The Han Dynasty fell in 220 C. E. allowing Buddhism to spread and go to China gaining followers. Buddhism was founded in India in the sixth century B. C. Also in India came a time called the Dark Age and then following that was the golden age. Many people in China lost interest in Buddhism and were against it thinking it was a threat to Confucianism; others were pro Buddhism. These groupings helped identify how well and poorly Buddhism’s spread affected China. During the period of political instability Buddhism did however flourish in China.
People began seeking salvation because of the constant warfare thus converting to Buddhism. Conversely when an imperial structure started to come back Buddhism was against what was needed for the empire to thrive as people also thought it threatened their political power, it then lost appeal and soon faded but not fully dying. Buddhism came to China as a fresh new religion and attracted many people. A Buddhist tradition (Doc. 1) consists of “The Four Noble Truths”. This was a way of life for people who worshiped Buddhism. The truths are about sorrow, overcoming it, and stopping it.
As people began seeking for recovery it was “The Four Noble Truths” they looked to for an outlook on life. Many people believed in Buddhist concepts, and not Confucianism concepts. One thing that was heavily supported was the Buddhist idea of karma, which brought comfort too many people that suffered greatly in those troubled times. Confucianism had said that unexplainable events were the work of Heaven but Buddhism indicated that suffering was due to a person’s bad behavior in their previous life, which relates to “The Four Noble Truths”. Zhi Dun was a Chinese scholar (Doc. ) supporting Buddhism and the aristocrats and officials in charge during China’s invasion by central Asia. People following Buddhism and converting will reach nirvana at the end of their life. His point of view is that if you follow the scriptures, observe the commandments, and a vow to be reborn you behold the Buddha and be enlightened. He was persuading people to convert and have trust and faith in this religion, majority of the people without material resources were more likely to turn to the spiritual teachings; it gave them a sign of relief. An anonymous Chinese scholar (Doc. ) supports Buddhism and reflects about its encounters with Confucianism. Zong Mi, Buddhist scholar, (Doc. 5) explains the importance of how well Laozi, Confucius and Buddha spread in such a time of salvation. Buddhism was able to expand at a time of a constant warfare and people turned to the religious faiths. These faiths should be respected for what they did for Chinese society. Zong Mi since he is a Buddhist scholar is point of view on Buddhism will mainly positive. The leaders of each religion were wonderful sages and there teachings lead to such great things in China.
And of course if anything did come up insulting Buddhism, Zong Mi, would defend it as he was favored by the Tang imperial household. Together, these documents support the idea that when China faced a time of political instability Buddhism was able to flourish by the support of many Buddhist scholars and there positive point of view on the religion. An imperial structure started building back up in 570 C. E. in China. Buddhism’s way of life went against what was needed for China’s society. And the people of China then started disagreeing with Buddhism and losing interest in it.
It was becoming a threat to the teachings of Confucianism. Han Yu (Doc. 4) is against Buddhism in China, as it only a group of unsettalized people and should not appear in ancient times. Buddhism attracted many people and they followed and worshiped it so strongly that when Buddhism is carried from one temple to another some people may cut off their arms in offerings to the Buddha. Han Yu’s point of view is not in favor of Buddhism, and he thinks that some people may take it too far as it is not a sufficient religion to have in China.
Buddha’s background does not contain anything historical in relating to China, from its clothes to language. How is this then supposed to spread and take over China if it has nothing to do with the society and cultural heritage of China? Buddha’s teachings are nothing like the kings and his way of doing things did not follow the Chinese law. The memorial on Buddhism and the bone of the Buddha should be respected as for what it was. It should be given to the proper authorities and have the evil rooted out so that the later generations are spared. Han Yu thought that Buddhism shouldn’t be worshiped as it was when it spread to China.
Yes it did come at a time of salvation, however though Buddhism disagreed with what was needed for a thriving empire to comeback into power. It should not be recognized as such a great thing, but for what it truly was and later generations to come should not have to deal with Buddha’s teachings. At the end of the Tang dynasty Buddhism started to decrease, the emperor Wu was not pro Buddhism (Doc. 6). It was interpreted that Buddhism stretched to all nine provinces of China, slowly gaining followers wearing out strength in the people and much more. All together the spread of Buddhism was destroying the law of the Tang and injuring humanity.
Also, the tang emperor Wu shows how everyone works off each other and if one doesn’t go work in the fields, then someone else is hungry. The farmers are to feed the nuns and monks and if they do not do their job then the government officials go hungry. At this time Buddhist temples were reaching high numbers and getting even bigger than the imperial palace itself. Because of the sudden increase in followers in Buddhism rulers became only curious about it. Some promoted it and others tried to destroy it and follow the ways before Buddhism came to China. These rulers that were against Buddhism did just that.
An emperor of the Tang dynasty was strongly against Buddhism and was pro Confucianism that it ordered for the destruction of Buddhists temples. Buddhism never regained its power and influence again after that. Together, the Han Yu, Zong Mi, and Tang emperor Wu all disliked Buddhism as they thought it would become a threat to Confucianism. Confucianism was a way for them to start rebuilding China’s imperial structure and Buddhism was not following. And also, China was not accepting of outside information and to have a new religion spread and quickly adapt followers was something China was not use to.
An additional source that could be used in supporting my thesis of how Buddhism spread during a time of salvation is a census of the number of people that were following Buddhism when it first arrived. When Buddhism spread from India to China in the first century China was facing political instability and needed something to fall back on. This new faith allowed just that and many followed within the first few years. Many people joined and worshiped this religion. The numbers of people were almost greater than the imperial palace.
Now if a census was taken later on, when an imperial structure was regaining power many people lost interest in Buddhism. The spread was short lived and only lasted and gained as many followers as it did because it came at a time where people were seeking salvation. The census would track how many people adopted Buddhism when it first arrived and how many people were still following when it started to decrease. In conclusion, Buddhism spread from India to China winning converts from the collapsing of the Han Dynasty in 220 C. E. Buddhists influence expanded even more throughout China for several more centuries. This was during the Tang and
Song dynasties which were part of the Golden age of China. The documents were separated by scholars and emperors who were pro or against Buddhism. Many were against because it threatened the way of Confucian and they wanted Buddhism to disappear. Majority of the people followed Buddhism and were pro. It was a way for people to fall back on something new and fresh considering they were at a time of political instability. Overall, the spread of Buddhism affected China and had its ups and downs attracting followers, in the end it did survive China and the people were more accepting to a religion than they were before.