- Early History : Buddhism made entry into China in the 2nd
century BCE with the opening of the Silk Road. This was the time when
China first came into contact with the Central Asia. Though there are no
historical records, still there are ample suggestions that indicate the
seventh king of the Han dynasty, Han Wudi, received Buddhist statues
from Central Asias embassies during this period. Hon Hanshu, the Book of
later Han and the official Chinese historical work complied in the 5th
century, also mentions the dissemination of Buddhist sutras by Central
Asian people during this period.
Later, Chinese emmisaries visited Central Asian countries and rerturned alongwith two missionnaries named Dharmaraksa and Kasyapa Matanga. They also carried back sutras written with 600,000 Sanskrit words. The two emmisaries wrote the "The Sutra of forty-two sections spoken by the Buddha" so as to offer a guidance on the ideas of Buddhism and conducts of monks. This is widely regarded as the first Buddhist text in Chinese language though there are recording of this.
The emissaries arrived in China in 67 CE and with this Buddhism made an official entry into China. By the middle of the 1st century, Buddhism established itself in the areas lying north of the Huai river.
In 148 CE, the first documented translation of Buddhist scroptures took place with the arrival of the Parthian missionary An Shih Kao in China. An Shih Kao laid the foundation of Buddhist temples in Loyang.
When Buddhism came into China Confucianism and Taoism were the dominant religion. The ideologies of Buddhism had to be moulded in order to make it acceptable to the people. For example, the concept of monasticism and individual spiritual enlightenment (that directly contradicted with the Confucian principles of family and emperor ) was highlighted as the means by which society and family could be benefited.
- Fall of Han Dynasty in 3rd Century And Buddhism Till 6th Century
: With the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD, a period of chaos hit
China. This was the period when Confucianism and Taoism gradually gave
way to the rise of Buddhism. This period also witnessed two major groups
following Buddhism in their own way. The first of these comprised the
sophisticated gentry that focussed on philosophical and mystical aspects
of Buddhism while the second one dominated by villagers wirked out its
own simple and superstitous way of spreading the religion to masses.
Also, during this period, a number of Buddhis scholars and monks came down to China to propogate Buddhism to Chinese people. In this way, Buddhism became quiet popular with masses in China by 6th century.
- The Rise and Fall of Buddhism Between 6th and 10th Century : From
6th century Ad to 10th century AD, the Sui and T'ang dynasties held
powers in China. During their reign, Buddhism reached its zenith and
many new schools of Buddhism were founded. Each of the Buddhist School
was based on some ancient Buddhist text or doctrine and contributed to
spread the religion to other countries like Korea and Japan.
However, the decline of the great religion also started in the era, during the reign of. Buddhist monasteries paid more attention to farming, trade and money lending thereby ignoring the religious and spiritual obligations. The Chinese Emperor Wu-Tsung, noticing this, ordered the destruction of all Buddhist establishments. This was a big blow to Buddhism in China and marked the started its decline.
- From 11th Century Onwards : The 11th century saw the re
emergence of Confucianism and other traditional religion. Also, the
decline of Buddhism in Indian subcontinent had a great effect on the
popularity of Buddhism in China. The standard for recruiting monks
declined in monasteries and also some decadant schools of Buddhism
emerged. One example of this is the Pu-Tai, or the Laughing Buddha who
was catapulted to the position of highliy respected Maitreya Buddha.
In the 13th century, the Yuan dynasty came into power and adopted the Tibetan form of Buddhism, Lamaism as the state religion.
Buddhism gradually lost its initial effect on the people later on but continued to develop till the advent of Communism. With the rise of Communism, Buddhism suffered the ultimate setback. The Communist government proved successfull in drawing curtains to practice of religion by abolishing all forms of public worship and closing down all the monasteries.
- Buddhism Today : Buddhism, today, is one of the minor religion in China alongwith Confucianism and Taoism.
Schools of Chinese Buddhism
There are 10 principles schools of Buddhism that flourished in China. Actaully, there can be 13 schools of Buddhism, however, the rest three have been absorbed in the 10 schools itself. The 10 schools of Chinese Buddhism are :
1. The Vinaya School (Lu-tsung)
2. The Realistic School (Chu-she)
3. The Three Treatises School (San-lun)
4.The Idealist School (Fa-hsiang)
5. The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen)
6. The Avatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen)
7. The T'ien-t'ai or White Lotus School (Fa-hua)
8. The Pure Land School (Ching t'u)
9. The Dhyana School (Ch'an)
10. Satysiddhi School (Cheng-se) School.