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Buddhism in China

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How did Buddhism come to China and what factors led to its success in penetrating China? Look at specific periods and people who were crucial in the spread of Buddhism in China. How did Buddhism change China and how did China change Buddhism?

The penetration of Buddhism into China began during the first century CE when missionaries coming from India and Central Asia started streaming into the middle kingdom of China. These people brought to the Chinese exotic texts and teachings, language, clothing and customs. This religion spread first because people were not coerced or forced by military conquests, they embraced it on their own free will. But the most contributing factor to its fast penetration was its apprehension by the Chinese rulers who saw it as a religion of a powerful god that brought good fortune. They therefore gave it full support in terms of imperial patronage.

The Buddhist revelation of a totally new spiritual world that was not offered by the traditional Taoism and Confucianism was the major factor that attracted the Chinese to Buddhism. And on top of these, China was able to ‘sinify’ it by fusing the Taoist and Confucian thoughts with it. Such movements were so strong especially during the Sung dynasty in that Zhang Cai, a famous Chinese philosopher managed to synthesize the thoughts of the three schools (Rajan, 2009).

Several Indian monks contributed to the spread of Buddhism in China, these included Kumarajiva, Bodhi Dharma and Kashyapa Matanga. Also Chinese travelers like Xuan Zang, Fa Xian and Yi Jing contributed a lot. China’s civilization has been greatly enriched by spiritual gains from Buddhism. Through Buddhism, astronomy and sugar technology was introduced to China and in return, China introduced the art of pottery to India (Rajan, 2009).

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