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jueves, 10 de marzo de 2011

Buddhism in China

Some Buddhism scriptures arrived in China as early as in the Warring States period but it did not find many adherents in China then. Only in the 2nd century AC, aided by some similarities with Taoism, acquired a sizeable following and many Buddhist texts were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese.

The collapse of Han dynasty around 220 AC, was followed by a period of confusion which continued to trouble Chinese society for the next 350 years. During this period Confucianism and Taoism gradually yielded place to Buddhism. The new Mongolian rulers from the Northern Wei dynasty and some rulers in the south like emperor Wu found in Buddhism a great opportunity to demolish the old order and establish a new one. As a result by 6th Century China was teaming with millions of Buddhist monks and thousands of monasteries.

During this turbulent period in China, two major developments took place in Buddhism. One group consisting mostly of the sophisticated gentry dwelled on the philosophical and mystical aspects of Buddhism, while the other group dominated by rural folk followed Buddhism in their own superstitious and simple ways imparting to it in the process a peculiar Chinese character. During this period many Buddhist scholars came to China from the east and worked selflessly to make Buddhism a mass religion.

Between the 6th Century and 10th Century China was ruled by Sui and Tang dynasties who were also patrons of Buddhism. During this period Buddhism reached its glorious heights in China. At the same time a process of degeneration also began. Many Buddhist monasteries turned to serious business and indulged in farming, trade and money lending for their own benefit neglecting the spiritual side of their responsibilities. The fall of Buddhism began during the reign of Wuzong of Tang (841-847), he ordered the general destruction of all Buddhist establishments and return of all Buddhist monks and nuns to lay life.

In 1280 the Yuan dynasty (Mongols) adopted Lamaism, the Tibetan version of Buddhism, as state religion.

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