Although Buddhism’s ideas of spiritual enlightenment and nirvana appealed to peasants and aristocrats alike during the vacuum that was the fall of the Han dynasty, it was rejected by the imperial rule that was reestablished after 570 C.E. This is clearly seen by Buddhism’s initial appeal to the masses of China (Docs 1, 2), its popularity and spread amongst the chaos that was the fall of the Han dynasty (Docs 2, 3), and the negative reactions after imperial rule was restored with the Tang dynasty (Docs 3, 4, 5, 6).
Buddhism’s original allure is clearly evident in the Buddha’s “Four Noble Truths” in the fifth century B.C.E. and Zhi Dun’s writing in 350 C.E. The Buddha’s idea for “the Stopping of all Sorrow” provided Chinese of all background an ability to, according to Zhi Dun, “be enlightened in his spirit” and then “enter Nirvana” (Docs 1, 2). The Buddha’s message was laid out centuries before in India to provide people of all castes or classes to bypass the social pecking order and reach social enlightenment. This is what made it highly appealing in China. While Zhi Dun was most likely an aristocrat due to his close ties with officials, education, and importance in political affairs, it is safe to assume that the Buddha’s message was attractive to all classes of China. Of course, it would be helpful to have a document from a peasant as a way of confirming their attitude towards the Buddha and the path to Nirvana.
The spread and popularity of Buddhism is seen clearly in Zhi Dun’s writing in 350 C.E. and the Chinese scholar’s “The Disposition of Error” circa 500 C.E. “In this era of sensual pleasures”, the anonymous Chinese scholar states that the monk attains goodness and wisdom “in exchange for the joys of having a wife and children”(Docs 2, 3). The chaos left by the fall of the Han dynasty from 220 C.E. to 570 C.E. left something to be desired. As the anonymous scholar explains that “All written works need not necessarily be the words of...
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