In the 6th century BC, Siddhartha Gautama was disturbed by encountering for the first time, a sick man, an old man, and a corpse. He was overcome with these sights and was determined to search for a way to end human suffering. He founded the religion Buddhism which freed oneself from suffering. Through the Silk Road, Buddhism spread beyond India including China. Some people believed that Buddhism was beneficial to China while others believed Buddhism was against tradition. Since the introduction of Buddhism to China in the first century CE to well beyond the centuries of disunity after the fall of the Han , Buddha was thought of as a perfect sage and beneficial to china as well as being considered barbaric and poisonous.
During the final years of the Han dynasty, the Chinese were beginning to lose faith in their philosophies to solve their problems. Buddhism appealed to all people offering Nirvana and peace Buddha urged his followers to focus on the four noble truths which was the way to eliminate suffering. They are the truth of sorrow, the truth of the arising of sorrow, the truth of stopping sorrow, the truth of the way that leads to the end of sorrow (doc 1). It put into perspective that suffering does exist because of desire and the only way to eliminate suffering and desire is to follow the eight fold path (doc 1). The Silk Road trade route between India and China traded corals, pearls, perfume, and incense along with buddhist monks. Han emperor Ming caught interest in them which then eventually created a Chinese Buddhist community (Context). In 350 C.E., the Chinese scholar Zhi Dun supported Buddhism during a time of instability (Doc 2). He follows and does as the Buddha asks believing in peace and the concept of nirvana and enlightenment (Doc 2).Zhi Dun was a Chinese scholar, author, and a confidant of Chinese aristocrats and high officials, who may have been trying to satisfy the people that all will be well during times of trouble (POV). Many people disagreed with Buddhism in saying it is not traditional or beneficial. An anonymous Chinese scholar provided answers to arguments from the people (Doc 3). One statement argued that Buddhism is not in any relations to Confucius and responded saying that Confucianism is not the only thing that should be thought about (Doc 3). As he was a Chinese scholar he never stated his name which means his arguments are questionable (POV). Zong Mi further extended this idea explaining that Confucius, Laozi and Buddha were beneficial to China (Doc 5). Zong Mi was the leading Buddhist scholar and was favored by the Tang Imperial household (POV). He stated that all their differences created an orderly society which was exactly what they needed (Doc 5). All these documents describe how Buddhism can be positive towards China (doc 2,3,5). They all defend Buddhism to the people opposed to it. The officials in the documents were not as high in power as the officials negative towards Buddhism. Although Buddhism was mainly thought positively upon, Buddhism was also thought as negative (OPOV).
While buddhism was supported throughout China, some Chinese were against buddhism as mentioned before. Buddhism is described as barbaric to Han Yu a leading Confucian Scholar (Doc 4). Han Yu is very traditional and only believed in Confucianism by the way he speaks about the emperor and says Confucius’ quote (Doc 4). He is concerned that Buddhism will ruin China unless they are stopped and explains how the people will eventually begin cutting their arms off for the Buddha (Doc 4). Han Yu also argues that Buddha did not speak Chinese and wore different clothing which meant that only the Chinese were the most important to him. Since Han Yu was an official at the Tang imperial court as well, he may have had this mindset since Tang Emperor Wu did as well (B)(POV). Tang Emperor Wu believes that since Buddhism is poisonous it will destroy Chinese customs and beliefs (Doc 6). He believes it is a threat and has come to the conclusion that Buddhism is evil and should not be practiced in China. Negative ideas are shown in both documents explaining the dangers of Buddhism (Doc 4 and 6) Han Yu and Tang Emperor Wu were both high in power and show what they thought about Buddhism.
The founder of the Sui Dynasty described that everything accomplished was through Buddhism. He stated “With a hundred victories in a hundred battles, we promote the practice of the ten Buddhist virtues” (OD #1). He had also mentioned that the fields of the world were becoming identical to Buddhism (OD #1). Once again it shows positivity towards Buddhism (OD #1 and Docs 2,3,5). From the Buddha who Preaches the One Great Vehicle, Buddha speaks to Sariputra (OD #2). He talks about how people don’t understand Buddhism and answers the question of why there are so many Buddhist schools (OD #2). Both the four noble truths and the Buddha who Preaches the One Great Vehicle came directly from Buddha and also are to help Buddhists (OD #2 and Doc 1). Buddhism’s spread into China was not the only religion spread from the Silk Road but Islam as well (syn.)
From the early eighth century, Arab muslims began to travel on the silk road to spread Islam (syn.) Like buddhism, a chinese emperor was first introduced to the religion and preached it to their people (syn.) Emperor Yong Hui was at first uninterested in adopting these beliefs unit building the Memorial Mosque in Canton City out of respect. Another Chinese emperor, Yung-Wei respected Islam teachings and believed it to be similar to Confucian teachings. Many early Muslims began settling into South China and adopted their names and customs. Buddhism and Islam are similar in which both Chinese beliefs are combined with each religion creating a new religion (syn.) Chinese beliefs and Buddhism beliefs made Mahayna Buddhism for example.
Since the beginning of the spread of Buddhism to China, the Chinese were both negative and positive towards the religion. The Chinese mentioned how Buddhism was evil and would poison their society while others believed that it would bring about peace and stability.
Most importantly Buddhism has drastically changed the beliefs and customs of China to shape it into the society it is today.