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Chinese Buddhism

Chinese Buddhism (zhōngguó fójiào中国佛教) is not a name of religion but refers to all the various schools of Buddhism that have developed and flourished in China since the old days, such as Han Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. Exploring the history of Chinese Buddhism, we will find that Chinese Buddhism has played an important role not only in shaping Chinese people’s mindset but also affecting many other aspects, for instance, philosophy, medicine, politics, aesthetics and literature. Even today, many common people still are exposed to it.

There is an interesting saying that all the Chinese people are adherents of Chinese Buddhism if not according to the strict standard. It might be a bit exaggerated but clearly we could know clearly of  the large-scale influence of Chinese Buddhism.
Speaking of schools of Chinese Buddhism,it can be divided into three schools due to the difference of doctrines, spreading time and ways.

Han Buddhism(Mahayana)
The specific time of the arrival of Han Buddhism is very hard to be proved nowadays. But in the China’s academic circle and Han Buddhism world, officially, they thought Buddhism originated in India was spread into Central Plains through the Western Regions in the late Western Han Dynasty or the early of the Eastern Han Dynasty. According to the record, in the Eastern Han Dynasty Yongping ten years (AD 67), Chinese Emperor Ming had dreamed of a copper man, so he sent someone to the Western Regions. As a result, two eminent monks Jiayemoteng and Zhufalan came to the Central Plains with many josses and sutras which were carried by a white horse. Settled down in a house,the two great monks started to translate sutra in forty-two chapters. In order to memorize them, this house named White Horse Temple became the first Buddhism Temple in China. And sutra in forty-two chapters was the first sutra in Chinese.
Theravada Buddhism(Hinayana)
Theravada Buddhism also named as Southern Buddhism is the main religion in Yunnan, China, especially among minority ethnic groups there, such as Dai, Blang, Deang and small part of Va. Approximately, Theravada Buddhism spread to the Chinese Yunnan area in the 7th century from Burma. At first, there was no temple and the Buddhism classics were also only directly passed down from master to followers. Around the 11th century,because of the effect of wars, many people fled way and Theravada Buddhism also vanished. After the war, Theravada Buddhism was back to Xishuangbanna and flourished among Dai.

Tibetan Buddhism(Lamaism)
Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism) derives from vajrayana in Mahayana. Actually, all schools of Lamaism claimed themselves vajrayana and Lamaism was a name added by other people. In 641, Tang Dynasty’s Princess Wencheng married to Tibetan King Songzain Gambo. Princess Wencheng was a reverent Buddhist, so she brought Buddhist literature and the image of Buddha as part of her dowry. And the interesting thing was Songzain Gambo’s another Nepalese wife turned out to be a reverent Buddhist, too. From then on, Buddhism was introduced into Tibet. Before the entering of Buddhism, Tibetan people believed in traditional Bon Religion. 


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