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The exact time of the introduction of Buddhism into China is hard to be ascertained. At its early years after introduction, Buddhism did not have much influence.

It is said that in the year 2BC, Yi Cun, an emissary of Dayuezhi Kingdom (an ancient mid-Asian country established by a strong Chinese minority originally living in northern China and later moved to the west), arrived in Chang'an (today's Xi'an City), capital of China at the time. He dictated Buddhism to Doctor Jing Lu. And this is the first record about the introduction of Buddhism into China.

There is another saying that during the reign of the Indian King Asoka (272-226 BC), 18 Indians visited China's Xianyang City during the reign of Qin Emperor Shihuang (the first ever emperor of the Qin Dynasty, 246-210 BC, and therefore the first ever emperor of feudal China). In the year 250BC, King Asoka convoked the third conference and, after the conference, Dade was sent to spread Buddhism to other countries including China.

Indian Buddhism was established in the 6th century BC. As inhabitants in the Indian River valley had frequent contacts with people in Yutian of Xinjiang, China, Buddhism was introduced into Yutian via Kashmir in the 1st century BC. Chinese copied Sanskrit lections on their unique writing materials, but without translating the Sanskrit. Actually, before this Indian Buddhists had been to Xianyang, the ancient Chinese capital, however, Indian Buddhism had not chances to spread in China.

As stated above, during the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD), Emperor Mingdi sent 18 people to Darouzhi of India to learn Buddhism, and got the Buddha portraits and sutras, then returned to Luoyang together with Indian Buddhists Kashyapamtanga and Dharmaraksha. They built the White Horse Temple in which were world famous basso-relievos of six horses, but now two of which had been stolen by imperialists and are exhibited in the library of Pennsylvania University, USA. Kashyapamtanga and Dharmaraksha translated five Buddhist sutras, which are still stored in the Pagoda of White Horse Temple. During the reign of Han Emperor Huan Di (158-166), Buddhism was advocated, which made translation of Indian sutras necessary. At that time, famous monks of different countries came to China, cooperated with Chinese monks in Luoyang, and translated Sanskrit lections. From the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) to the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279), translation of sutras became the most important translating career. There were many famous translators such as Youchen and Youqian (form Darouzhi), Anqing and Anxuan (from Parthia), Kangju and Kang Mengxiang (from Kangju), who translated substantive sutras.

During late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), Chinese scholars began to study Buddhism. During the reign of Han Emperor Xian Di, Confucian scholar Mou Rong wrote On Buddhism Confusions composed of 37 articles, which was the first Buddhism work in China and the prelude of popularization and climax of Buddhism study all over the country during the following Wei, Jin, South and North dynasties (220-581).

The translation and spread of Buddhist sutras brought into the Chinese language many expressions deprived from Buddhism, especially figuration and legendary stories, which produced great influence on literature and history of China. Figuration was first absorbed by high-ranking officials, which was proved by examples found in Cao Cao's and Cao Zhi's poems.

Some classical literature directly quoted legendary stories in sutra. For example, Liezi, which was written between the Wei Dynasty and the Jin Dynasty, adopted a story in sutra about five princes. After Buddhism was introduced into China, figures of Buddha had across-knee arms and hands, large ears, long hair, as well as white and clean teeth. Feudal superstitious historians modeled feudal emperors' images after these figures and apotheosize emperors. From this, we could find that Buddhist literature had great influences on China's feudal history.

Status of Chinese Buddhism

The feature of Chinese Buddhism lies in the coexistence of Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism as well as the concomitance of Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism. Buddhism was initiated in India, developed in China and further expanded to Japan and Korea. However, Buddhist doctrinal classification itself never played any crucial role in Indian Buddhism as it did in China. Indian Buddhists were threatened by the values and socio-political structures of the Indian society dominated by Hinduism and Islam and vanished between 9th century and 10th century in India while Buddhism were developed rapidly in China so that China became the true homeland of Buddhism all over the world.

Another feature of Chinese Buddhism is that Mahasanghika Buddhism plays an important role. Most Chinese Buddhists take Mahasanghika Buddhism as their religion except people living near Thailand, whose religion is Theravada Buddhism as well as people living in Tibet whose religion is the Esoteric Buddhism.

The third feature of Chinese Buddhism is that it has ten sects. Some hierarchs founded new sects according to different canons including Tiantai Sect, Garland Sect, Three Sutra Sect, Reality Sect, Lotus Sect, Vinaya, Zen and Esoteric Buddhism.

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Zushi Pagoda of Foguang Temple

Thousand Buddha Pottery Pagoda

Tawan Sheli Pagoda

Source and Course of Buddhist Painting

Sichuan Dazu Stone Carvings

Qingzhou Statuary

Murals in Fahai Temple

Longhua Pagoda


Feiying Pagoda

Dunhuang Murals

Dunhuang Flying Asparas

Dunhuang Color Sculptures

Chongxi Pagoda

Buddhist Sculpture


Grottoes in Bingling Temple

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