Spread of Buddhism in China
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As Buddhism spread from India to China beginning in the first century C.E., it was met with mixed results. Many Chinese accepted Buddhism and defended its policies while others rejected Buddhism as a religion and solution to political and social problems. Still others remained indifferent, wishing they could meld the aspects of belief systems in China in order to create a unique Chinese culture. The people of China responded in different ways to the spread of Buddhism. Documents 2 and 3 defend and support Buddhism in China, while documents 4 and 6 scrutinize it and discourage its spread. Documents 1 and 5 neither encourage nor discourage the religions spread, but provide a third perspective on how it should be dealt with. An additional document that shows the actual numbers of converts to Buddhism during this time would be useful.
Documents 2 and 3 defend and support the spread of Buddhism in China during first century C.E. Document 2 speaks of the many joys of joining the Buddhist religion. It describes how if you follow the customs of this religion, then when your “soul passes away” your spirit will become enlightened and you will enter Nirvana. However, the author, Zhi Dun, is from the upper class of China’s social structure and as such, his experiences and feelings do not tell how the lower classes citizens felt. Yet, in a time when Asian steppe nomads were invading northern China, Zhi Dun could have easily targeted Buddhism as a means of foreign corruption, but he does not.
Document 3 counters the scrutiny of anti-Buddhists with logic. There have been disputes over how Buddhism eliminates the joy of having children and wives, when it comes to monks. But monks serve a very important purpose, that make them happy. A monk accumulates goodness and wisdom in exchange for having kids and a wife . With Buddhism, there are people that have children, and continue the circle of life, and there are people that collect knowledge to share with their people to keep society up to date per say. There is also a negative side to this. Since so many people have converted to becoming monks and nuns, who is doing the necessary work, like working the fields, or making clothes. Also, Since the author is an anonymous Chinese scholar, his thoughts in this document are difficult to pinpoint, yet his role as a scholar certainly dictates a slight upper class bias, as in document 2.
Documents 4 and 6 discourage the spread of Buddhism in first century C.E. China. Document 4 ridicules Buddhism as “a cult of barbarian peoples,” citing Confucian sayings as the truth amongst Buddhist lies. Doc 4 expresses how the Buddha was “ a man of the barbarians who did not speak Chinese and who wore clothes of a different fashion… the Buddhas manner of dress did not conform to our laws,” which represented how the teachings of Buddhism did not follow the traditions of the chinese culture. Han Yu’s position in the imperial court certainly makes his ideas from a high political viewpoint, yet the Emperor acts otherwise and the peasants might not share the same opinions.
Document 6 presents Buddhism as the cause for the numerous problems in Chinese society. “ Buddhism has transmitted its strange ways and has spread like a luxuriant vine until it has poisoned the customs of our nation,” which contributed to many hardships and uncertainties in the Chinese society. Some citizens truly believed that Buddhism(since it was not origionally from China) was a poison to the Chinese culture. This relates to how many Chinese citizens were xenophobic. Since the author is Emperor Wu himself, it is likely that his opinions carried a lot of weight in his nation, yet many times citizens will adopt prohibited acts merely in an attempt to rebel.
Documents 1 and 5 neither discourages nor encourage Buddhism’s spread in China, but attempt to make a compromise. Document 1 is directly from Buddhist tradition, laying down the basic principles to attaining a happy and enlightened life. Buddhism is a feel good kind of religion. Many things can cause sorrow but the way you can stop sorrow isby stepping away from temptations. The Buddha created the religion Buddhism because he wanted to share with his followers how to be happy in life. He wanted to share how Buddhism is a positive thing that can help you push through sorrowful times in your life. Document 5 attempts to create a compromise among the conflicts of belief systems in China. Confucious and Laozi are both Chinese philosophers and scholars who are respected and trusted by Chinese citizens. When “ they established their teachings according to the demands of the age and the needs of various beings,” they incorporated Buddhist belifs with some Chinese teaching. This helped some Chinese citizens with transitioning to Buddhism as their main religion. Athough Zong Mi’s intentions may seem unbiased, he is himself a Buddhist scholar, so his ideals might simply be an attempt to defend Buddhism.
The spread of Buddhism in China during the first century encountered multiple different responses. Somes responses were negative and violent while others were welcoming and positive. . The people of China responded in different ways to the spread of Buddhism. Documents 2 and 3 defend and support Buddhism in China, while documents 4 and 6 scrutinize it and discourage its spread. Documents 1 and 5 neither encourage nor discourage the religions spread, but provide a third perspective on how it should be dealt with. An additional document that shows the actual numbers of converts to Buddhism during this time would be useful.