Han Buddhism (simplified Chinese: 汉传佛教; traditional Chinese: 漢傳佛教) or Chinese buddhism refers to Buddhism written in Chinese characters (hanzi) or that of the East Asian cultural sphere. It is one of the three main existing schools of Buddhism: the other two are Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada. It is mainly practiced in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It has had a great impact on East Asian culture.
There are legends that Laozi was the Buddha himself, or that the Buddha came from the Tibetan kingdom of Zhangzhung. There are other legends that Buddhism had existed in China since ancient times (before the Qin dynasty).
Qin dynasty (221–206 bc)Edit
In the 20th century, Japanese scholar Fujita Toyohachi (藤田丰八) said Buddhism entered China during the Qin dynasty. The word 不得 (pinyin: "bude"; rough pronunciation: boo-duh) is pronounced nearly exactly like the Sanskrit word "Buddha". It was used to write down Buddha in the Chinese language. Others (like 铃木券太郎) disagreed. Moreover it is unlikely 得 would be used to transliterate. And based on the evolution of Chinese tones, 不得 would sound something like putug (郑张尚芳 says “不得” is [pɯtɯːɡ]).
Han Dynasty (206 bc–220 ce)Edit
In 67, Emperor Ming of Han dreamed of the "Golden People". He sent people to meet monks in the western regions. These monks brought back more Buddhist texts. He built the White horse temple (白马寺) and translated 42 chapters of the scripture 《四十二章經》。
There is one account that Emperor Ming of Han (28–75 CE) helped introduce Buddhism into China. The (3rd - 5th century) Mouzi Lihuolun says:
In olden days Emperor Ming saw in a dream a god whose body had the brilliance of the sun and who flew before his palace; and he rejoiced exceedingly at this. The next day he asked his officials: "What god is this?" the scholar Fu Yi said: "Your subject has heard it said that in India there is somebody who has attained the Dao and who is called Buddha; he flies in the air, his body had the brilliance of the sun; this must be that god."
Ming then sent people to Tianzhu (Southern India) to learn more. Buddhist scriptures returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named. Two Indian monks also returned with them, named Dharmaratna and Kaśyapa Mātaṅga.
Whether Emperor Ming actually dreamed of Golden people is debated. However scholars agree that around his time Buddhism arrived from the xiyu.
During this time, Mahayana Buddhism became popular in China. The Han would then "sinicize" it to turn it into Han Buddhism.
In Chongqing an ancient Yao Qian Shu (money tree artifact) was dug up. A Buddha was sitting on it. It said it was made in the fourth year of Yan guang (125 CE). This is the earliest known bronze Buddha found in China. There is another early Buddha sculpture in Sichuan above a grave.
Early Buddhist schoolsEdit
The Sarvastivadinns, Dharmaguptakas, and other schools were important for Han Buddhism.
Six Dynasties (220–589)Edit
Some Chinese thought Buddhism was harmful to the authority of the government, that Buddhists did help improve the economy, that Buddhism was barbaric and did not deserve to be part of Chinese culture. However, others mixed Buddhism with Taoism. The two went well together. Both encourage meditation. And so Buddhist ideas were used in Taoism and vice versa.
Around this time, Han Buddhism began spreading to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It was already popular in South China.
China controlled Kucha, a Buddhist kingdom in Xinjiang. They imprisoned Kumarajiva but released him in 401 because he was good at Buddhism.
He became influential in Han Buddhism.
Emperor Yao Xing of the state of Later Qin liked him.
He made a number of good translations (from AD 402–413).
This includes the Diamond Sutra, the Amitabha Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, and the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra.
In the 5th century, the Chán (Zen) teachings began in China. Bodhidharma, a legend, started it.
The school follows the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) . It was also called the "One Vehicle School."
They were famous for their encounter stories and koans and their teaching methods. Nan Huai-Chin says:
The Zen teaching was a separate transmission outside the scriptural teachings that did not posit any written texts as sacred. Zen pointed directly to the human mind to enable people to see their real nature and become buddhas.
Tang Dynasty (618–907)Edit
Xuanzang's journey to the westEdit
During the Tang dynasty and 629 - 645, the monk Xuanzang went to India and visited over one hundred kingdoms. He and wrote about his journey to the west. His writing is important for studying India during this period of time.
He visited many spiritual sites, many spiritual people, and learned a lot of spiritual things. He met Buddhist celebrities.
Xuanzang created a translation center in Chang'an (now Xi'an). It attracted people from all over East Asia. Xuanzang translated 1,330 books into Chinese. His favorite part of Buddhism was Yogācāra, or "Consciousness-only".
During this time, Han Chan Buddhism became popular in Japan.
Song Dynasty (960–1279)Edit
During the Song dynasty, Chán (禪) was used by the government to strengthen its control over the country. Chán became the most popular type of Chinese Buddhism.
Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368)Edit
During the Yuan dynasty, the Mongol emperors liked Tibetan Buddhism so they hired Tibetan monks as government officials. This caused corruption. Later the Ming dynasty overthrew the Yuan, and Tibetan lamas no longer influenced the court.
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)Edit
The Chan school was so popular that all monks belonged to it. Male and female Chinese buddhists wrote nice poetry during this time.
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)Edit
Around 1900, Buddhists from other Asian countries became interested in Chinese Buddhism. Anagarika Dharmapala visited Shanghai in 1893. He and other Indians tried to get Chinese to help revive Buddhism in India. Japanese Buddhists also visited China. By this point (and perhaps earlier) China had the most Buddhists in the world.
Han Buddhism uses concepts from Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. They worship the Buddha and Bodhisattvas by giving food, flowers, etc. They are vegans. They believe in god and hell, life after death and karma.
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