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Arrival of Buddhism

• Around the beginning of 1
Century AD, Buddhism first
appeared in China
• Monks travelled along overland trade routes from NW
India to Central Asia
• Perhaps seen as a form of Daoism
– Similarity between Mahayana concept of fundamental
emptiness and Daoist idea of non-being
– The Gateless Gate 8: Getsuan said to his students, "Keichu,
the first wheel-maker in China, made two wheels having
fifty spokes each. Suppose you took a wheel and removed
the nave uniting the spokes. What would become of the
wheel? If Keichu had done so, could he be called the
master wheel-maker?"
• Arrives as part of a mix of ideas and practices
Elite Patronage
• The first monastery was set up near the Han
(Later) capital at Luoyang
• Han emporers wished to appear as patrons to
all spiritual paths
• Buddhist monks became teachers at the
imperial court, although without the same
status as Confucian scholars

Popular Adoption
• As the Han dynasty faltered and life became
more difficult, many ordinary people began to
embrace Buddhism
• At the same time Buddhism was becoming the
common religion of non-Chinese people living
in central Asia
• Resentful Confucian and Daoist scholars denounced aspects
of Buddhism as immoral or un-Chinese
– Violations of the body: shaving the head & cremation of the dead
– Failure to continue ancestral lines by choosing celibacy and
renouncing old name
– Refusal to pay homage to rulers
– Insistence that monastery lands were not subject to tax
– Use of ‘magic’ in proselytisation
• In 446-452 and 574-579 N. rulers ordered monasteries closed and
monks to return to normal life
• Further persecutions occurred in 845 under Emperor Wuzong
Han Yu: Buddha was a man of the barbarians who did not speak the
language of China and wore clothes of a different fashion. His
sayings did not concern the ways of our ancient kings, nor did his
manner of dress conform to their laws. He understood neither the
duties that bind sovereign and subject, nor the affections of father
and son.
Impacts – Sculpture and Art
• Buddhism made extensive use of figural sculpture and imagery in
proselytisation, decoration, and ritual
• Most extensive suriving early site are cave temples
• Dunhuang site constructed by non-Chinese monks c. 400 in a style
similar to that found at Central Asian oases
• Yungang site commissioned by Wei court in 460
• Most scenes/sculptures display events of Sakyamuni’s life
• Buddhas are shown in meditate state with masklike faces
• Accompanying bodhisatvas wear amulets and earings and have more
varied poses
• Influence from collossal statues at Bamiyan
• Elongated ear lobes and cranial bumps derive from Indian models
• In the 6
Century, slender and more curved style similar to Chinese
painting develops
Impacts - Architecture
• In India ‘stupas’ house Buddhist relics or texts
and as a focal point for devotions
• Adopted in China as part of temple and
monastic complexes as ‘pagodas’
• Mix of Indian and Chinese elements
• Early example of square, wooden White Horse
Pagoda at Dunhuang
• Later development of octagonal, stone or
brick structures
Impact - Texts
• The first translations of Sanskrit Buddhist texts
were made by foreigners in the mid-2
• Translations by Kumarajiva in 5
Century became
standard versions of many texts
• There were also Chinese monks who journeyed to
India in search of texts – e.g. Xuanzang and
• Earliest examples of woodblock printing dating to
Century found by Marc Auriel Stein in 1907
• Development of ‘koan’ literary form in Chan