The Spread of Buddhism in China

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“The Third Noble Truth is the Truth of the Stopping of Sorrow: It is complete stopping of that craving…being released from it, giving no place to it” (Document1). The spread of Buddhism in China was due to the appeal it had on the people and the influence it made on the culture, like the Third Noble Truth states, stopping sorrow leads to one being content and being released from any heavy sorrow weighing you down, a life which describes and explains the spread of this particular religion in China, the way of life appealed to the people. Although many officials and scholars disagreed to the Buddhist ways, it did not stop others from converting and spreading the religion. In this essay I will discuss the spread of Buddhism in China and the impact it had on the culture.

Zhi Dun, a Chinese scholar in circa 350 C.E., stated that anyone who follows in the foot steps of Buddha and commits to the religion, will “…behold the Buddha and be enlightened in his spirit, and then he will enter Nirvana,” (Document 2). By reading this document one must concluded that Dun believes that by following the Buddhist doctrine, one will live enlighten and enter “Nirvana”. Dun was an author and a confidant of the Chinese aristocrats and high officials, so as seeing his beliefs in this religion it is proven that some, possibly many Chinese elites also followed the Buddhist doctrine, which proves that the religion spread to more than just peasants and merchants. In Document 3 an anonymous scholar in circa 500 C.E. answers questions about his reasons to participate in the Buddhist ways. This scholar states that not everything revolves around Confucius and that, whether or not Buddhism is the correct way of doing things does not depend on the writings of Confucius, “The records and teachings of Confucian classics do not contain everything,” (Document 3). The scholar explains that the Buddhist monks don’t take on worldly possessions in order to focus on “the Way”, which gives the monks goodness and wisdom as an exchange for having no children and not marrying. Chinese scholars based on these two Documents helped the spread of Buddhism and understood the ways of the Buddhist followers.

A Confucian scholar and official at the Tang imperial court, Han Yu, and Tang Emperor Wu believed that Buddhist were a “cult of barbarians” and “poisoned the customs” of the Chinese nation, to say the least the government officials didn’t appreciate the spread of the Buddhist religion. Tang Emperor Wu suggested that the religion destroyed the ways of the Chinese people and ruined the customs that the country had been loyal to for years. Wu believed that by spreading the Buddhist religion and culture, the people of China were actually suffering, “Buddhism wears out the people’s strength, pilfers their wealth…” (Document 6). Han Yu, a Confucian scholar and official at the Tang imperial court based his opinions on the spread of Buddhism on the fact that “Buddha was a man of the barbarians who did not speak Chinese and who wore clothes of different fashion,” (Document 4), Yu believed that since the practice of the Buddhist religion didn’t originate or apply to the Chinese government, that there was no need to practice it as a Chinese citizen. Yu stated that Buddha didn’t understand the meaning of family and customs of the Chinese culture because Buddhism didn’t originate in China, so because of the lack of Chinese culture centered on the religion, Yu didn’t believe that the Chinese people should follow such a way of life. By analyzing these two documents one must assume that Chinese government officials did not feel the spread of Buddhism was good for their country, they felt that the Buddhist ways corrupted the people and way of life in China and that the lack of Chinese history apart of the religion went against the laws and standards of the nation.

A Buddhist scholar, Zong Mi, stated that “Confucius, Laozi and the Buddha were perfect sages,” (Document 5), Mi was...
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