Answer to Question #177387 in History for Feby Abraham

Question #177387

The transformation of Buddhism spread from India to China in the centuries after the collapse of the Han dynasty and under the Tang dynasty. (seventh through ninth centuries).

--Lives of the Eminent Monks and Nuns (Zhu Seng Du)

--Shi Baochang, Life of the Nun Lingshou 

--On the Tang suppression of Buddhist monasteries, 845 C.E.

Explains:

a) how Buddhism changed in its beliefs and practices as it spread from South Asia to China;

b) the ways in which Buddhism began to change the beliefs and practices of Confucianism;

c) the possible reasons for the Tang emperor's suppression of Buddhist institutions in 845. 

300 words


1
Expert's answer
2021-04-06T08:37:01-0400

a)     How Buddhism changed in its beliefs and practices as it spread from South Asia to China

Buddhism heavily influenced China and has shaped it into the nation it is today. Through the spread of Buddhism, other philosophies in China have also changed and developed. Buddhist schools were established and ideas from Confucianism and Taoism both became integrated into Buddhism. Before the end of the Age of Division, Buddhism had gained a remarkable hold in China. It appealed to people in China above all because it addressed questions of suffering and death with a directness unmatched in native traditions.

Buddhism teaches people to give up worldly desires and possessions, so it would make people live simpler, more spiritual, and less material lives. The essence of Zen is attempting to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought or language.

b)     Ways in which Buddhism began to change the beliefs and practices of Confucianism

Confucians in China began to accept Buddhist teachings, causing the combination of different religions to be conceived. Neo-Confucianism combined the rational thought of Confucianism with more abstract thoughts from Buddhism, emphasizing ethics rather than mysteries.

Buddhists seek to achieve enlightenment through meditation, spiritual learning, and practice. As Buddhism became more prevalent, its concepts merged with Taoist and Confucian ideas to become the basis of ancient Chinese society and government. Its influence is seen in Chinese art, architecture, and literature.

c)     Possible reasons for the Tang emperor's suppression of Buddhist institutions in 845

Emperor Wuzong's reasons for persecuting the Buddhist organizations and temples throughout China were economic, social, and religious.

Economic reasons: In 843 the emperor's armies won a decisive battle against the Uyghur tribes at the cost of almost bankrupting the country. Wuzong's solution to the financial crisis was to go after the wealth that had been accumulated in the Buddhist monasteries. 

·        Social reasons: Confucian intellectuals such as Han Yu railed against Buddhism for undermining the social structure of China. It eroded the loyalty of son to father, and subject to ruler, by encouraging people to leave their families and to become monks and nuns. Once they had been ordained, they stopped engaging in useful economic activity such as agriculture and weaving, and became a burden that had to be supported by the work of others. The persecution sought to return monks and nuns to the ranks of tax-paying commoners engaged in useful economic activity.

·        Religious reasons: While Wuzong saw Buddhism as a foreign religion that was harmful to Chinese society, he became a zealous follower of Taoism, a faith which he regarded as native to China. Buddhism preached the attainment of non-birth or nirvana, which its critics equated with death, while Taoism promised immortality, a notion that increasingly captured the attention of the emperor as he grew older and less rational.


 


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