Han Buddhism

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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.[1] It is mainly practiced in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It has had a great impact on East Asian culture.

Like Tibetan Buddhism, Han Buddhism comes from Mahayana, the branch of Buddhism written mainly in Sanskrit and from northern India.

Han Buddhism has a lot of interaction between the Indian religions and Chinese religions (like Taoism).

History[change | change source]

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)[change | change source]

The Shiji史記·秦始皇本紀》has a section called「禁不得祠」(jin bude ci). It says:

“徙謫,實之初縣。禁不得祠。明星出西方。”[2]

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.[3][4] Others (like 铃木券太郎) disagreed.[5][6] 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]).

東漢四川青銅搖錢樹上有西王母與坐佛。

Han Dynasty (206 bc–220 ce)[change | change source]

Map showing the spread and major divisions of Buddhism

It is generally believed Buddhism was introduced during the (Western, before 1 BC) Han dynasty. It came from the western regions and Silk Road.

According to the Weilüe魏略‧西戎傳》、《魏書‧釋老志》and other records, Emperor Ai of Han's men gave the people the Pagoda Sutra《浮屠经》。[7][8][9]

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》。[10]

White Horse Temple, traditionally held to be at the origin of Chinese Buddhism.

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."[11]

Ming then sent people to Tianzhu (Southern India) to learn more.[12] 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.[13]

A Parthian prince named An Shigao traveled to China annd helped translate some Indian texts into Chinese.[14]

In 167 some Yuezhi (tribes of Central Asia) also helped translate some stuff.[15]

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.[16][17][18] There is another early Buddha sculpture in Sichuan above a grave.[19][20]

Early Buddhist schools[change | change source]

The Sarvastivadinns, Dharmaguptakas, and other schools were important for Han Buddhism.

Six Dynasties (220–589)[change | change source]

Statue of Kumārajīva in front of the Kizil Caves in Kuqa, Xinjiang, China

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.[21] 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.[22][23]

Around this time, Han Buddhism began spreading to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It was already popular in South China.

Kumārajīva (334–413)[change | change source]

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.

Chán Buddhism[change | change source]

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."[24]

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.[25]

Tang Dynasty (618–907)[change | change source]

Xuanzang's journey to the west[change | change source]

The ruins of Nalanda University in India where Xuanzang studied.
Statue of Xuanzang at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an.

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.

He returned to China with 657 Sanskrit texts, gifts, statues, and Buddhist souvenirs, all on twenty-two horses.[26]

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)[change | change source]

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin), wood, 11th century, Northern Song dynasty, St. Louis Art Museum

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.[27]

Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368)[change | change source]

During the Yuan dynasty, the Mongol emperors liked Tibetan Buddhism so they hired Tibetan monks as government officials.[28] This caused corruption.[28] Later the Ming dynasty overthrew the Yuan, and Tibetan lamas no longer influenced the court.[28]

Ming dynasty (1368–1644)[change | change source]

The Chan school was so popular that all monks belonged to it.[29] Male and female Chinese buddhists wrote nice poetry during this time.

Qing dynasty (1644–1911)[change | change source]

Chinese Buddhist monks of the Qing dynasty

The Qing supported Tibetan Buddhism.[30]

Around 1900, Buddhists from other Asian countries became interested in Chinese Buddhism. Anagarika Dharmapala visited Shanghai in 1893.[31] He and other Indians tried to get Chinese to help revive Buddhism in India.[31] Japanese Buddhists also visited China.[31] By this point (and perhaps earlier) China had the most Buddhists in the world.

Teachings[change | change source]

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.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "《大正新脩大藏經》". 國立臺灣大學佛學數位圖書館暨博物館. 藏傳佛教與漢傳佛教及南傳佛教並列為三大佛教體系。
  2. 《史記·秦始皇本紀》:“三十三年,發諸嘗逋亡人、贅婿、賈人略取陸梁地,為桂林、象郡、南海,以適遣戍。西北斥逐匈奴。自榆中並河以東,屬之陰山,以為十四縣,城河上為塞。又使蒙恬渡河取高闕、山、北假中,築亭障以逐戎人。徙謫,實之初縣。禁不得祠。明星出西方。”
  3. 郭紹林 (1987年). "附录 佛教文化·第二节 汉魏两晋南北朝佛教的发展". 《唐代士大夫与佛教》. 河南大学出版社. ISBN 9787810180191. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. 藤田豊八. 東西交涉史の研究. 荻原星文館. OCLC 21380740.
  5. "汉传佛教扼要". 陕西日报. 2015年5月19日. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. 爾雅》釋詁:“禋,祀,祠,烝,嘗,禴,祭也。” 釋天:“春祭曰祠,夏祭曰礿,秋祭曰嘗,冬祭曰蒸,……。” 《說文解字》:“春祭曰祠。品物少,多文詞也。从示司聲。(《禮記》月令)仲春之月,祠不用犧牲,用圭璧及皮幣。” 《史記》陳涉世家:“又間令吳廣之次所旁叢祠中,夜篝火,狐鳴呼曰「大楚興,陳勝王」。” 《漢書》宣帝紀:“修興泰一、五帝、後士之祠,祈為百姓蒙祉福。”
  7. 王志遠. "中國佛教初傳史辯述評─紀念佛教傳入中國2000年". 禅刊. 中华佛教在线.
  8. "佛教傳入中國". 中華百科全書. 中國文化大學. 1983年. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  9. 中国文化科目认证指南. 华语教学出版社. Sinolingua. 2010. p. 64. ISBN 978-7-80200-985-1. 公元1世纪———传入中国内地,与汉文化交融,形成汉传佛教。
  10. 梁代慧皎高僧傳》記載此事:“漢明帝夢一金人於殿廷,以佔所夢,傅毅以佛對。帝遣郎中蔡愔、博士弟子秦景等往天竺。愔等於彼遇見摩騰、竺法蘭二梵僧,乃要還漢地,譯《四十二章經》,二僧住處,今雒陽門白馬寺也。”
  11. Tr. by Henri Maspero, 1981, Taoism and Chinese Religion, tr. by Frank A. Kierman Jr., University of Massachusetts Press, p. 402.
  12. Hill (2009), p. 31.
  13. Erik Zürcher (2007-03-26). The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China. BRILL. p. 22. ISBN 978-90-474-1942-6.
  14. 杨万秀; 钟卓安 (1996). 廣州簡史. 广东人民出版社. p. 60.
  15. 范寿康 (2008). 中国哲学史通论. 武汉大学出版社. p. 178. ISBN 978-7-307-06121-7.
  16. "东汉时期佛教参与丧葬礼俗的图像证据". 山东博物馆. Archived from the original on 2015-07-13. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. 陈陆, ed. (2012-03-05). "中国最早铜佛惊现丰都". 中国三峡建设 (第3期). http://www.xzbu.com/2/view-513466.htm. 
  18. 周克林 (1 November 2012). 东汉六朝钱树研究. 巴蜀书社. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-7-5531-0155-2.
  19. 唐長壽. 《樂山麻浩、柿子灣崖墓佛像年代新探》. 東南文化. 1989年, (2期): 13
  20. Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.); Denise Patry Leidy; Donna K. Strahan (2010年). Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-1-58839-399-9. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. Bentley, Jerry. Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times 1993. p. 82
  22. Oh, Kang-nam (2000). The Taoist Influence on Hua-yen Buddhism: A Case of the Sinicization of Buddhism in China. Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, No. 13, (2000). Source: (accessed: January 28, 2008) p.286 Archived March 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  23. Further discussion of can be found in T'ang, Yung-t'ung, "On 'Ko-I'," in Inge et al. (eds.): Radhakrishnan: Comparative Studies in Philosophy Presented in Honour of His Sixtieth Birthday (London: Allen and Unwin, 1951) pp. 276–286 (cited in K. Ch'en, pp. 68 f.)
  24. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, translated with notes by Philip B. Yampolsky, 1967, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-08361-0, page 29, note 87
  25. Basic Buddhism: exploring Buddhism and Zen, Nan Huai-Chin, 1997, Samuel Weiser, page 92.
  26. Jerry Bentley, "Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 81.
  27. McRae 1993.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Nan Huai-Chin. Basic Buddhism: Exploring Buddhism and Zen. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. 1997. p. 99.
  29. Stanley Weinstein, "The Schools of Chinese Buddhism," in Kitagawa & Cummings (eds.), Buddhism and Asian History (New York: Macmillan 1987) pp. 257–265, 264.
  30. Mullin 2001, p. 358
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Lewis Hodus (1923), Buddhism and Buddhists in China. Chapter IX: Present-Day Buddhism