology states that two years later Imperial missionaries were accompanied by two prominent Buddhist figures; Kāṥyapamātangga; and Dhammarakṥa. They are believed to bring Buddhist scripture with them.

Nonetheless, Buddhism [Mahayana sec] had flourished in China for centuries since it was initially introduced. However, still the new doctrine inevitably encountered uncomfortable interaction with conventional belief in China. For instance, in Han Dynasty [65-220 A.D.], Buddhism chiefly yielded popularity and well embraced by the Chinese, however it was challenged and compared with conventional cults like Confusion and Taoism which substantially influenced the way of lives in ancient China. However, the chronicle of Han refers to such deterioration of the doctrine and additionally states its revival in the latter half of that century. It is believed that Mong Zhe, a Buddhist monk, played significant role to restore popularity to Buddhism. He represented the way of pure ascetic conduct identical to that of original Indian ascetics from which it is believed to be modified when Buddhism introduce in China. Consequently the doctrine gained pride and popularity. It is recorded that in 4th Century A.D. Buddhism was promoted one of the major religions in China. In Dhang dynasty [1161-1450 B.C.E.], it is believed to gain maximum prosperity and flourish. 

Nonetheless, in 1172 B.C.E., Hian Chan [Dhang Sam Chan is called in some traditions] is believed to take journey to India and returned to China in 1188 B.C.E. and was invited to reside in the city of Lo Yang to establish the doctrine. The chronology states, in Lou Yang, substantial Buddhist scriptures and discourses were translated to Chinese the first time. Hian Chan is believed to compose his personal treatise recalling accounts during his long journey to India named ‘diary of the West’. The treatise, consequently, entails substantial historical value to Asia later. 

Buddhism contributed plentiful value of life to the nation, however political and social instability in China during 1118-1123 B.C.E. also caused instability to the status of the doctrine. It is believed that in the reign of Emperor Zuan Ti, Buddhism was believed to force to remain dysfunctional and retreat from social structure. It is recorded that 2,000,000 [the figure perhaps too substantial by that time] were forced to abandon monkhood, and there was an account of 40,000 Buddhist monasteries and plentiful doctrinal idolatries were demolished. However, later, the chronology also states the modification of new trait of Buddhism introduced in this period. The vague account such as Buddhism was forcedly assimilated by Taoism or to remain dysfunctional also was found. Nonetheless, due to political and social instability in China, it is believed that not only Buddhism that was restrained, the others were also believed to be affected. 

Eventually, In Sui Dynasty [1124-1161 B.C.E.], Emperor Bun Ti prevailed in political battle and united China. He is believed to have great piety in Buddhism. After ascending to the throne, the doctrine was again revived by royal sponsor. It is stated in the chronicle that Buddhist monks were allowed to return to the monasteries, monastic leadership was established, systematic registration of monastic figures was implemented for the first time, and plentiful of new monasteries were built. After the end of Sui Dynasty, Buddhism still yielded support from the Imperial court. The consecutive Tang Dynasty [1161-1450 B.C.E.] warmly adopted and embraced Buddhism. Emperor Gao Zu took the throne, and he officially legitimized and adopted several Buddhist moral principles as national codes of conduct for his people for instance; taking human’s life is prohibited; vegetarianism was promoted. It is believed that he made substantial tribute the doctrine by turning his summer palace to Buddhist monasteries. In 1252 B.C.E., Emperor Tong Zhong is believed to reinforce monastic policy in which monastic status should be achieved from systematic selection for the first time.  However, later, Hien Zhong tool the throne, he, again, delivered harsh policy on religions. It is said that due to plentiful peasants escaped from their farming or working duties and ordained for seeking pleasure, 12,000 Buddhist monks who were alleged to not conduct in doctrinal study were forced to abandon monkhood. Also, in this period, Buddhist image crafting, and other artistic creation concerning the doctrine were restrained. 

Nonetheless, Buddhism revived from periodic political instability again in Sung or Song Dynasty [1503-1823 B.C.E.]. After Gao Zhou took the throne, he revived the doctrine in several aspects such as building new monasteries in the old battle sites. He also is believed to send missionaries to Korea and India to learn original discourses and doctrine and brought back to China. In 1516 B.C.E., he ordered craft-men to inscribe the ‘tipit᷂aka’ [Chinese version] on 130,000 wooden plates for the first time. Chinese laymen ordained plentifully in Buddhist doctrine. There were doctrinal and monastic exchanges implemented between China and India at this stage. It is recorded substantial figures of 370,000 bhikkhus, and 45,000 bhikkhunīs in this period.

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