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Buddhism in Ancient China, History of

The kingdoms of China were located to the north of India. Buddhism, which began during the sixth century BC, reached these lands during the rule of the Han Dynasty. The Silk Road was the primary overland trade route that connected many regions within central Asia, the Middle East, and southern Europe. The Buddhist monks in India began to slowly make their way across the Silk Road into China. Chinese monks also visited the land of India via the Silk Road. Many Chinese and Indian monks also lived side by side. Quite a few Chinese monks had learned about Buddhism through these holy men. Scholars and historians like to emphasise that the Mahayan form of Buddhism is the type that took root in China. The Theravada branch formed in eastern and southeastern Asia and Sri Lanka. Buddhism finally started to appear in China around 65 B.C. which is where this event appears on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History.

Buddhism and Daoism Compete in Early China

Once Buddhism spread to China it had to compete with a religious belief called Daoism (Taoism) which motivated its followers to live according to “The Way” or the truth. Buddhism and Daoism beliefs were separate. Buddhism emphasized suffering while Daoism stressed order and morality. Eventually, both systems began to mix with one another. Most of the commoners did not accept Buddhism right away and it wasn’t until the Age or Era of Disunity that the locals started to embrace this belief system. The Age of Disunity was a time period of civil war that occurred after the collapse of the Han Dynasty. There was a lot of suffering for many local peasants and they finally made a connection between the concept of suffering that is found in Buddhism and the turmoil they were experiencing during the civil wars. This resulted in Buddhism playing a more prominent role in their lives.

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Ancient Depiction of Buddha

Buddhism is Widely Accepted by the Chinese

Buddhism eventually became the state religion of China and different leaders both domestic and foreign used Buddhism as a means to unify the people. They also used it to control the people as well. Buddhist temples and monasteries began to spring up all over China after Buddhism was first introduced. This took place over time too as people began to learn more about this newfound religion. The changes that Buddhism brought upon China were not immediate or apparent. In time the Chinese people embraced Buddhism and this religion began to flourish. Chinese Buddhism eventually became so widespread that it has influenced million of peoples all over the world.