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To what extent was China a Buddhist country from the third to the sixth centuries (200-600) - Essay Example

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Name of of Professor Name of Course 9 November 2013 Buddhism in China between 200 and 600 CE Buddhism can be described as a code of spiritual and philosophical principles that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the fifth century BCE. The religion originated in the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent and began its spread eastward into Asia…
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To what extent was China a Buddhist country from the third to the sixth centuries (200-600)
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To what extent was China a Buddhist country from the third to the sixth centuries (200-600)

Download file to see previous pages... However, it is interesting to note that Buddhism has been able to gain acceptance in China despite the age-old philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism. This paper discusses the influence of Buddhism in Chinese society during the third and fifth centuries and argues that Buddhism became a definite characteristic of Chinese society during the third and fifth centuries. The Introduction of Buddhism in China Buddhism entered China at a time when China was experiencing a new period of prosperity and wealth. During the early decades of the third century, the Han Empire was consolidating its grip over the Chinese mainland. Wright (p. 9) explains that during this period, the Han elite had established its rule over the north and south of China. A new social order was being created. An intellectual process was taking place where thinkers were building a rational structure of the political and social changes taking place during Han rule. Confucian principles and values were blended with experiences from reality to create a code of life. However, the gradual decline of the Han Empire resulted in a loss o favour with Han Confucianism as well as Daoism. In such an environment, Buddhism found a receptive audience among monks searching for a simpler and unadulterated code of life. Buddhist Influence in China’s Intellectual and Spiritual Life Buddhism gradually accommodated itself into the intellectual and spiritual life of the Chinese elite during the fourth century (Zurcher, p. 3). Zurcher (p. 3) further explains that because of the linguistic barrier between the original Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and the Chinese language, Buddhism in China assumed a distinct form compared to Buddhism in India. He also states that Buddhism was initially the interest of monks in the southern parts of the country and also among the well-to-do common population. Zurcher’s (p. 3) argument also reveals that Buddhism was eventually assimilated into the Chinese intellectual sphere instead of replacing Confucianism or Daoism. This, however, does not mean that the interest in Buddhism was restricted to the south of China. While Buddhism was finding a receptive audience in Jin-ruled southern China, Buddhist thoughts were also making an influence among the non-Chinese rulers of northern China (p. 4). However, it is interesting to note that the Chinese tendency to assimilate rather than supplant philosophies with earlier ones was prevalent in the north as well as the south, although Buddhist thought took different forms in both regions. In fact, because of the external threats to China from the north and the northwest, the development of Buddhist though in the north was more dynamic than the evolution of Gentry Buddhism in southern China (Zurcher, p. 3). This form of Buddhism was developed by Chinese monks and was accepted by the gentry or nobility in southern China as a means to high culture. The evolution of Buddhism in the north after the collapse of the Han dynasty assumed a distinct direction but remained in favour of its widespread acceptance. The most significant development in this process was the introduction of the idea of the emperor as the incarnation of the Buddha (Reat, p. 141). The non-Chinese rulers of the northern part of the country adopted Buddhism as a means of legitimizing their rule. The old order based on Confucianism was no longer valid and there was need for a new belief system to give ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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