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From Its Introduction
to the Death of Hui-yiian
Volume 1
by Zenryu Tsukamoto
Tokyo, New York, San Francisco
B ,..., b-1b
T l ~ J t - 1
v, I
Originally published as Chagoku Bukkyll tsashi, volume 1, by Shunjosha,
The translation of this work was assisted by a grant from the Ministry
of Education of Japan.
Distributed in the United States by Kodansha International/USA Ltd.,
through Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New
York, New York 10022. Published by Kodansha International Ltd.,
12-21 Otowa 2-chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112 and Kodansha
International/ USA Ltd., with offices at 10 East 53rd Street, New
York, New York 10022 and The Hearst Building, 5 Third Street, Suite
430, San Francisco, California 94103.
Copyright 1979 by the estate of Zenryo Tsukamoto.
English-language copyright 1985 by Kodansha International Ltd.
All rights reserved. Printed in Japan.
First English edition, 1985
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Tsukamoto, Zenryii, 1898-
A history of early Chinese Buddhism.
Translation of: Chiigoku Bukkyo tsiishi.
Bibliography: p.
Includes index.
1. Buddhism-China-History-To 581 A.D. I. Title.
BQ636.T75713 1985 294.3'0951 83-48873
ISBN 0--87011-{;35-5 (US: set)
ISBN 0--87011-{;45-2 (US: vol. 1)
lliSN 4-7700-1135--0 (Japan: set)
ISBN 4-7700-1145-8 (Japan: vol. 1)
1 The Special Shape of Chinese Buddhism: What Molded Its Character 1
A. A Chinese Religion That Had Shed
Its Indian Skin 3 I B. Foreign Char-
acteristics 7 I c. The Impact of Indig-
enous Learning and Ideas 21
2 First Arrival : Buddhism in the Latter Han
A. Emperor Ming' s Quest of the
Dharma in Response to a Dream 41 I
B. Buddhism on Its First Appearance
in China 51 I c. The Emergence and
Influence of Buddhist Scriptures in
Chinese Translation 78
3 Buddhism under the Three Kingdoms
A. Buddhism and the Collapse of
the Latter Han 115 I B. The Discon-
tinuation of Popular Shrine Worship
and the Suppression of Shamans in
Early Wei 1191 c. Buddhism and
4 Buddhism under the Western Tsin
A. The Community of Learned Bud-
dhists and the Society of theW estern
Tsin 167 I B. Movements of the
Religious Community under the
the Rise of "Dark Learning" under
the Wei 123 I D. Wei Buddhism,
with Its Center at Lo-yang 133 I
E. Wu Buddhism, with Its Center at
Chien-k'ang 141
Western Tsin 188 I c. Dharmarak$a
as Translator and Evangelist 193 I
D. The Translations of Chu Shu-Ian
5 The Rise of Buddhism under Non-Chinese Rulers in the North
A. Social Dislocations Beginning
under the Late Western- Tsin 241 I
B. The Rapid Conversion of the
North under Fo-t'u-ch'eng 249 I c.
The Recluse Chu Seng-lang and the
Homilist Chu Fa-ya 285
6 The Rise of Buddhism South of the Yangtze under the Eastern Tsin 311
A. Collapse of the Western Tsin and Buddhism at Chien-k'ang under the
Buddhism's Southward Trek 313 I Late Eastern Tsin 385 I E. Develop-
B. Monkish Recluses and the Com- ment of a Community of Nuns 417 I
munity of "Pure Talkers" and "Dark F. TheW estward Pilgrimage of Chi-
Learners" at Chien-k' ang and K' uai- nese Buddhists in Quest of the
chi 331 I c. Doctrinal Disputes and D h ~ r m a 430 I G. Problems Posed by
the Advance of Prajiiaparamita Study the New Buddhist Arrivals in East-
361 I D. The Advance and Decline of ern Tsin 440
Notes to the Text 461
7 Tao-an and His Place in the History of Chinese Buddhism 655
A. The Achievements of Tao-an 657 I Third Period: At Ch'ang-an 723 I B.
B. The First Period: A Wandering Tao-an as a Believer in Maitreya
Practitioner 660 I c. The Second and Tu$ita 753
Period: At Hsiang-yang 691 I D. The
8 Hui-ytian and His Circle 757
A. Introduction 759 I B. The Forma-
tion of Hui-yi.ian' s Ideas before His
Entry into the Order 764 I c. Hui-
yi.ian as a Disciple of Tao-an 778 I
D. Hui-yi.ian on Mount Lu 805 I B.
The Dispute between Huan Hsi.ian
and Hui-yi.ian 828 I F. Comrades
Vow to Recollect Amitabuddha: The
Notes to the Text
Notes to the Appendixes
White Lotus Fellowship 844 I G.
The Acceptance of Kumarajiva's
Buddhism 869 I H. Problems Con-
fronted in Old Age 878 f I. The
Cave of the Buddha's Shadow 885 I
J. Death: The Mount Lu Commu-
nity and the Monastic Code 889
A. A Chinese Religion That Had Shed
Its Indian Skin
In the present work, when we say "Chinese Buddhism," we mean the religion
which, founded in India by Sakyamuni (the sainted ascetic of the Sakya clan, whose
name appears, in its Mandarin Chinese guise, as Shih-chia-mou-ni),a proceeded from
the land of its origin and the mission territories of Central Asia, occasionally even
from Ceylon and Southeast Asia, to a totally different cultural sphere, a land with
a highly developed and virtually unique civilization whose people referred to
themselves as "central" and "flowering" (chung hua). Once there, through the instru-
ment of a huge scriptural corpus now rendered into Chinese, a medium of expression
different from the original in both language and script, and subjected by the Chinese
themselves to selection, reinterpretation, and reorganization, it is a religion that came
to be realized and propagated as a set of ideas and beliefs in its own right, thus to
become long and widely current in Chinese society under the rubric of "the Bud-
dha's teaching" (Po chiao).
Chinese Buddhism in the History of Asian Civilization. Chinese Buddhism was born
of the meeting between two of Asia's oldest and most highly developed civilizations,
the Indian and the Chinese. As is generally known, these two before this meeting
had been pursuing two totally dissimilar and unrelated courses of development.
While India and China are, to be sure, both part of the same Asian land mass, they
have been separated by mountain ranges, plateaus, and deserts, by jungles sheltering
ferocious beasts, and by broad expanses of water, most of these marked by terrain
forbidding any kind of human existence, all of them virtually impassable to the
ancients. Thus both the Indians and the Chinese, characterized by the unrelated civi-
lizations just mentioned, lived long in virtual isolation with no exchange of cultures
or even of artifacts.
Yet human civilizations, being what they are, could not remain isolated forever.
There is ample grounds for belief that an admittedly very modest exchange of cul-
ture between East and West, in all likelihood unknown even to the respective
governments, took place from quite an early date, just as water, finding its own
cracks and crevices, will seep even through gigantic boulders. As early as the end of
the second century B.C. there took place an historically dramatic event, the opening
of a through passage from East to West, passing through Central Asia. We are re-
ferring, of course, to the contact made possible through the westward expedition
commissioned by Emperor Wu of the Han and led by Chang Ch'ien.2c After
Ch'ien's return to China (126 B.c.), his country's government embarked on a course
of what is frequently called "management of the Western Regions," i.e., a policy
of extending Chinese power to the oasis countries that dot the dry regions of eastern
Turkestan and, proceeding thence, of furthering trade across Central Asia and
establishing friendly relations with countries even farther west. Thanks to this policy,
even the great empires to China's west, such as Rome and Persia, became eager to
acquire not only silk from China but a wide variety of Oriental artifacts and treas-
ures from the caravans that crossed that so-called Silk Road.d In this way, through a
series of events that are now a matter of common historical knowledge, China came
to have a flourishing intercourse, both direct and indirect, not only with the Pamir
plateau countries to its immediate west but even with countries farther west yet. As
a result, western artifacts made their way first into the region of Ch' ang-an and Lo-
yang, which was the center of China's cultural life, then into the Yellow River basin.
Eventually Indian artifacts joined this stream and, most important for our pur-
poses, Buddhism began to flow with it, exerting an enormous influence not only on
Chinese cultural forms but on those of the rest of Asia as well. Buddhism, in origin
a religion that had arisen in the Ganges basin of Central India as a reaction to the
tradition-bound Brahmanical culture that was already in control of virtually the
whole country, had by about the first century of the Christian era spread throughout
almost all oflndia and beyond to India's northwest, to what is now the Kabul region
in Afghanistan, then out oflndia altogether, to the country east and west of the Pa-
mirs. Buddhism, this rebel child of Indian culture, proceeded eastward quite as if it
were the representative of Indian civilization, functioning very actively and over
an extended period of time as an embassy of peace, uniting the sophisticated, and at
the same time utterly dissimilar, cultures of India and China. Buddhism, by now a
religion practiced in India and in all theW estern Regions, also in the mainland and
island countries of Southeast Asia, made its way over land and sea routes to China.
There it was received on a wide scale into a cultural sphere governed by a different
but no less tradition-bound civilization, particularly by the sense of the superiority
of the "central and flowering" to everything else.e In the latter country, eventually
becoming inextricable from the life of the nation, it came to form a religion that is
fully entitled to be called by the name "Chinese Buddhism."
The Buddhism of China, no less than that oflndia, accepted the Indian Sakyamuni
as its Founder, regarded His teaching as that of Sakyamuni turned buddha (which
they rendered with chueh che, "the One of enlightened intuition"), as a doctrine that
would lead the believer himself and all others to the same status of enlightened in-
tuition. In these respects, it was no different from the Buddhism oflndia or indeed
of any other territory. Chinese Buddhism, on the other hand, being a religion that
had grown on the vast soil and amid the conditions peculiar to the "Middle King-
dom," wherein the ancient and highly advanced civilization of the Chinese had
taken root and spread, could not but undergo certain changes that were to distinguish
it markedly from Buddhism in the land of its origin. It was precisely these Chinese
transformations that made it a religion able to spread and prosper in Chinese society.
Acceptance of Scriptures in Translation. As one example of the transformation just
mentioned, one might cite the fact that the scriptures of this foreign religion, written
with a phonetic script or recited orally, in a language with a highly developed mor-
phology, were now rendered into a literary language of a totally different character,
that of China, written with ideographs each of which had an independent meaning of
its own and characterized by an absence of morphology. Now the Chinese had re-
course not to the original but to Buddhist scriptures translated into their own
language, which they read, interpreted, and equipped with commentary, developing
a set of Buddhist doctrines and practices able to function in Chinese society. Mis-
translations there may have been. Abbreviations and omissions there may also have
been, thanks to imperfections in the originals or to distortions on the part of the
translators, whether through inattention or by design. No matter. Once China's
Buddhists had got the scriptures rendered into their own language, never troubling
to compare the Chinese translations with the originals, seldom if ever bothering even
to establish the meaning of the originals by a conjecture based on the reading of the
translations, convinced as they were of the superiority of Chinese culture and given
as they were to venerating their own script and trusting the written word rather
uncritically, they accepted these scriptures in Chinese translation, although couched
now in a very different language, as a veritable record of the Dharma preached by
the Buddha, and proceeded to construe them as Chinese literature. Under the cir-
cumstances, the original sense of the Indian Buddhist scriptures inevitably underwent
a typically Chinese interpretation. However mistaken this interpretation might be
from the point of view of the originals, Chinese Buddhism developed on the assump-
tion that the interpretation was an accurate one.
s Buddha
s Sages and Sylphs. The changes that took place were not all
due to differences in language and script. China's people, as has already been sug-
gested, prided themselves on an extremely old and sophisticated culture, thus as-
suming the superiority of everything Chinese and the contemptible inferiority of
everything foreign. Before the advent of Buddhism, they had had a belief in a
pantheon, presided over by a supreme deity called, among other things, t
ien ti, and
consisting of a whole host oflesser gods, including those of mountains, rivers, stars,
and planets. They also had had their own ancient Sages (sheng jen) and sylphs (shen
hsien), as well as a body of ancient books authoritatively handed down from genera-
tion to generation as repositories of the teachings of these holy men. There were
also shamans who mediated between gods and men, pronouncers of charms and
spells, and practitioners believed to be skilled cultivators of the sylphs' recipes of
longevity. Buddhism, a foreign religion accepted in translation as the teaching of a
sage or sylph of a barbarian land, could not be received without some resistance from
the systems of China's own indigenous Sages and sylphs. The foreign religion con-
trived to develop into a Chinese Buddhism functioning organically within Chinese
society itself through confrontation and compromise with China's traditional
teachings and beliefs. Here too is observable the process whereby Chinese Buddhism
shed the skin oflndian Buddhism and achieyed a growth of its own.
s Social Structure and the New Religion. Note must also be taken of the struc-
ture of the Chinese society into which Buddhism made its way. Chinese society,
numbering several millions of human beings, consisted of an upper and lower class,
the rulers and the ruled, the former being a governing class (the so-called shih) ex-
tremely small in number, the latter a commonalty comprising the vast majority of
the population. The former were, in turn, a highly educated group, the central posi-
tion in whose lives was occupied by a body of traditional texts, whose very words,
spoken as well as written, were measured to these classical writings; in sum, they
were the bearers of China's highly sophisticated civilization. The latter, on the other
hand, being cut adrift of education and learning, were rather left to toil productively
in ignorance and to do their duty in obedience to their rulers, to whom they were
also bound by obligations of tax and corvee. Such being the definition of "good
people" (liang min), the society of commoners was constantly attended by ignorance
and poverty. The Buddhist scriptures, even when rendered into Chinese, were illegi-
ble to the rna jority of these people.
A foreign religion accepted by two social strata so widely differing as these could
not become anything other than a Chinese Buddhism with equally great differences
in the degree of understanding and the character of its adherents. Buddhism for its
own part, being the preserve of persons who had "forsaken the household life"
(ch'u chia, i.e., monks and nuns), persons outside the framework of these two classes,
the rulers and the ruled, would naturally recommend itself to such persons otherwise
than to the lay Buddhist. The clergy were, needless to say, the carriers of a developing
Chinese Buddhism, its leaders. In view of this, the emergence and development of
their own Buddhism was undeniably at the kernel of the religion as a whole. Yet,
one who thinks of Chinese Buddhism may never forget the religion received into
a Chinese society that consisted of more than monks.
Thus, Buddhism in China, a land whose government, economy, and entire
civilization were different from those of India and the countries of Central Asia,
could not help being different from Buddhism in the land of its origin. It could not
possibly be obedient to the prescriptions of Indian Buddhism even in regard to
food, clothing, and shelter.
Acceptance of Many Buddhisms as the Word of the One Buddha. The emergence of a
Chinese Buddhism was conditioned not only by the situation of the receiver but by
the character of the incoming religion as well. For all that it might be practiced and
accepted on faith as the doctrine of Sakyamuni, it was not the so-called "primitive
Buddhism" of the Founder's own time, or even of that of His disciples, accepted
tel quel from India. The odyssey of Buddhism with which we are dealing had its
start about the beginning of the Christian era, several centuries after the Founder's
death, and consisted principally of the Western Regions, the vast territory of
Central Asia. The translation of the Buddhist scriptures begins only in the second cen-
tury, some two hundred years later, and continues uninterruptedly for almost a
thousand years. In other words, only after Indian Buddhism had spread throughout
that whole land, struck out to areas beyond India, and become influenced by the
natural surroundings and political and economic conditions in those several coun-
tries; after the religious community had split into a large number of rival sects and
schools and become scholastic and partisan; after the Mahayana had arisen, finally,
as a reaction to this sectarian splintering-only after all this did a certain number of
schools within this multiple Buddhism spread from India and Central and Southeast
Asia to China. A wide variety of Buddhist teachings, of both the Greater and the
Lesser Vehicles, were translated as sacred sermons of the Buddha, and all of them
were accepted as the Holy Writ of Buddhism, as a record of the spoken teachings of
Sakyamuni, by the Chinese, who were quite ignorant of conditions within the Indian
Buddhist church itsel
Buddhism in India had been developing and, in particular, had proceeded to turn
out a large number of scriptural texts in conjunction with the striking florescence of
the Mahayana. Buddhism, this changing and developing religion, passed into China
in successive waves and over a long period of time, conveyed by missionary transla-
tors of different schools and from different countries, the mission territories as well
as India itsel As is to be expected, the Buddhism of China which emerged from this
prolonged and complicated transmission took a variety of forms and underwent a
variety of changes.
The goal of the present work is to record the time from which Buddhism began
its passage into China, the manner in which it was received by the Chinese, and the
manner of the emergence, development, and growth of Buddhism as a form of
Chinese thought, as a religion current in Chinese society, by confronting, and by
coalescing and compromising with, traditional Chinese ideas and beliefs.
Spread of Chinese Buddhism throughout the Far East. While Chinese Buddhism has lost
none of the original stuff of Buddhism, in respect ofbeing a doctrine that directs the
believer toward becoming a Buddha, i.e., a person of enlightened intuition, it has
not in all cases faithfully transmitted the teachings ofSakyamuni. On the other hand,
Chinese Buddhism spread into, and furnished an impulse for religious growth in,
countries besides China, such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam-in short, throughout
the area in which the Chinese written word holds sway. More than that, in company
with the development of communities of overseas Chinese, it spread throughout
Southeast Asia
most notably on the Indo-Chinese peninsula. In this sense, it is
Chinese Buddhism, based on the Buddhist scriptures in Chinese translation, that is
the source of religious civilization for the whole Far East.
Let us now consider under separate headings the character of this foreign religion
and the conditions of the receiving culture, both of which combined to form the
nature of Chinese Buddhism, a religion based on translations of the Buddhist canon,
once this latter had spread into this new mission terrttory.
B. Foreign Characteristics
As we have seen above, the emergence of a Chinese Buddhism different from its In-
dian prototype was conditioned first by the character of the foreign religion itself,
then by the ideas, the beliefs, and the general social situation of the society that
received it. Thus we must now point out two or three noteworthy facts about
Buddhism at the time of its passage into China, since that is what furnished the base
for the development of Buddhism in China itsel
While the arrival and acceptance in China of Buddhism itself was a slow process, da-
ting presumably to the first century B.C. but to no later than the beginning of the
Christian era, the availability of the scriptures in Chinese translation to the ruling cir-
cles and to intellectuals in general at the cultural center of gravity, where they all
lived, and-most important-in significant quantities was due to An Shih-kao, a Par-
thian, and a Yiieh-chih, both of whom arrived almost simultaneously
in the latter half of the second century.b These two Buddhists were, however, repre-
sentatives of two different schools, subscribing to two manifestly different forms of
Buddhism. They were, namely, a Hinayanist and a Mahayanist respectively, spokes-
men for two religious movements that in their Central Asian homeland were in
mutual opposition and even conflict. To be more specific yet, the former missionary
was, more than anything else, a propagator of Sarvastivada doctrines, while the latter
was a disseminator of the early Mahayana scriptures, most notably those of the Pra-
jfiaparamita corpus. The Chinese, unaware that the Mahayana and Hinayana were
Buddhist movements that in their homeland opposed and even attacked each other,
accepted the translations of both varieties of scriptures, bearing as they did the title
"canon preached by the Buddha" (Po shuo ching), as being equally and without distinc-
tion the sacred sermons of the Dharma preached by the Sakyabuddha Himsel Thus
Buddhism as a specifically Chinese religion had from its very point of departure a set
of premises different from those that had underlain it in its native land.
Indian Buddhism, from about the time ofits passage into China, was experiencing
major changes in its very homeland. The first of these was the rise and sudden de-
velopment of the Mahayana. The second was the fashioning of Buddhist icons. The
latter signifies the transformation of Buddhism from a religion in which, at least at
first, the stfipa (reliquary) was the central object of worship and there were no icons,
to one in which the objects of worship and adoration were the stfipa and the icon,
now placed side by side. The former, in turn, signifies the sponsorship of a passionate
reform movement and the uninterrupted production and ceaseless propagation of the
so-called sermons of the Great Vehicle containing the move-
ment' s message, by persons, both lay and clerical, sharply critical of the traditional
Buddhist schools and of their monkish representatives, who by now were divided
into many schools and sects, each clinging tenaciously to its own traditions, all of
them scholasticized and in stark opposition to one another. These were denigrated by
the reformers as the "Lesser Vehicle, "c one in which the clergy was monopolizing the
Teaching of the Buddha, now distorted by the monks into a petty dogma designed
for their own pleasure. The reformers referred to themselves as the "Greater Vehi-
cle," hoisting aloft as their banner a return to the Buddha's original Message and a
vow to place before everything else the salvation of all mankind, both present and
future, a goal in devotion to which they should be "bodhisattvas," cultivating
ascetic practices themselves and rendering unlimited service to others in total disre-
gard of their own lives for the fulfillment of this vow. As we have said above, scrip-
tural texts of the Greater and Lesser Vehicles, schools standing in mutual opposition,
were presented to the Chinese simultaneously during the reigns of emperors Huan
and Ling of the Latter Han, that is, early in the latter half of the second century, as
the first translations of the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. The presentation took
place at Lo-yang, both purporting to be the recorded sermons of the Sakyabuddha,
both endowed with the name ching,d which would assure them the respect and au-
thority enjoyed in China by books purporting to contain the teachings of China's
own ancient
Development and Spread of Indian Buddhism. For all that it originated in India,
Buddhism was not really in the mainstream of Indian civilization. On the contrary,
it was a stepchild, the rebellious progeny, oflndia's traditional culture. The main-
stream of Indian civilization, that magnificent civilization that shed its glow as one of
the world's oldest, had its origins in the Vedic hymns presented to their gods by the
Indo-Aryans who settled in ancient times in the Punjab, on the upper reaches of the
Indus in Northwest India, there to institute an agricultural way of life. These people
eventually made their way southward and eastward, where, in the course of a
prolonged struggle with tropical heat, wild beasts, epidemic disease, and foreign
peoples, they opened the Ganges valley to cultivation and developed the "forest
philosophy" of the Upanishads. It was this way oflife, based on these now sanctified
classics, that led to the creation of a number of philosophic schools and, in turn, to
the development of the popular Hindu religion. The bearer of this civilization was
the Brahmanical caste, which both insisted with pride that it was the highest class in
Indian society and was recognized as such by the society in general. Indian society
had become an already rigidified society, with the Brahmans (briihmava) at the top
and under them, in descending order, the warrior-kings the merchants and
artisans (vaisya), and the lowest class (sudra), then, beyond these, a vast number of
minute sub-castes. The hold of the Brahmans on the world of ideas was not, how-
ever, unshakable. Even to the Brahmans, long honored though they had been as sac-
rificial ministers to the gods, as transmitters and students ofVedas and Upanishads,
and as the country's sole leaders in matters of religion and philosophy, there came
a time of decline, wherein they neglected scholarship and craved only idle self-
amusement. Simultaneously, the and V aisya castes gained in power and
enhanced their social position. As a consequence there emerged from their ranks
persons who themselves moved in the direction of study and thought, learned the
hallowed classics, becoming first skeptical, then critical, of Brahmanical theories,
and finally proceeded to put into practice their own ideas and beliefs. Representative
of these latter are Sakyamuni and Mahavira, both non-Brahmans, each of whom,
about the fourth or fifth century B.c., dissatisfied with the ideological and religious
poverty of the Brahmans, attacked their traditional ideas and established a new relig-
ion of his own, namely, Buddhism and Jainism, respectively. Rebellious children,
even stepchildren, of the Brahmanical tradition they may have been, but these new
religions very rapidly spread the net of their teachings. This was particularly true of
Buddhism, which unlike Jainism-for the latter got as far into India's northwest as
the Mathura region but not very far north of that-moved from its religious base of
Northwest India, which it shared withJainism, throughout all oflndia and even be-
Buddhism, riding the crest of a political wave of religious and spiritual pros-
elytization, in which belief in Buddhism, peace, and compassion were all equally
emphasized by King Asoka (r. ca. 288-232 B.c.), third member of the Maurya clan
that had unified India in a way never before accomplished, was able not only to
spread and flourish throughout virtually all oflndia but also to move from the main-
land to the island of Ceylon and to cross India's northwest frontier in a march to both
north and west.
Sectarian, Scholastic Buddhism. Now, after the death of a Founder whose religious
movement has acquired many disciples and adherents, the emergence within the
ranks of the believers of a senior faction and a junior faction, or of a conservative
tendency and a progressive tendency, is a development not easily avoided. Sakya-
muni's Buddhist movement was no more able to escape this tendency to internal
opposition than were other religious movements. This led in due course to sectarian
division. Apart from this, for Buddhism to spread throughout vast India in territories
different from one another in natural surroundings, in government and economy,
and even in race, it had to accommodate itself to the local societies if its adherents
were to live, practice their religion, and proselytize in these societies amid other
religious groups already settled in their respective regions. The mendicant monastic
community was to find that it could not maintain itself everywhere by a set of rules
worked out in the Magadha country of Central India. Affected by local peculiarities,
it was inevitable that there should be changes even in the interpretation of the scrip-
tures and of the monastic code and, as a consequence, that there should be an ever
greater splintering of sects as the mission territory broadened. As Sakyamuni's death
receded three, four, or five hundred years into the past, there developed a large num-
ber of sectarian schools, numbered sometimes at eighteen, sometimes at twenty. As
the products of this sectarian splintering entrenched themselves, each insisting and
believing that it alone represented orthodox Buddhism, different interpretations
arose among them with regard to the canonical texts that initially they all had in
common. This exegetical warfare led in turn to more and more hair,..splitting in
textual interpretation and doctrinal formulation, then to doctrinal disputes, thus
leading the monks to bury themselves in the specialized study of their own sectarian
dogmas in sharp opposition to those of all other schools, to forget their own religious
mission of self-cultivation and the deliverance ofhuman society, to treat the doctrines
of Buddhism as their own private preserve, and to value above all else the tradition
of picayune exegetical dogmatism.
The Mahayana Movement. As a reaction to this degeneration of Buddhist doctrine
to hair-splitting scholasticism and, in connection with this, to a situation in which
the sectarians were monopolizing the Buddhist religion as the private preserve of the
monastic clergy to the neglect of the social mission of the religious, that of putting
compassion and deliverance into practice, there arose, as might have been expected,
from the religiously committed among clergy and laity both a chorus of critical
voices, of dissatisfied voices, a movement calling for self-examination. "Return to
the spirit of our Founder, the Venerable Sakya." It will simply not do, said these re-
formers, to concern oneself with learned disputation to the neglect of one's own
salvation. In order to rescue the totality of suffering mankind, said these same persons,
one must vow to sacrifice oneself, to proceed with vigor on the path of self-cultiva-
tion-that is the essence of the Buddha's teaching! Moreover, said the reformers, the
doctrines of these schools, which vie with one another for dogmatic depth and sub-
tlety to the total neglect of self-sacrificing service in the interest of saving human
society, result in distortion and misunderstanding of the Buddha's doctrine itself.
Unless this sort of "Buddhism" is reformed, said these persons finally, it will simply
not be possible to make the Buddha's teaching relevant to our own times. It was by
uniting two spirits, that of a "return to Buddha," i.e., of a supposed reversion to the
past, and of a forward movement, that of making the Buddha's teaching a religion
within the reach of all its own contemporaries, that a new Buddhist movement,
intent on renovating the Buddhist tradition, came into being. This is what is meant
by the "Buddhism of the bodhisattva," a movement that denigrated the religion of
the schools as a "Lesser Vehicle" and that called itself the Buddhism of the "Greater
Vehicle," a religion that sought to clarify the Buddha's real doctrine and to make it
a reality for its own time and society. It is presumably about the beginning of the
Christian era that the Mahayana Buddhist movement compiled its own earliest scrip-
tures and came to the fore as an explicit movement. During the first and second
centuries this movement reached Northwest India, where the propagation of the
early Mahayana scriptures was pursued with vigor.
Simultaneous Acceptance of Multiple and Conflicting Buddhisms. No one can say with
certainty where in India, when, and by whom Mahayana Buddhism was founded,
nor when and by what sort of persons the first Mahayana scriptures were composed.
It would be as well to consider the likelihood that they were a product not merely of
conditions within the Indian Buddhist community, such as have been described
above, but of traditional Indian philosophic ideas, of a variety offoreign religions and
sets of ideas, such, for example, as those of Greece and Iran, as well. For closer study
of this area one has scarcely any choice other than to rely on cooperation from spe-
cialists in Indian Buddhism and on students of archaeology and other disciplines. If,
however, one's focus is Chinese Buddhism, one must pay special attention to two
(presumable) facts, viz., that by the first or second century early Mahayana scriptures
such as have been mentioned above made their way into Northwest India, the avenue
to the Silk Road so intimately connected with the passage of Buddhism into China,
and that the movement represented by these scriptures was engaged in feverish mis-
sionary activity in head-on opposition to the Hinayana schools, most particularly that
of the Sarvastivada, already settled and established there. Since this area was al-
ready by the first and second centuries an area linked to the Silk Road leading into
China, as a consequence it was an area that could easily be stimulated to broaden its
field of vision from India to the whole world. Hence, the propagation in this area of
two kinds of Buddhism, Mahayana and Hinayana, in unequivocal opposition to
each other eventuated in the quest-by both of new mission territories outside India
and, consequently, in a march eastward. This manifests itself in the second century,
at the very beginning of the acceptance of Buddhism by the Chinese, in the simul-
taneous translation of scriptures of both varieties, those of the Hinayana by An Shih-
kao, those of the Mahayana by
Several schools ofHinayana Buddhism had made their way into Northwest India,
but in particular the Sarvastivada school was strong in and about the Kashmir re-
gion. Sarvastivada scholarship, commonly known as "Abhidharma scholarship,"
was concentrated on a minute analysis of phenomena, giving way ultimately to a
minutely analytical style of scholarship monopolized by monks belonging to this
school. The Mahayanists directed their barbs at the Abhidharmikas, who, in their
preoccupation with an exegesis that was becoming ever more analytical, ever more
philological, and ever more picayune, were neglecting their proper activities as men
of religion. The rise and spread of the Mahayana quite naturally led the Hinayanists
to have a good look at themselves, but it also stimulated in them a sense of resistance
and rivalry, as well as the wish to do missionary work of their own. The Buddhism
of the Lesser Vehicle current in Northwest India appears to have preceded that of the
Greater Vehicle on to the Silk Road and eastward, where it engaged in proselytiza-
tion in two countries close to China, namely, Kucha and Khotan. However, the
Greater Vehicle, no less committed to eastward evangelism, proceeded southward
to Khotan. Ze In this way, the Greater and Lesser Vehicles, which made their way into
Northwest India in the first century and later, pursued then with vigor, side by side
and in mutual rivalry, the evangelization of Central Asia. This evangelist move-
ment, mounted on the Silk Road, that avenue of an already flourishing east-west
trade cutting through Central Asia, proceeded inevitably into the target areas not
only of the oasis countries through which it passed but also of its terminus, China,
the "land of silk" itsel Thus the Buddhism that found its way into China in transla-
tion in the second century was not simply Buddhism without qualification but rather
a religion of two distinct traditions, Mahayana and Hinayana, both parading under
the title Po chiao, "the Buddha's teaching."
Within the Indian Buddhist church in the period spanning the first and third
centuries, the Greater and Lesser Vehicles stood in opposition to each other, each
producing distinguished scholars and evangelists, so that scholarship flourished and
rival missionary movements also arose. The period was one in which the Mahayana
strove to compile, copy, and propagate new scriptures, scriptures rich in philosophic
or literary formulations like the Prajfiaparamita corpus, the Vimalakirtinirdea, or the
Saddharmapurufarfka, or scriptures lauding Buddhas other than Sakyamuni and their
respective "pure lands," like the A-ch'u-Jo kuo kuo ching, the Pratyutpannasamadhi, or
the Sukhavativyuha, while the Hinayana was producing a plethora of doctrinal trea-
tises-in sum, it was an era overflowing with activity. In China, which at first was
quite ignorant of the circumstances in which Buddhism in its very homeland had
become divided into rival sects, the traditions of these several schools, which had in
fact come to mutual rivalry from mutually exclusive religious bodies, doctrines, and
practices, were accepted without distinction as the the Buddha's teaching and their
scriptures, which, whether of the Greater or of the Lesser Vehicle, were to the
Chinese ching, "preached by the Buddha," accepted ohne Weiteres as the Dharma
preached by Sakyamuni. Thus there was laid in China already at this early date the
groundwork for the birth of an all-inclusive Buddhism different from its Indian
A Religion of Culturally Conditioned Multiplicity. China did not stop at importing a
Buddhism with a multiplicity of sectarian manifestations from a common Indian
homeland, for it was the recipient of Buddhism from many localities. Buddhism
came into China from India's north, west, and center, but also from countries outside
India, such as the land of the Ylieh-chih (an empire that for a time held sway as far as
Central India), Parthia, Sogdiana, Kucha, Khotan, etc., in short, from all over vast
Central Asia, into whose lands it had penetrated and by whose inhabitants it was first
accepted and then, once these peoples had been converted, transmitted beyond their
own borders as well. Buddhism had presumably undergone certain changes in each
of these countries, changes that made it different from what it had been in its home-
land. It was by missionaries of divergent nationalities such as these that Buddhism was
spread. It was thus inevitable that Chinese Buddhism, based on the acceptance from
a wide variety of evangelists, of different national origin as well as of different
schools, of a doctrine that each evangelist insisted was the teaching of the Sakya-
buddha, should assume a shape and undergo a development that would make it
different from the Buddhism of India, from the religion of the Founder.
Prolonged and Virtually Uninterrupted Transmission. Another fact of which sight may
not be lost, when considering this developing Chinese Buddhism, is that the above-
mentioned transmission took place over an extent of nearly a thousand years. In In-
dia, as well as in Central and Southeast Asia, Buddhism continued to develop and to
change, giving rise to new doctrines and even to new scriptures. Given the arrival of
a religion of this kind in successive waves, even when the religion received and ac-
cepted by China's Buddhists had acquired a fixed form-not without considerable
effort on the part of the believers-these believers found themselves confronted with
a repeated need for reform in order to accommodate the new accretions. When new
developments in Buddhism were made available in translation for the guidance of the
Chinese by authoritative foreign missionaries who insisted that "This is the true
Doctrine of the Buddha!" then the elaborate structure of dogma that the Chinese,
when left to themselves, had been at such pains to construct would get a jolt, and
the whole structure would find itself in need of revision. At the very least, China's
Buddhists had to proceed to attach the new Buddhism by graft to the Buddhist
complex that they had somehow contrived to work out for themselves, thus pro-
ducing an unwieldy mongrel, and then to organize the whole into a single doctrine,
supposedly preached by a single Buddha in the course of a single lifetime. This is
the origin of what the Japanese call kyoso hanjaku,g a phenomenon that lies at the
base of most of the schools of Chinese Buddhism, something that developed into the
arrangement of the totality of the Chinese Buddhist canon a harmonious whole.
Thus came about the peculiar character of Chinese Buddhism, conditioned by a pro-
longed series of missionary waves from abroad.
Yet another noteworthy fact where the sudden transmission of Buddhism into China
in the first and second centuries is concerned is that before the Christian era no figures
of the Buddha were fashioned. The Buddha was revered in representations of the
Dharma-wheel (dharmacakra), the tree under which He had His experience of en-
lightened intuition the lion throne (si111hasana), the lotus throne (padma-
sana), and the like, or posthumous longing and veneration for Him were demon-
strated through the use of relics (such as the alms bowl) or, in particular, through
reliquaries housing the Buddha's bones (stfipa), reliquaries shaped like an inverted
alms bowl. However, once Indian Buddhism, which did not originally possess
Buddha-images as objects of worship, began to create images of Buddhas and
bodhisattvas and to treat them as objects of worship and other pious acts, the conver-
sion of the territories of eastern Turkestan proceeded at a very rapid pace.h The
Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien, who early in the fifth century crossed the "Ts'ung-ling"
(Pamirs) to "T' o-li" (a tiny country in the Darel basin), a Hinayana land in North-
ern India, reports that he saw there a wood carving of Maitreya bodhisattva eighty
feet high, alleged to have been executed by a certain arhant, and that he heard from
the local people a story attributed by them to their elders, stating that after the
fashioning of that image, which had taken place more than 300 years after the
Nirval).a, an Indian monk had made his appearance, crossing that river (the Sindhu)
with sfitras and vinaya in his possession. (The biography of Fa-sheng in Excerpts
from the Lives of Renowned Monks [Meiso densho] says that an image, which seems to be
the same as the one just mentioned, was fashioned 480 years after the Nirval).a.) This
report, contained in Fa-hsien's journal, is of great interest because it tells us that
Buddhism went east after the fashioning of Buddha-images had come into vogue.
The passage of Buddhism eastward, i.e., into Eastern Turkestan, presumably
began in the first century, but, by about the time that Fa-hsien set out for India,
beginning with the transformation of Shan-shan, a country near China, into a
Hinayana land in which more than four thousand monks were learning the language
and script oflndia, Kucha was in the process of becoming a land dominated by the
Lesser Vehicle, while Khotan was becoming an active Mahayana land, the Greater
Vehicle having emerged there and crushed the Lesser Vehicle, which had preceded
it. The proselytization of China also became suddenly quite active in the first and
second centuries. This is to say that the conversion of China took an active turn
from the time that a great change was coming about in practice and ritual in the
Buddhist circles at least of Northwest India, thanks to the emergence of new objects
of worship within the Buddhist church.
Birthplace oJGreco-Buddhist Sculpture. The acceptance by the Chinese of Buddhism
from the first century onward, particularly from the second century, in an unin-
terrupted transmission from abroad was different from what had happened before
the Christian era in that there was, thanks to a new object of worship, the gold-
wrought Buddhist figure, a development with a totally new face. It is also worthy of
note that these figures, born in Northwest India-the land from which Buddhism
began the eastward march that was to take it to China-of the contact between
Buddhism and Greco-Roman civilization, developed and spread at great speed.
Northwest India was by King Asoka's time Buddhist mission territory, but already
before his reign, at the time of the founder of the Maurya dynasty, to which he
belonged, it had experienced the Alexandrian invasion, as a result of which, and by
agreement with the Greek kings, there were Greek colonies in the area. The de-
scendants of the Greeks, settled from the upper reaches of the Indus into Afghanistan,
could not be oblivious to India's religions. It was far more likely that the Greeks,
who in religious as in other matters set a high value on freedom, should take an
interest in Buddhism, which had come to prosper in Northwest India by denying
the authority of the Brahmans and by preaching that enlightenment was equally
available to men of all classes and to the whole human race in complete disregard of
national boundaries, rather than in Brahmanism, an exclusive religion that insisted
on the inviolability of the caste system. It was, in fact, all the more likely, in that the
great King Asoka was a fervent partisan of Buddhism and a sponsor of missionary
activity beyond his own frontiers, that the descendants of the Greek settlers in India
should find their interests turning toward Buddhism. The Questions of Milinda (the
Milindapafihii of the Pali, corresponding to the Na-hsien-pi-ch'iu ching of the Chinese)
tells us that the Greek king Menander (Milinda in Pali, Mi-lan-t'o in Chinese), who
ruled about 160 B.C. in the Punjab, "as a result of an interview with the learned
Buddhist monk Nagasena (Na-hsien-pi-ch'iu in Chinese), was converted to Bud-
dhism." The historicity of this is generally acknowledged, but, even if one cannot
accept tel que[ the story of the king's conversion, one may still surmise. that there
were among the Greeks settled in Northwest India persons who took an interest in
Buddhism; that there were, in turn, among these some who posed questions from the
standpoint of Greek thought; that, as a result of this, Greek patterns of thought
exerted a certain inevitable influence on Buddhist ideas; and, finally, that these
influences posed some of the problems that confront all mankind irrespective of
race or geography. Behind the Mahayana movement, which had its origin about the
first century, behind the compilation of its first scriptures, it is not unreasonable to
imagine the influences exerted on Buddhism by Greek or, in the broader sense,
Occidental patterns of thought, hard as this may be to prove concretely.
Menander and King Another person to confront the Greek king
Menander was King founder of the Sutiga dynasty, that put an end to
Asoka' s line after the latter's death. tra did suffer from Menander' s invasions,
but one would do well to note that the former lives in tradition as an anti-
Buddhist king who not only persecuted Buddhism but also revived the Brahmanical
rituals. The presumed significance of this fact is the (no less presumptive) conclusion
to be drawn from it, that one of the territories to which the Buddhists could go in
flight from their anti-Buddhist persecutor, King was Northwest India,
a Buddhist mission territory under the rule of King Menander, a sponsor of, and
possibly himself a believer in, Buddhism. This would be one reason for the gravita-
tion of many varieties of Buddhism into Northwest India and their florescence there.
Saka Invasion of Northwest India. There followed in Northwest India the invasion
and domination of the Sakas (known to the Chinese as Se) and the Kushans (Kuei-
shuang) from Central Asia over the Hindukush and southward. The Sakas, a nomad-
ic people, had, about 500 B.C., been under Persian rule, but, driven out of the Sir
Daria area about the middle of the second century B.c. by the Ta-yiieh-chih invasion
from the east, they crossed the Hindukush into Afghanistan and Baluchistan, then
proceeded further south to control the whole Indus valley. About the beginning of
the first century, when all of this was happening, the pressure from the movement
of the Iranianized Sakas did no doubt prod Northwest India's Buddhists into a sense
of uneasiness, thus inciting them to go east of the Pamirs in order to escape their
troubles, but a fact no less important is that these Sakas were no wreckers oflndian
Buddhism. On the contrary, the surviving Buddhist inscriptions are proof that
among these very Sakas were not a few Buddhist converts. The Saka state that was
formed in the Indus valley was by no means the exclusive protector and sponsor of
Buddhism alone, but it was tolerant of all the religions under its rule.
The political situation in Buddhist Northwest India underwent an even greater
change. This was the emergence of the Kushan dynasty, known in the Chinese
histories as the "land of the Great Yiieh-chih" (Ta yiieh chih kuo), creators of a great
empire bestriding India and Central Asia. This happened when the Ta-yiieh-chih,
who had driven the Sakas into Northwest India, left a number of satraps to govern
these territories, and when one of them, a Kushan chieftain (or "marquess," as he is
called in the Chinese sources-kuei shuang hou), built up his own power to where he
was able to act independently. About the second century this line produced rulers
who were themselves Buddhists, a particularly fervent one about the middle of that
century, King under whose reign Buddhism flourished so mightily.k This
succession of invasions and of the imposition of foreign rule on the Buddhists of
Northwest India presumably left these latter no choice but to direct their energies to
the conversion of the foreigners.
These rapid political shifts that took place about the beginning of the Christian
era may well be among the things that stimulated to reflection a Buddhist church that
vaunted itself on a picayune dogma monopolized by monks, each of whom, sealed
up within his own school, would engage in cantankerous disputes with representa-
tives of other schools. Political shifts may also have stimulated the new Mahayana
movement, which placed the highest value on a self-sacrificing service to "teaching
and conversion for the weal of others." Both the Saka state and the Kushan dynasty
had contacts with the civilization of the Occident, and both were active in east-west
trade. Thus they were characterized by broad cultural tolerance, a circumstance that
endowed the activities of the Buddhist church as well with a certain universality.
At any rate, the period ofSaka rule over Northwest India and, following that, of the
establishment of the Kushan dynasty was a period of florescence at least for the
Buddhists of Northwest India, one in which the eastward proselytizing activities of
both the Greater and the Lesser Vehicles were realized. The detailed treatment of
these questions we leave to the Indologists. but at any rate we are led to conclude that
from about the beginning of the Christian era the foreign mission activities of the
Buddhists of Northwest India showed a sudden burst, and that in a series of rapid
moves the stage was set for the promotion of a new Buddhist movement and also for
its eastward march.
Influence of the Icons. Now, next in order, what reinforced in an epoch-making way
the changes, particularly the specifically religious changes, in the doctrine and ritual
of Buddhism and what increased its powers of diffusion in a no less epoch-making
way was the birth of the Buddhist icon.
For a long time after the Nirval).a India's Buddhists fashioned no Buddha-images.
The posthumous veneration and adoration of the Buddha took the form of reverence
for His .relics and traces, leading to worship of the stfipa, which housed His bones.
The gate (torava) of the stUpa at Saiici and the revolving stone fence, covered with
outstanding sculptural representations of scenes from the life of the Buddha and from
the j:itakas that developed into a Buddhist literature, tell of the antiquity and of the
power of diffusion of narrative literature such as the Jataka stories. However, among
these surviving sculptures there is no image of the Buddha. Where the Buddha
would be expected to be, a Dharma-wheel (dharmacakra), or a lion's throne (sif!'l-
hiisana), or a tree symbolizing Him, is worshiped by the believers in
His stead. Yet, by about the first century, in Gandhara, a section ofNorthwest India
where Buddhism was flourishing, where there were also Greeks living and where
Greek civilization had been maintaining itself from generation to generation for quite
some time, anthropomorphic Buddha-figures began to be fashioned in imitation of
the sculptural representations of the Greek gods.
From the elements that make it up the art is called "Greco-Buddhist art," or else
it is called the "Buddhist art of Gandhara" on the basis of where it was produced.
Extremely distinguished works of art, as is well known, were these Buddha- and
bodhisattva-images fashioned in the Greek manner in Gandhara, a region which,
though within India, was open to the world; which was in contact with western
Central Asia, into which flowed the civilizations of Persia, Greece, and Rome; in
which there was, in fact, a settled Greek population and into which there was a con-
stant flow of Greek culture; and where, in addition, all of the civilizations of the west
entered and mingled. There can be little doubt that they exerted an enormous charm
on the Buddhist worshipers of a Founder no longer living. Not only were images of
the Buddha Himself fashioned, but the whole Sakya lineage would be carved with
precision. The venerable form of the Who Himself had been worshiped
posthumously and from afar, as well as the glorious traces of His ascetic practices and
activity as a teacher, were now concretely, very artistically, even impressively,
realized, something that had a strong attractive pull on the reverent sentiments of the
believers and very rapidly made a vogue of the carving of Buddha-images and of
scenes from the Buddha's life. It was inevitable that these icons should be celebrated
as objects of worship. Under the reign of King Kani$ka as well, the icons were
received even into the Hinayana schools of Northwest India, of which the Sarvasti-
vada was the most important and which were under the particular protection of the
king himsel The Mahayana also made use of images.
Buddhism and the Lay Believer. For example, in the chapter on Dharmodgata bo-
dhisattva, the twenty-ninth, in roll 10 of the Tao hsing po-jo ching,
translation of the prajnaparamita sutra, made by him in 179 (second
year of Kuang-ho, in the reign of Emperor Ling of the Latter Han), hence one
of the oldest of the Buddhist scriptures extant in Chinese, we read as follows :
"It is as if after the Buddha's there were a person who fashioned an
image of the Buddha. Of men who saw that image of the Buddha, there would
be none who would not kneel before it with palms joined. The image would
be erect and lovely, no different in appearance from a Buddha. Men, upon seeing
it, would not fail to praise to it, nor bring to it offerings of fragrant flowers and
fine cloth, 0 worthy one !"
If one were to call upon that Buddha, would His spirit reside in that image?
Sadaparibhuta said, "It is not in the image. The reason that Buddha-images are
fashioned is merely the wish to enable men to gain merit [from making and/or
worshiping them] .... Mter the Buddha's, it will be in recollection
of the Buddha that His images shall be fashioned, out of the wish to enable world-
lings to make offerings to them and gain the merit thereof."m
Objects of Buddha-Contemplation in Samadhi. The scriptural text says, in particular,
that the wish was to enable worldlings, i.e., many laymen, to make offerings and gain
merit therefrom. One may surmise, in other words, that image-making was en-
couraged and became fashionable among lay believers. Also, in the belief that recol-
lection of the Buddha in single-minded piety, with the icon as object, was a method
of quickly achieving samadhi (concentration of thought)-in this case the "samadhi
of Buddha-contemplation" (kuan Jo san-mei)-icons became associated with the
Buddhist's most important practical approaches to religion. For another example,
the Pratyutpannasamadhi, which, like the Tao hsing, is also one of the oldest of the
Buddhist scriptures available in Chinese, was translated three times under the Latter
Han. (All three are in T13. The first, entitled Po-chou-san-mei ching, is in one roll. The
second, under the same title, is in three rolls. The third, entitled Pa-po-p'u-sa ching,n
is also in one roll. The third is regarded, on textual evidence. as the oldest version.)
All three list four methods of quickly achieving pratyutpannasamadhi, of which "one
[method] is to fashion an image of the Buddha or draw His picture." In other words,
the scriptural authority is recommending the fashioning of an icon as a practical ap-
proach to meditation, then the concentration of one's thought on the Buddha's form
by using the icon as an object of contemplation. In connection with a practical
religious approach such as this one, that of using the icon as an object of contempla-
tion, there was presumably a rapid development of the architecture of the shrines in
which the images were lodged, and which thus became centers of religious activity,
of the art of decorating them, and, finally, of the body of rituals devoted to the
Icons and Stapas. With the appearance of icons, the stiipa, built in the shape of an
inverted alms-bowl to contain the Buddha's bones (sarira), which after the Buddha's
death had become central objects of worship and veneration on the part of the
Buddhists, was converted into a sort of palace to house the icon. It developed into a
structure of many stories, being by now a holy temple-palace, in which the immor-
tal Buddha actually dwelt and preached. In the which,
together with the Prajfiaparamita scriptures and the Pratyutpannasamiidhisutra, is
among the oldest of the important Mahayana scriptures, also one of the most fre-
quently translated in China and among the most current in that country, there is a
chapter (the StapasaY!fdarsanaparivarta, "Apparition of the Reliquary," appearing in
translation as Ch'i pao t'a p'in, "Stiipa of Seven Jewels;'' and in
Kumarajiva's as Hsien pao t'a p'in, "Apparition of the Jeweled Stiipa") where there
is described with beauty and solemnity a miraculous scene in which there wells up
out of the earth a stiipa made of the Seven Jewels, measuring five hundred yojanas
in all three directions and adorned with numberless banners, pendants, and bells,
reaching into the very heavens, where it is lavished by the gods with flowers, per-
fumes, music, and dance. Seated within this jeweled stiipa is the Buddha Prabhu-
taratna, who invites Sakyamuni to join him. The two Buddhas then sit there, side
by side.
Also, in the Kuan fo san-mei hai ching we see such phrases as the following: "One
is to enter the stiipa and gaze at [the tuft ofhair] between [the Buddha's] brows."
"By 'gazing at the Buddha's image' is meant . 0 that first one enters the buddha-
stupa. 0 "o These are indications that the stiipa, by now a temple-palace for lodg-
ing the Buddha' s image, developed from a receptacle ofbones into a religious center
for the conduct of worship and of other religious activities.
P Also, stiipas of three or
five stories, made of wood and other substances, such as evolved in China and Japan,
are probably a special development, one wherein the Indian stiipa, shaped like an in-
verted alms-bowl, was placed atop a many-storied structure, something already
developed in China.
Development of Buddhist Religious Architecture. The Pure Land scriptures, com-
piled in early Mahayana times like the Prajfi.aparamita scriptures and the Saddharma-
put:4arika and telling of the sermons preached by Buddhas seated in gorgeous
palaces situated in the "pure lands" of and Arnita, furnished an impetus for
the development of lovely Buddhist temple:-palaces, to house Buddha-images here
on earth, in imitation of the palaces occupied by those Buddhas in their "pure
Further Development of Ritual. The celebration of the Buddha's birth came to be
conducted with much pomp as a ceremony entitled hsing hsiang ("walking the
image"), in which, placed in a richly caparisoned carriage, the Buddha's image was
wheeled about the streets of the city. Fa-hsien tells us in his journal that on his way to
India he made a point, to the extent of delaying his arrival at his destination, of
stopping in Khotan to observe an elaborate hsing hsiang ceremony.
Even before
Fa-hsien' s time, in China itself this ceremony had come into vogue everywhere, and
by Northern Wei times the celebration of the Buddha's birth became the most
elaborate ceremony in the year, stirring up the entire citizenry. One may surmise
the speed and force with which religious ceremonies to the accompaniment of
Buddha-figures spread into China.
A Mission Movement Complete with Stapas and Images. The fashioning of Buddhist
images, begun about the first century in Northwest India, was suddenly intensified
in the second and third centuries, and proceeded to become fashionable even in
Central India. Thus the passage of Buddhism through Central Asia to the east
simultaneously with the rise in image-making came to mean that to the stiipas, which
were the central object of worship for the indigenous Buddhists, there were now
added the newly created Buddha-figures; that the stiipas and the images became
joint objects of veneration; and that a Buddhist religion accompanied, so to speak,
by vigorous artistic activity was making its way into this new territory, one in which
there were unfolding at great speed new art forms, new rituals, and new forms of
religious practice. For China this meant that the propagation of a foreign religion
was taking place to the accompaniment of religious art, represented by golden
Buddha-figures and many-storied stiipas, that exerted a truly enormous influence
on the Chinese nation and that also was very effective in winning converts. There
must have been a difference in both degree and kind between the Buddhist mis-
sions antedating the Christian era, when there were no images, and this new religion,
which, equipped as it was with stiipas and images, both novelties for the Chinese,
excited the curiosity of Chinese society and gained converts in its midst. It is most
interesting that recent archaeological excavations all over China have reported dis-
coveries in Szechwan and in many other places outside of the Ch' ang-an and Lo-
yang regions, which were then the cultural centers of the land, of simple figures,
presumed to be Buddha-images, dating to the Latter Han and the Three Kingdoms
(25-265). For by relying solely on written evidence, which in China was recorded
mostly by, for, and about residents of the cultural center of the realm, one would
have no way of knowing the extent of the spread of Buddhism during the early
period of proselytization. In fact, much knowledge may be expected, thanks to the
fruits of this archaeological research, of the way in which Buddhism spread with
the aid of icons into areas for which there is no literary evidence. The above-men-
tioned reports may be found in such technical journals as Wen wu ts' an k' ao tzu
liao (References for the Study of Cultural Artifacts) or Wen wu (Cultural Artifacts).
A summary description of the current status of this research, entitled "Some of the
Oldest Surviving Samples of Buddhist Statuary in Our Country," will be found
in Hsien tai Po hsiieh (Modern Buddhist Studies), no. 4 (1962).
How, then, did the Chinese people take to this multiple Buddhism, coming as it
did both from India and from a variety of countries outside India? How, for that
matter, did they take to stiipas and images, neither of which had ever existed in
China, and to a religious ceremonial which, built around them, was adorned with
many varieties of art, music, and craftsmanship? The question affects both the
Lesser and the Greater Vehicle, for the import took place after the division of the for-
mer into schools and after the rise of the latter, which followed this division in time.
The incoming foreign religion could not but be conditioned by the receiving society,
as well as by its ideas and beliefs. This is all the more cogent in the case of China, a
nation which, it should be noted, was heir to an ancient and highly sophisticated
culturaf tradition, transmitted by a people-the so-called Han people-in whom the
sense of the supremacy of the "central and flowering" and of the barbarian character
of all other peoples was very strong.
c. The Impact of Indigenous Learning
and Ideas
When the way was cleared for the passage of Buddhism into China, or, in other
words, when, thanks to the campaigns of Chang Ch'ien, an east-west avenue was
opened and the Han policy of "managing the Western Regions" was vigorously
launched, something of extreme importance happened in the history of Chinese
learning, ideas, and politics. Of all the learned doctrines that had been vying with
one another during the Spring and Autumn era and that of the Warring States, those
of the "various philosophers and the Hundred Schools" (chu tzu po chia), Con-
fucianism alone was adopted as State doctrine, and there was establisted a political
and social structure, in keeping with the enthronement of Confucianism throughout
the Han as "official learning," whose politics and morals were both based on the
peculiarly Confucian classics.
Confucianism, perfected as a doctrine for rulers, became linked with monarchical
power, and the study of the five "warp books" (Changes, Odes, Documents, Rites,
and Spring and Autumn Annals) treated by that school as its classics (ching), became an
indispensable attainment for all officials. Thereafter Confucian classical scholarship,
while on the one hand using the monarchical power as a shield bolstered by the
authority of the classics, on the other placing restrictions on that very power, came
to govern and to control the life of the Chinese, particularly the intellectual life of the
educated, by determining the social and political order and by establishing itself as
a standard for morality. The governing, i.e., the literate class, highly educated
through the medium of"classicallearning," were subject to severe restrictions from
the classics on their thinking, their speech, their actions, indeed on everything, and
came to believe that it was only by close reliance on the classics that one could speak,
write, and act properly.a Even after the collapse of the Han, this classical learning, the
scholarship premised on the assumption of the supreme authority of the Confucian
classics that had achieved such a firm position under the Han, long provided a frame-
work for China's thought processes and has continued until quite recent times as the
supreme authority for that country's politics and ethics in spite of fluctuations, from
time to time, in its power. Thus, if Buddhism was to be accepted by the Chinese from
abroad and to play a leading role in China, it was obliged to come to trrms with
Confucian classicism and Confucian ideology.
Canons of China's Ancient Sages. Now, just as the life of all ancient peoples was
bound to religious elements, so the ancient Chinese too had their beliefs in a great
number of gods-the "hundred spirits" (po shen)-ranging from a supreme deity
known as "Heaven" (t'ien) or the "Heavenly Theocrat" (t'ien ti) down to mountain
and river spirits. By reliance on shamans both female (wu) and male (hsi), of whom
these gods were believed to take possession, they would shun calamity and seek good
fortune, or they would decide their most important acts on the basis of prognostica-
tions by soothsayers. Recent investigations of the Yin ruins have made it clear that
the Yin aristocracy, by now in possession ofinscribed bronze vessels, also permitted
themselves to be governed by such religious beliefs as these.
Furthermore, the
Chinese nation prided itself on the traditional belief that the "central flowering"
land in which it dwelt-it and no other-represented a people and a territory gov-
erned by the sovereign Sages of antiquity, rulers of morally unblemished character,
a land and a people both especially chosen, endowed with a unique line of sainted
monarchs and the recipients of special guidance toward civilized self-improvement.
About 1050 B.C., the Chou, who replaced the Yin, established their capital at Hao-
ching, where they fell heirs to the civilization of the Yin. In the belief that "Heaven"
or the "Heavenly Theocrat," and none other, was the supreme deity governing
human society on earth, and that the person who, in obedience to the Deity's
mandate (t'ien ming) and as His vicar, governed the Middle Realm was the Son of
Heaven, the new dynasty, erecting a foundation on ideas centering about Heaven,
perfected a political system and founded a moral order based on that foundation.
Confucius was firmly convinced that the sainted chancellor who fixed the Chou
institutions described above, who conducted government on their basis, and who
handed his teachings down was the Duke of Chou. In this firm belief he held him in
great veneration, with the result that the Confucianists of succeeding generations
transmitted this same veneration. However, once the Chou, under attack from a non-
Chinese people, the Ch'iian-jung ("dog savages"), about 770 B.C., moved eastward to
establish their capital at Lo-yang, the authority of the dynasty waned and the feuda-
tories vied for power, leading to the Spring and Autumn era (770-403 B.c.) and that
of the Warring States (403-221 B.c.), during which eras Chou institutions simply
went to pieces.
It was in such times as these that the patriarch Confucius was born, a man who,
motivated by the ideal of restoring the institutional hallmarks of early Chou, which
he held in veneration in the belief that they had been institutionalized and im-
plemented by the sainted Duke of Chou, and which were now crumbling with the
decline of the dynasty, systematized his people's ancient traditions under the rubric
of "classics" (ching) and preached his doctrine in keeping with them. In the process
of systematizing these ancient traditions, Confucius fashioned them into "classics"
expounding the foundations of government and ethics by removing from them all
pronouncedly religious and mythological elements, his attitude being that one "ven-
erates the spirits but keeps them far from one." These texts were already regarded by
the Chinese people as canons of and ethics, transmitting the models_ handed
down by a whole series of sainted rulers, beginning with such remote Sons ofHeaven
as the hallowed and idealized Y ao and Shun and proceeding to two kings of early
Chou, Wen (the "king of the pacific arts") and Wu (the "king of the martial
arts"), and their chancellor, the Duke of Chou. Confucius also compiled a history of
the Spring and Autumn period, in which he stressed the necessity of upholding the
order and the institutions of the early Chou, which he had idealized.
Adoption of Confucianism by the Han. During the Spring and Autumn era and that
of the Warring States, a time of internal chaos, thought and expression were emanci-
pated and a considerable number and variety of thinkers were produced, leading to
the rivalry of the so-called "various philosophers and Hundred Schools" and their
theories. Among these, the heirs to Confucian thought also produced some out-
standing scholars, thus constituting an influential school in the world of ideas at the
end of the era of the Warring States. In 221 B.c., the Ch'in, who united "All-under-
Heaven," recognizing in due course the need for ideological unification, took the
stern measures symbolized by the phrase "burning the books and burying the
scholars" (fen shu k'eng ju), i.e., the suppression of all scholarship not officially sanc-
tioned, which resulted in many cases in the permanent loss of certain books. When,
however, the Ch'in were replaced by the Han, there was instituted a gathering of
books, and the schools, including the Confucian school, flourished again. Yet it was
to be expected that a powerful monarch who had united an empire should seek to
put an end to the chaos in thought and learning as well, and that he should look to
those quarters for cooperation in governing the State. During the reign of Emperor
Wu (141- 87 B.c.), when the power of the State had been solidified and the emperor
himself began to take an interest in matters of education, it was the Confucian
scholar Tung Chung-shu who put forward very forcefully a proposal to "unite under
Confucianism the schools whose theories are confused and who are fighting among
Chung-shu, in answer to a question from the emperor, answered to
the following effect:
Now every teacher has his own way, every man his own theory. The Hundred
Schools, each asserting something different, know not which way to turn. Thus,
at the top unification is impossible and the legal institutions are constantly chang-
ing, while at the bottom no one knows what rules to keep: such is the situation.
In my view, all ways except those of Confucius must be cut off, so that they may
not function. If that is done, wrong and outlandish theories shall all perish, All-
under-Heaven shall be reunited, the legal standards shall be unambiguous, and the
people shall know which way to turn.
The emperor, adopting his proposal, established Confucianism as his official doctrine,
making it the guiding principle of the State, and planned for the unification of the
world ofideas on that basis. The-emperor also established the post ofDoctors of the
Five Classics (wu ching po shih), who were to study and comment on the Changes,
Odes, Documents, Rites, and Spring and Autumn Annals. Thus classical scholarship
flourished, and eventually classical thought on the Confucian model became all-
In this way, the adoption of Confucian ideas by Emperor Wu gave the appearance,
albeit in a manner very different from that of the Ch'in's "burning of the books and
burial of the scholars," of suppressing other forms of thought and learning, which
had revived for a time. Among these, there were some that vanished without a trace,
while others became extremely distorted and descended to the level of superstition-
bound teachings. In contrast to this, Confucian ideas became endowed with the
status of "national doctrine," so that the most important standard for determining
fitness for public office hinged on whether a person had a Confucian education, or on
whether he was a practitioner of Confucian ethics. The result was the unmistakable
emergence of a powerful upper class whose political philosophy was based on Con-
fucian ideas, a class that, replacing the ruling class of early Han, whose positions of
power were a reward for helping a new dynasty to gain the throne, monopolized the
nomination of all official candidates, sent their own representatives into the central
government, and consolidated a Confucian social order in which the domination of
the lower class by the upper class was unequivocal.
Tung Chung-shu's ((Mutual Reflection of Heaven and Man." Now there was a most
particularly noteworthy feature in the Confucian philosophy of Tung Chung-shu,
who became the Han's leader in matters of political theory. It was the theory of the
"mutual reflection of Heaven and man" (t'ien jen hsiang kan), the idea that changes in
natural phenomena are manifested by the Heavenly Theocrat in response to human
phenomena. Originally, the institutions of the Chou, idealized by the early Con-
fucianists, were systematized around the notion of Heaven, the society's supreme
deity. Tung Chung-shu also laid great stress on the notion of Heaven, unfolding an
integral theory of government and ethics on that basis. For him, everything that
happened to man on earth could be reasoned and explained by tracing it to Heaven.
In his own words, as quoted in his biography,
Heaven is the Ancestor of all things. But for Heaven, nothing would be born.
As can be seen in roll11 ofhis Ch'un ch'iufan lu, he accounts for the Chinese char-
acter wang ("king," consisting of three horizontal lines joined by a vertical one) by
saying that to three horizontal lines, representing Heaven, man, and Earth in that
order, is added a vertical one that links them and gives currency to the Way through
all three.
Man, born of Heaven and led by a king who is the recipient of Heaven's
mandate, proceeds to perfect the inborn goodness ofhis own nature. The king must,
consequently, govern man in keeping with Heaven's will. Men are all beings born
of Heaven in Heaven's own likeness, hence must act in obedience to the universal
Truth (li) ordained by Heaven. If the actions of men, including those of the king, are
improper, Heaven will warn them and spur them to self-examination by visiting
calamities and natural prodigies upon them. If even then they do not reform, Heaven
will punish them.
All of the natural phenomena that manifest themselves in Heaven
and on Earth do so in response to human phenomena.
Yin Yang and the Five Elements. In China, belief in the influence of Heaven's Way
and of human events on each other, which had existed since antiquity, found profound
and widespread acceptance in Ch'in and Han times; it was, in fact, given the formal
status of a learned theory by the "yin yang school." Tung Chung-shu succeeded in
reinforcing the learned theories of Confucianists by resort to the notion of yin yang
and that of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, air) and in making this com-
bined doctrine the dominant force in government and ethics for his own time.
He further says,
Heaven has yin and yang. Man also has yin and yang. When the yin vapor of
Heaven or Earth arises, man's yin vapor also arises in response to it. When man's
yang vapor arises, Heaven's and Earth's yang vapor may also be expected to arise
in response to it. Their way is one and the same.
On the basis of the all-pervading theories of yin yang and the five elements, he
preached the interrelationship of Heaven and man. For example, he matched five
attributes of the king, viz., his appearance (mao), speech (yen), visual observation
(shih), auditory observation (t'ing), and thought (hsin), to the five elements, holding
that a natural calamity involving one of the latter would arise in response to the
king's misconduct in respect of the corresponding one of the former. Typical of his
thinking is the following statement:
Since the king's appearance corresponds to the element wood, if his appearance is
not dignified a natural calamity belonging to the category "wood" shall be visited
upon him, for there shall be many storm-winds in summer. Since the king' s speech
corresponds to the element metal, ifhis speech is improper, a calamity belonging
to the category "metal" shall be visited upon him, for there shall be many violent
thunderstorms in autumn. Since the king's visual observation corresponds to the
element fire, if the former is improper, a calamity belonging to the element "fire"
shall be visited upon him, for there shall be much thunder in autumn. Since the
king's auditory observation corresponds to the element water, if the former is
improper, then there shall be violent rainstorms in spring and summer. Since the
king' s thought corresponds to the element earth, if he fails to be as magnanimous
and as tolerant as he should be, the crops shall not mature and there shall be
thunder in autumn. For the response shall be terrestrial calamity.
u Interrelation of Heaven and Man" Tied to Superstition. These accounts of the neces-
sary interrelationship of Heaven and man, particularly the one focused on the
sovereign who carries out Heaven's mandate on earth in obedience to Heaven's will,
had on the one hand the effect of hallowing and rendering absolute the all-powerful
monarch, while on the other it placed a political and moral responsibility on that
monarch, regulated his behavior, and demanded of him constant self-examination
and reexamination. Also, this way of concretely accounting for human misfortune by
relating it to natural phenomena had an easy time convincing the Chinese people, a
simple people subsisting mostly on agriculture, people who lived with a belief in
Heaven, with a profound concern with these natural phenomena, and in respectful
fear of them. Thus Confucianism, which, through the efforts of Tung Chung-shu,
had become the doctrine of the State and been endowed with the status of an official
study, single-handedly suppressed all the other schools and became a learned subject
obligatory on all members of the ruling class. The Confucian classics, the so-called
warp books, became the imposing code that set the tone for government and moral-
ity; the words, both spoken and written, of the intellectuals and the ruling class came
to be guided by the classics alone; and the peculiar Chinese society so strictly reg-
ulated by these classics became fixed and stable.
However, there is another fact to which students of Buddhist history must pay
particularly close attention. That is, that Tung Chung-shu' s emphasis on the inter-
relationship of Heaven and man by resort to the notion of yin yang and the five
elements linked Confucianism, now gaining virtually universal currency with its
newly acquired position of State doctrine, to elements of superstition such as the
ch'an and the wei and, in particular, that it made the society of this time, late Former
Han and early Latter Han, when Confucianism was spreading and becoming estab-
lished as the sole object of veneration, into one in which ch' an wei notions were rife.
That is because this was the period in which the foreign religion began to be accepted
by Chinese society.
Ch' an is a name for prognostication of the future. It makes use of abnormal
phenomena in the world of nature and of man to divine and foretell what is due to
happen in the given society in the near future. By disseminating such prognostica-
tions as these, Wang Mang in late Han contrived to become regent, then to usurp
the Han throne (A.D. 8). Liu Hsiu (Emperor Kuang-wu), who deposed Wang Mang
and restored the Han, for his own part contrived to regain the throne (in A.D. 25) by
taking advantage of the widespread dissemination of the rumor that there had re-
peatedly appeared a ch' an indicating Heaven's intention that "hare-metal, by cul-
tivating his intrinsic qualities, shall become Son of Heaven."b
Under the Latter Han, classical learning, which was the official doctrine of the
State, became linked with belief in prognostication, which, as already indicated, was
rife in the society. The classics were interpreted by resort to a form of astrology al-
leged to have been devised by Confucius and to the warp books (wei shu), which
placed a supernaturalist construction on those classics. It thus became the fashion to
conduct Confucian studies, created by a man who had rejected the supernatural, in
terms of yin yang, ch' an wei, and the five elements. The Confucianists, educators of
the ruling class in theories that had become the doctrine of the State, now came to
make use of the "woofbooks," books that spoke so much of the supernaturaJ.B
Belief in Sylphs and Magicians. Such was the nature of the society being described
that a mood of total reliance on superhuman powers-gods, in short-became
dominant. In the midst of this situation, there was a pronounced recrudescence of
long indigenous beliefs, beliefs that preached magical spells for the healing of sickness
and occult practices and elixirs for the achievement oflongevity without senescence,
that sought the immortality of the sylph. The preachers of this magic found belief,
adherence, and respect even among the upper classes, to say nothing of the com-
monalty, and among them were some that were literally believed to be sylphs who
had themselves mastered the art of immortality.
Already the first emperor (shih huang ti) of the Ch'in, as well as Emperor Wu of the
Han, who adopted Confucianism as the official doctrine of the State, had been fervent
subscribers to the arts of the sylph, dedicated practitioners of sacrificial offerings to
the spirits, and partisans of adepts (fang shih) and shamans (wu hsi): the mood, already
there, merely became intensified. From the time of Emperor Ch' eng (r. 32-7 B.c.)
there have come down to us LiuHsiang's Lives of the Sylphs(Lieh hsien chuan).c When
Wang Mang usurped the (Former) Han and when Emperor Kuang-wu restored it
as the Latter Han, the successes of both men were due to their skillful use of the
general belief in ch}an and wei. In the society of the Latter Han, belief in yin yang, in
the five elements, in ch} an and wei, in the superhuman skill of the sylph, and in
spirits, as well as the tendency to live one's life in reliance on the adepts and shamans
who preached these mysterious beliefs, became progressively more widespread and
more fashionable.
Marriage of Learning with Superstition. Wang Ch' ung, who flourished in the latter
half of the first century, taking a strongly rationalistic stand, vigorously attacked
mysterious doctrines and behavior based on them.
In his work, entitled Lun heng,
he flatly denied everything from ch} an wei, omens, and the doctrine of the interac-
tion of Heaven and man, which related political affairs to natural phenomena and
interpreted the latter as forewarnings of good or evil events due to occur in human
society, to beliefs such as those in recipes oflongevity, sylphs, and taboos, arguing
that there must be a total rejection of the magicians who gave currency to such ideas.
However, it is only after the Latter Han had entered its final stages that Wang
Ch' ung' s book became current, for during his own time and immediately thereafter
the power of the very fashionable "mystical doctrines" and superstitious practices
was in no way curtailed. d Chang Heng (78-139), who functioned at the turn of the
second century, commented unfavorably on the Confucianists following the Han
restoration in the following terms:
Since the restoration, the scholars have been vying with one another in the study
of prognosticatory charts and "woof books" [t}u wei], combining this with yao
yen [unlucky phrases or phrases of ill omen]. Charts and "woof books" are vain
and false; they are not standards set by Sages.
Thus he opposed studies and beliefs in w_hich the partisans of these had gone so far
as to combine ch} an wei with yao yen, and memorialized to the effect that the cir-
culation of such "vain and false" books should be prohibit;d.
e However, he was
himself a student of yin yang and the five elements, and the imperial court of the
Latter Han for its own part continued to believe in ch' an and wei, so much so that
whenever there was a misfortune pr a natural prodigy it would question ch' an wei
specialists about methods of averting it. Thus, even in the realm of Confucianism,
whose study was sponsored by the State, the Confucian scholar was welcome to the
degree that he made use of theories of yin yang, the five elements, and ch' an wei in in-
terpreting the Confucian classics.
For example, Yang T'ung and his son Hou, both ofHsin-tu in Shu, were scions
of a family of Confucian scholars, but T'ung's father, Ch'un-ch'ing, was at the same
time heir to a tradition of charts and prognostications (t'u ch'an), which was the rea-
son for his appointment to important posts during the reign of emperors An (r.
107-124) and Shun (r. 126-144). Incidentally, Hou late in life resigned from the ser-
vice of the court to return to his ancestral home, where we are told that he "cul-
tivated the Yell ow Emperor and Lao-tzu and trained disciples, of whom more than
three thousand registered their names." After his death at eighty-two, his disciples
erected in his honor a mausoleum (miao), where they sacrificed to his spirit. It is most
striking that this stuaent of charts and prognostications, as well as of yin yang, should
have leaned so strongly toward the Taoistic ideas represented by the Yell ow Em-
peror and Lao-tzu. (Cf. Yang Hou's biography in Hou Han shu 60A.U) The study of
yin yang and of ch' an wei became easily allied to Taoistic learning, said to be the
doctrine of the Yell ow Emperor and ofLao-tzu, who, according to the traditions of
the Latter Han, had ascended to Heaven as sylphs. The Latter Han studies associated
with the names of the Yell ow Emperor and Lao-tzu, placed as they were beyond the
pale of official learning and changed as they were into objects of popular study,
tended to acquire a pronouncedly mysterious character and to become associated
with belief in yin yang, the five elements, ch' an wei, and the sylph.
Official Confucianism Degenerates. While it is perfectly true that Han Confucianism
by the end of the Former Han and the beginning of the Latter had become wide-
spread as the official form oflearning required of all members of the ruling class, it
had come to include belief in the supernatural, which Confucius himself had been
content to venerate at a distance, and to become strongly tinged with mystical ele-
ments. Not only this, but another fact worthy of note is that classical learning, being
the object of official study, became converted into the most picayune philological
exegesis, tormenting those condemned to study it and breeding in the young
scholars, in particular, a fierce hatred.
In sum, Confucianism, by now converted into official State doctrine as the cul-
mination of a process that had begun under the Former Han, was attended by many
evils, at the same time that political and ethical theories holding Confucianism in the
highest esteem, rooted in the Confucian classics (ching) and based on the theories of
these same classics, were permeating State and society and fixing the social order.
Also, having forfeited its freedom as a philological, exegetical form of dry learning,
it lost whatever charm it might have had for men of ideas. This was an era in which
those very intellectuals who had been trained in Confucianism, while adopting a
Confucian stance in their public lives, in their private lives had recourse to faith in
sylphs, magic, and the like. It was at such a time as this, be it noted, that the passage
of Buddhism began. In other words, due attention should be paid to the fact that the
society of the Latter Han, in which religious superstition was rife, and where the
State's official learning was detested by men of free spirit, was in a situation conducive
to the acceptance of a foreign religion propagated by shaven-headed, ascetic, out-
landish srama1.1as, who in some ways resembled the magicians that were an object of
faith in their own country, and by lay believers, called upasakas, who believed in the
uncanny powers of the golden Buddha-images and who intoned the abracadabra of
the scriptures.
Taoistic Learning Adopts Sylphs and Superstitions. Although the Han adoption of Con-
fucianism as the doctrine of the State did move the official intelligentsia in the direc-
tion of elevating classical learning above all else, this is not to say that the study of the
"various philosophers and Hundred Schools" dating back to the Spring and Au-
tumn era and that of the Warring States died out completely. The school called tao
chia,f which traced its origin back to Lao-tzu and which in early Han constituted a
powerful school alongside that of the Confucianists, was put beyond the pale of
official learning, but it remained a vigorous school throughout both Han dynasties.
In the court of the Former Han, emperors such as Hui (r. 194-188 B.c.) and Wen
(r. 179-157 B.c.) treated the Yellow Emperor (Huang-ti) and Lao-tzu as objects of
faith and veneration by elevating them to the status of sylphs; they also employed
adepts. Emperor Wen's consort, the Lady Tou, is also alleged to have believed the
sayings of the Yellow Emperor and ofLao-tzu, and to have been unhappy with the
theories of the Confucianists. Another example would be Chang Liang, who had to
do with the very establishment of the Han, so much so that he was known as the
dynasty's most meritorious subject, yet who abdicated his position late in life and
went to school to a sylph named Ch'ih-sung-tzu ("Master Red Pine"), from whom
he learned the Way of the Yellow Emperor and ofLao-tzu. In other words, he cul-
tivated the recipes of the sylph, whose purpose was longevity without senescence.
Yet another example is Ts' ao Ts' an, who was active together with Liang, and who,
when appointed first minister of the state of Ch'i, collected many scholars and ques-
tioned them as to the secret of good government. A certain Lord Kai told him, "By
your attaching great value to purity and quietude, your people shall of themselves
come to good order." Accepting this statement, he governed Ch'i as its first minister
for nine years by following the doctrines of the Yellow Emperor and Lao-tzu, i.e.,
Taoistic theories, and was so successful that he was dubbed hsien hsiang ("wise and
worthy minister"). Two other instances are Ch'en P'ing, who as a child was fond
of reading and went on to cultivate the Yellow Emperor and Lao-tzu, and Teng
Chang, son of Teng Hsien, who achieved fame among the ruling aristocracy as a
practitioner of the recipes of the Yellow Emperor and ofLao-tzu after the death of
Ch' ao Ts'o (150 B.c.) , a man who had wielded great power during the reigns of the
two above-mentioned emperors as a legalist politician, whereas the doctrines of the
Yell ow Emperor and of Lao-tzu had been fashionabl e among those ministers most
responsible for founding the dynasty in the first place.
It was not merely the intellectuals, but a broad layer of the population as well,
whose imagination was caught on a wide scale by the ideas of"the Yellow Emperor
and Lao-tzu," and not only in central government circles but also in the outlying
areas. As a typical representative of this, one may cite Li u An, grandson of the
dynasty's founder (Kao-tsu), and his book, the Huai nan tzu.
& Liu An, Prince of
Huai-nan, was fond of reading, and collected a following, many of them scholars,
but particularly a group of adepts numbering several thousand. The Huai nan tzu,
attributed to him, takes its principal stand on Lao-tzu's notions of " blandness and
no-ado" (t' an po wu wei) and introduces some of Chuang-tzu' s ideas into their midst.
In other words, one is justified in including its ideas in the category of the tao chia.
At the same time, it includes the notions of yin yang and the five elements, j ust as
Tung Chung-shu had incorporated these and ch' an wei into Han Confucianism.
One is thus aware that tao chia ideas were rife in Han times and their learned pro-
ponents numerous, but also that both of the schools consequential enough to be rep-
resentative of Han learning, not merely the Confucianists alone, who represented
the official point of view, or the tao chia alone, whose discipline was excluded from
"official learning," gave wide currency to their respective sets of doctrines, both of
which included yin yang and the five elements. In spite of the fact that Confucius had
contented himself with venerating the mysterious from a distance, taking an ex-
tremely rationalistic stand himself, in spite of the fact that Han Confucianism was
an object of study for the official and ruling class, it spread abroad by incorporating
not only yin yang and the five elements but also, in the broadest sense, astrology,
prognosis, the aversion of misfortune, the invitation of good fortune, the sylph, and
a whole host of mystical ideas and beliefs. This is the reason that the ch' an wei books,
now incorporated into Confucianism, spread so widely and became so generally ac-
cepted at the end of the Latter Han. If this was true for the ruling intelligentsia, it
was doubly true for the ideas of the tao chia, which, barred from the official curric-
ulum, became linked in the process of their spread, far more than Confucianism,
with mystical ideas and beliefs. Of course, the original notions of the tao chia, exalting
"no-ado" and firmly rooted in "naturalness," had rejected yin yang, the spirits, and
ch'an wei notions equally and without distinction.
Wang Ch' ung, who died during the Yung-yi.ian period of the Latter Han (some-
time between 98 and 104), was a Confucian scholar who took a firm stand in the
rationalist camp, but who also was in tune with Taoist "naturalism." In his famous
work, the Lun heng, he flatly denied a whole host of popular beliefs, beginning with
ch' an wei, omens and portents (Ju shui), and the doctrine of the interaction of Heaven
and man, ideas which, widespread at the time, related political matters to natural
phenomena in such a way as to make possible the prediction of human events, and
extending to recipes of longevity, sylphs, spells cast by malignant departed spirits,
taboos, and the like, arguing the inanity of these quasi-mystical, quasi-religious
"worldly books and popular preachments" (shih shu su shuo) from the point of view
of the naturalistic ideas of the tao chia. Wang Ch'ung is an outstanding and special
case, that of an unofficial man oflearning who, in the very midst of the superstition
rife in the Latter Han, had a pronounced inclination to a rationalism and naturalism
that attacked that superstition tirelessly. The usual situation in the world of ideas of
the Latter Han was one in which unofficial men oflearning, whether Confucianisti-
cally or Taoistically inclined, were partisan to the various views condemned by
Wang Ch'ung as "vain," being swept along together with the masses in the general
stream of belief in "woof books," yin yang, spirits, etc., so that Wang Ch'ung was
not accepted by his own contemporaries.
Taoist Developments. Those persons who, rooted in the general society, preached
recipes of longevity without senescence or of the repulsion of calamity and the in-
vitation of good fortune, found in the ideas of the tao chia a system most conducive to
their own tendencies, and proceeded to popularize the "Way of the Yellow Emperor
and Lao-tzu" as something mysterious. They went further, to make the Yellow
Emperor and Lao-tzu divine beings, "Ultimate Men" (chih jen), Sages, even sylphs; to
seek authority in Lao-tzu's Tao te ching and in books traditionally regarded as being
the work of the Yellow Emperor; finally to commit them to memory and to recite
them as religious scriptures. In this way, the theories of the tao chia, excluded from
the official curriculum, and their doctrines, the latter now widespread among the
people and woven into their daily lives, both bound up with such popular beliefs as
that in sylphs or in magical spells, developed in the direction of the popular religion
known as Taoism (tao chiao), emphasizing the religious and the mysterious.h
The ideal of the tao chi a lay in the embodiment of the undoing "Way" (tao), which
for them was the root and origin of all phenomena. One who has embodied the Way
is designated in the Tao te ching with the name "Sage" (shengjen), while in the book
of Chuang-tzu he is known severally as an "Ultimate Man" (chih jen), a "Super-
human Man" (shen jen), or a "True Man" (chen jen). At some point in time, the ideal
personality who had embodied the Way came to be identified first with the person
who had acquired longevity without senescence, then with the immortal personality
who lived forever-in short, with the sylph (shen hsien) who had attained this ageless
immortality, which all the Chinese longed for. In Latter Han times, the Yellow
Emperor and Lao-tzu were converted into sylphs and then worshiped with sacrifice
as gods to whom one could pray for longevity without senescence. The Book of the
Latter Han (Hou Han shu), in its "Notice on Sacrifice" (Chi ssu chih), devotes a whole
section to Lao-tzu, in which it records that Emperor Huan, in the eighteenth year
of his reign (164), out of a fondness for the of the sylph began to sacrifice to
from which it is evident that even at court Lao-tzu had become a sylph
to whom both sacrifice and prayer were being dedicated. The people of the time
were afraid of spells cast by malignant spirits and believed in practitioners of magic
who could mediate between gods and men, with whose help they sought to avoid
calamity and to bring on good fortune. They also believed in recipes of longevity
without senescence and in the existence of sylphs who had mastered them, and whose
methods they too were seeking. Or else they would merely throw themselves
upon the sylphs and pray to them. In the society of the Latter Han, in which such
beliefs were so widespread and so deeply rooted, it was quite easy, when the political
fabric began to rot and when disquiet settled like a pall on the whole society, for
the general populace to become even more attached to these beliefs and for religious
bodies to be formed on the basis of popular sentiments in which to the popular
beliefs were now added anti- government sentiments and a longing for the remaking
of the existing society.
The reigns of the emperors Huan (r. 147-168) and Ling (r. 168-188), the earliest for
which are recorded translations of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, had already
reached just such a point of decay. Hsiang K' ai,
who had come to court from the
Shantung area to remonstrate with Emperor Huan for sacrificing to the Yellow
Emperor and Lao-tzu, as well as to the foreign god called "Buddha," said that at an
earlier date Yli Chi had presented to the court of Emperor Shun (r. 126-144) the
Book of the Pure Acceptance of Grand Tranquillity (T'ai p'ing ch'ing ling shu), which
he boasted to have got from a god.
This book of allegedly divine origin, one that
prescribed recipes for healing sickness, extinguishing calamity, and inviting good for-
tune, all on the basis of the doctrines of yin yang and the five elements, the words of
shamans, protective amulets, mystical phrases, and the like, was in due course supple-
mented, developing into that important Taoist classic, the Classic of Grand Tran-
quillity (T'ai p'ing ching) . The court of the Latter Han may never, in fact, have come
to believe in Kan Chi's book of allegedly divine origin, but popular belief in Yli Chi
in the lower reaches of the Yellow R iver, the Huai, the Yangtze, and the Ch'ien-t'ang
as far as the Shantung-Kiangsu area swelled amazingly, gaining fanatical believers
among soldiery, officialdom, and common folk alike.
The Belief in Yu Chi the Sylph. When Sun Ts' e (175-200) was governing W u-k' uai
(the present Wu hsien in Kiangsu), Yli Chi, a Taoist practitioner from Lang-yeh,
came from the Shantung region to the Wu area, where, "setting up a tabernacle,
burning incense, reading books on the Way, and concocting a magical potion where-
with he healed the sick," he gained many adherents. Once, when Sun Ts' e was enter-
taining guests in a tower on the city wall, Yli Chi, dressed in all his finery, came to the
city gate, where he left a little lacquered plow called "the sylph's plow." Two-
thirds of the military officers and other guests assembled in the tower came down and
did obeisance before Yli Chi. For all that he tried to stop them, Sun Ts' e could not
keep them from showing homage to Yii Chi. Sun Ts' e, enraged, seized Yli Chi and
was about to kill him when the latter's many believers appealed to Sun Ts'e's
mother to intercede in Yli Chi's behal Ts'e's mother urged him to desist, saying,
"The Master Yli Chi is one who helps the armies, brings luck in battle, and saves the
lives of officers and men. You must not kill him!" Sun Ts' e' s reply was, "I cannot
let this fellow live, when he beguiles the minds of the multitude with his falsehoods
and incites even generals to cast aside the proper relationship between lord and sub-
ject, to forsake me and to worship him instead!" So saying, he killed him and
exposed his head in the marketplace. Even so, his followers continued to worship
him and to pray to him to intercede for their good fortune, saying, "The Master
Yii Chi is not dead! His mortal flesh has decomposed and he has become a sylph !"
From this one can judge how strong that society's faith must have been in practi-
tioners of magic such as Yii Chi or, in other words, what a fervent reliance it must
have placed in such books of allegedly supernatural portent as the T'ai p'ing ch'ing
ling shu. Yii Chi is presumed to have been killed about Chien-an 5 (200). At about
this time the translation of Buddhist texts was proceeding apace at Lo-yang through
the activities of such men as An Shih-kao, Chu Fo-shuo, An Hsiian, and
Chih Yao, all of whom were gradually acquiring Chinese believers and collaborators
as well.
The T'ai P'ing Tao Rebellion. About the same time, in 184 or, in terms of the
Latter Han calendar, Kuang-ho 7 in the reign of Emperor Ling, the year being chia
tzu (the first in the sexagenary cycle), the Han realm was visited by an odd religious
uprising that struck it like a tidal wave and bade fair to shatter the very framework
of the Han court. Chanting almost as a litany that "the blue heaven [of the Han]
shall die; a yellow empire shall come under the heavens; the year is the first of the
cycle, greatly auspicious to All under-Heaven," the rebels launched a series of
desperate attacks, uprooting and scattering all local officials from the hsie11 magistrate
on down. The rebels were a peasant army, their heads dressed in yellow turbans,
firmly welded together by a common belief that their leader, Chang Chiieh, was a
sylph. Chiieh, carrying a "staff with nine notches," said to be one of the distinguish-
ing marks of the sylph, and calling himself "great sage" and "good teacher" (ta
hsien liang shih), circulated as a preacher from village to village. "Come, all you who
are sick! Confess your sins and drink this magical potion. Your ills shall be healed.
Only they shall not recover who do not believe in the Way!" By preaching in this
way for more than ten years, he created thirty-six parishes and acquired several tens
of thousands of adherents, whom he drove en masse into a war for the overthrow of
the Han. Chang Chiieh' s doctrine was called the "Way of Grand Tranquillity" (t' ai
p'ing tao).
i It probably had some connection with Yii Chi's Book of the Pure Accep-
tance of Grand Tranquillity.
Now the widespread uprising of a peasant army in many different places at once
was not the sort of thing that could have happened at a time in which the orders of
the Han court were really current, in which the social condition was stable, and in
which there were few threats to life. The time in question was the exact opposite of
this. For one thing, the court for several generations had been (nominally, at least)
headed by emperors who had acceded in boyhood. Emperor Shun acceded at the age
of eleven. His successor, Ch'ung, acceded at the age of two and sat on the throne for
five months. His successor, Chih, having acceded to the throne at the age of eight,
was poisoned after a tenure of a year and a hal He was followed by Emperor Huan,
who acceded at fifteen, and he, finally, by Emperor Ling, who acceded to the throne
at twelve. The real authority at . court during this extended period was wielded by
the dowager empress, her kinsmen, and the eunuchs, all of whom quarreled among
themselves for power and privilege, with disastrous results where the governance of
the State was concerned.k
As if this were not enough, there was a major change in the society as well. In the
society of the Latter Han, in company with the development of commercial capital,
in company also with the conversion of the bureaucracy into a class of hereditary
power-holders, the peasantry, their land constantly being bought up by the rich and
powerful, were descending to the status of paupers, sharecroppers, and wage laborers
little better than agricultural slaves, hard pressed simply to stay alive. A society in
which there was such an enormous gap between rich and poor, educated and ig-
norant, became a scene into which contradiction, dissatisfaction, and social disquiet
could easily overflow. Wang Fu bemoaned the collapse of an agriculture-oriented
society in these words:
Now the commonalty as a whole are rejecting farming, which is basic, and run-
ning to trade. Oxen and horses, wagons and carriages glut the thoroughfares. Idlers
and tricksters fill the cities and towns. Those who attend to their fundamental
business are few, while those who float about, eating where they can, are numer-
With such remarks as these, he pleaded for a cleansing of politics. Chung Ch' ang-
t'ung (159-189), who lived through the Rebellion of the Yellow Turbans, in his
work Vigorous Words (Ch'ang yen), discussing the causes for rebellions in the empire,
Whereas in recent times commoners who rise through the power of property to
positions of class and power are too numerous to count, the sterling gentleman,
concealing himself in the countryside, has ceased to devote any energy to the
improvement of manners and morals.
He goes on to say,
The houses of the mighty, ridgepole to ridgepole, number several hundreds,
possessing rich fields and full meadows, slaves grouped by the thousands, hangers-
on who number in the myriads. Their boats and wagons, selling things, circulate
in all four directions. Dwelling in idleness and accumulating purchases, they fill
the cities. Such are their jewels and precious objects that a great house cannot con-
tain them; such their horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs that mountains and valleys
could not accommodate them. Wonderful young boys and beautiful concubines
fill their ornate mansions, while singers and musical performers line up in their
spacious halls.
He goes on to say that in the outlying areas there have developed great landowners
and power-holders with no official status, who yet outstrip the governmental au-
thorities in power, and under whose protection there have gathered subordinates
who are to them rather like "poor relations." He bemoans this in the following
Such has been the change in the apportionment of farmland that the local power-
holders have increased their wealth enormously, spreading their mansions
throughout the prefectures and commanderies, outdoing even the titled aristocracy
in their grand life-style and pleasures and equaling the local magistrates in power.
Their property they manage themselves, never being called to account even when
they violate the law. Hired assassins and other desperate men entrust their lives to
the likes of these. [From his Book on Gain and Loss (Sun yi p'ien), as quoted in his
biography, roll179 of the Book of the Latter Han.]
It was in this society that Chang Chiieh, preaching the religious faith contained in
such writings as the Book of the Pure Acceptance of Grand Tranquillity, gained the hearts
of the uneducated peasantry and welded their dissatisfaction into a weapon to be
wielded by warriors intent on overthrowing a government, pushing the Latter Han
into the abyss of destruction not long after 220.
Doctrine of the T'ien Shih Tao. Chang Chiieh was not alone. At about the same time
in the Szechwan region a group with similar religious overtones, the leadership
passing from Chang Ling through Chang Heng to Chang Lu, solidified an organiza-
tion of its own, gained wide popular adherence, and eventually formalized itself as
the "doctrine of the Way of the Heavenly Teacher" (t'ien shih tao chiao).
They preached that Chang (Tao-) ling had contrived to study the Way in the
Mountains of the Crow's Chirp (homing shan), in the old state ofShu, and to become
a sylph. For two generations, represented by Chang Heng and Chang Lu, they built
a quiet chamber, where they required the sick to confess their sins and where they
drew up three documents recording the names of the principals and their intention
to submit to punishment for their sins. One of the documents they required to be
affixed to the mountain, saying that it would ascend to Heaven, another to be buried
under ground, the third to be submerged in water, thus to make prayer to the gods
of heaven, earth, and water. They called these the "Manuscripts of the Three
Authorities" (san kuan shou shu). Also, since they required the sick to donate five
bushels of rice each, they came to be known as the "Way of the Five Bushels of Rice"
(wu tau mi tao). Once they had acquired a large number of adherents, they created the
offices of chi chiu (libationer, lit., in charge of "sacrifices and wine") and chien ling
("controlling impropriety"?), whom they required to read and recite the text of
Lao tzu and to supervise and direct the prayers of the sick. They also established
"houses of righteousness" (yi she), where they stored II?-eat to feed to wayfarers, who
could eat of it freely after measuring their own stomachs(?). They added that those
who ate greedily would bear the curse of the gods. When Chang Lu succeeded to the
leadership, he styled himself "Heavenly Teacher" (t'ien shih) and his by now vastly
more numerous followers as "spirit soldiers" (kuei tsu), strengthening the latter into
a military organization prepared to give its life for the doctrine, fiercely resisting the
Han armies sent to chastise him and carving out a theocracy on the soil of Szechwan.
Chang Lu later capitulated to Ts'ao Ts'ao, but the latter then appointed him gener-
alissimo for the pacification of the south (chen nan chiang chUn), "enfeoffing" him a
"marquess" of ten thousand households and extending the titles to his five sons, so
that the religious movement headed by Chang Lu and his family became eco-
nomically secure, later developing into the T'ien shih tao, which maintained itself
for a very long time.
The precise relationship between Chang Chiieh's T'ai p'ing tao and the Wu tou
mi tao of Chang Lu and his associates is not quite clear. At any rate, the Canonical
Digest(? Tien [Ueh) cited in the commentary to Lu's biography in the Records of the
Three Kingdoms (San kuo chih) says that the doctrines of the two were virtually the
same. Both of them, based on the confused, popular, traditional beliefs in yin yang
and the five elements, the interrelation of Heaven and man, spirits, sylphs, and the
like, beliefs that permeated the society of the Latter Han, were religions praying for
recovery from sickness and for the attainment oflongevity and seeking the status of
the sylph. It is worthy of note, however, that they stressed the necessity of man's
reflection on, and repentance of, his own sins, and that Chang Lu's group required
its members to read and recite Lao-tzu's five thousand words like a Bible. Thus
purely religious elements had become predominant. The Way of the Yellow
Emperor and Lao-tzu became linked in Latter Han society with the Way of the
Sylph, and the road was thus paved for the conversion ofLao-tzu, turned sylph, to
become in due course the patriarch of Taoism.
Under the Latter Han, both the Confucianists and the tao chia preached their
respective doctrines with recourse to notions of mysticism, while the general mass
of society sought the status of sylphs, feared and venerated the spirits, believed in a
large variety of magic arts, and lived their lives in dependence on all of these. It is at
such a time as this that the importation ofBuddhism, which began as a thin stream
coming in through Central Asia early in the first century, eventually broadened its
flow, until, during the reigns of Emperors Huan (147-168) and Ling (168-190), the
work of translating the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, begun at Lo-yang, pro-
ceeded apace, eventuating in a situation in which Chinese intellectuals were able to
confront a Buddhist religion rendered into their own language. However, since the
times were such that the whole world was carried along by beliefs in yin yang and the
1 five elements, divination, spirits, and sylphs, while the practitioners of these arts
, were the object of universal trust and veneration, one may largely surmise how this
unknown foreign religion was received and what was the character of this Buddhist
religion that first spread itself in Chinese society. The foreign religion was received
as a sylphic, magical teaching on the model of that of the Yellow Emperor and Lao-
tzu, while the golden Buddha-images were the recipients of sacrifice, as if they
were immortal sylphs able to grant wishes and answer prayers, and the foreign
monks, for their part, were feared and venerated as beings of supernatural power
who, in the manner ofYii Chi and Chang Chiieh, could enter into direct communi-
cation with the gods. Yet the Buddhism received into China, without coming to
terms in some way with China's traditions, above all with classically based doctrines
such as Confucianism and the tao chia and traditional popular beliefs, as well as with
Taoism, which originated as a development out of these, could never have become
a Chinese religion.