Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Class: World History Class Assignment: Annotated Bibliography Topic: Buddhist Spread/Influence on - Study Help
  

Class: World History Class 
Assignment: Annotated Bibliography 
Topic: Buddhist Spread/Influence on Ancient China
Format/Length: Chicago Style / 250-300 words per source (5) – approximately 6-7 pages
Due: 12 pm EST – Monday, September 13, 2021
Please see the attached assignment details and rubric. You MUST use the attached draft template (titled HIST 115 Annotated Bibliography Template), which also includes notes from the assignment details. The five articles referenced in the template are attached, along with a timeline of major Buddhist events.

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12

HIST 115 Annotated Bibliography:

Buddhist Influence on Ancient China

First Name Last Name
HIST 115 6380 World History I (2218)
Professor XYZ
September 4, 2021

HIST 115 Annotated Bibliography: Buddhist Influence on Ancient China

Guang, Xing. “Buddhist Impact on Chinese Culture.” Asian Philosophy 23, no. 4 (2013): 305–22. Accessed September 4, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/09552367.2013.831606
This is where you will begin typing annotation, which must be 250-300 words. Please see below what should be included in the content of the annotation.
A brief description of the author’s topic, thesis, and methodology. In other words, in what academic discipline does the work fall in (history, literature, social science, women’s studieA concise outline of the main points in the text.
MOST IMPORTANTLY–Your critical evaluation of the text’s usefulness for the investigation of your topic. What are the strengths of the source? What are the deficiencies or limitations of the source?
A statement about the author’s goals and his/her intended audience. Are there any clear biases?
Explain how each of your sources compares to the others. Are there any general trends you see in your selected books and articles, cultural studies, etc.)?
Hanguang, Zhou. “The Positive Influence of BUDDHISM upon the Development of Science and Technology in Ancient China.” Philosophy Study 9, no. 4 (April 28, 2019): 217–22. Accessed September 4, 2021. https://doi.org/10.17265/2159-5313/2019.04.005
This is where you will begin typing annotation, which must be 250-300 words. Please see below what should be included in the content of the annotation.
A brief description of the author’s topic, thesis, and methodology. In other words, in what academic discipline does the work fall in (history, literature, social science, women’s studieA concise outline of the main points in the text.
MOST IMPORTANTLY–Your critical evaluation of the text’s usefulness for the investigation of your topic. What are the strengths of the source? What are the deficiencies or limitations of the source?
A statement about the author’s goals and his/her intended audience. Are there any clear biases?
Explain how each of your sources compares to the others. Are there any general trends you see in your selected books and articles, cultural studies, etc.)?
Liu, Xinru. “A Silk Road Legacy: The Spread of Buddhism and Islam.” Journal of World History 22, no. 1 (2011): 55–81. Accessed September 4, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1353/jwh.2011.0021
This is where you will begin typing annotation, which must be 250-300 words. Please see below what should be included in the content of the annotation.
A brief description of the author’s topic, thesis, and methodology. In other words, in what academic discipline does the work fall in (history, literature, social science, women’s studies. A concise outline of the main points in the text.
MOST IMPORTANTLY–Your critical evaluation of the text’s usefulness for the investigation of your topic. What are the strengths of the source? What are the deficiencies or limitations of the source?
A statement about the author’s goals and his/her intended audience. Are there any clear biases?
Explain how each of your sources compares to the others. Are there any general trends you see in your selected books and articles, cultural studies, etc.)?
Sen, Tansen. “The Spread of Buddhism to China: A Re-Examination of the Buddhist Interactions between Ancient India and China.” China Report 48, no. 1 (February 2012): 11–27. Accessed September 4, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/000944551104800202
This is where you will begin typing annotation, which must be 250-300 words. Please see below what should be included in the content of the annotation.
A brief description of the author’s topic, thesis, and methodology. In other words, in what academic discipline does the work fall in (history, literature, social science, women’s studies. A concise outline of the main points in the text.
MOST IMPORTANTLY–Your critical evaluation of the text’s usefulness for the investigation of your topic. What are the strengths of the source? What are the deficiencies or limitations of the source?
A statement about the author’s goals and his/her intended audience. Are there any clear biases?
Explain how each of your sources compares to the others. Are there any general trends you see in your selected books and articles, cultural studies, etc.)?
Verma, Alok Kumar. “Spread of Buddhism and Peace in Southeast Asia.” Journal of Asia Pacific Studies 6, no. 2 (2021): 213–27. Accessed September 4, 2021. https://eds-b-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=3df5dd9c-c462-431e-93ef-08ce546b9522%40sessionmgr102
This is where you will begin typing annotation, which must be 250-300 words. Please see below what should be included in the content of the annotation.
A brief description of the author’s topic, thesis, and methodology. In other words, in what academic discipline does the work fall in (history, literature, social science, women’s studies. A concise outline of the main points in the text.
MOST IMPORTANTLY–Your critical evaluation of the text’s usefulness for the investigation of your topic. What are the strengths of the source? What are the deficiencies or limitations of the source?
A statement about the author’s goals and his/her intended audience. Are there any clear biases?
Explain how each of your sources compares to the others. Are there any general trends you see in your selected books and articles, cultural studies, etc.)?

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Philosophy Study, April 2019, Vol. 9, No. 4, 217-222
doi: 10.17265/2159-5313/2019.04.005

The Positive Influence of Buddhism Upon the Development of

Science and Technology in Ancient China

ZHOU Hanguang

ZHOU Hanguang, professor, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.

East China Normal University, Shanghai, China

It is important and worthwhile to discuss what kind of influence Buddhism cast on the development of science and

technology in ancient China. The author does not agree with Joseph Needham’s view: “There can be little doubt

that on the whole its action was powerfully inhibitory”, and the author thinks Buddhism took a positive promotion

and influence on the development of science and technology in ancient China as a whole. There were four main

ways of Chinese Buddhism influence on ancient science and technology: (1) The Buddhist scriptures actually

contain a wealth of knowledge of science and technology; the eminent Buddhist monks introduced them into China

through translation, therefore enriched contents of science and technology in ancient China. (2) Some knowledge of

science and technology in ancient Indian and other districts got into China along with the spread of Buddhism. (3)

Ancient Chinese Buddhists took part in science and technology practice actively at that time, and they had got a

series of achievements in science and technology. (4) Being inspired and affected by Buddhist scientific knowledge,

those non-Buddhist scientists had engaged in many created work in a further step, and made much contributions to

development of science and technology. The doctrine of Buddhism was not a complete hindrance to the

development of science and technology, and the result turned out contrary in many respects that it had promoted

development of science and technology. In fact, Chinese Buddhism had made many important contributions in the

fields of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and so on.

Keywords: Buddhism, positive influence, science and technology, ancient China

It is important and worthwhile to discuss what kind of influence Buddhism cast on the development of
science and technology in ancient China. In Joseph Needham’s great book Science and Civilization in China,
the second volume History of Scientific Thought, he definitely said: “It is for us, however, to attempt some
estimate of the influence which Buddhism exerted on Chinese science and scientific thought. There can be little
doubt that on the whole its action was powerfully inhibitory” (Needham, 1956, p. 417). But we cannot agree
with this view, we think as a whole Buddhism once took a positive promotion and influence on the
development of science and technology in ancient China.

Some Important Characteristics of Chinese Buddhism Which Are Closely Connected With
Development of Science and Technology

According to our opinions, there are at least three important characteristics of Chinese Buddhism which
are closely connected with development of science and technology.

DAVID PUBLISHING

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The Chinese Buddhism Had a Strong Spirit to Get Into the Secular Society
As we know, since Buddhism arrived at China, only Great Vehicle books and thought propagated wildly

and conducted deep influence in large district of China (expect the minority nationalities lived in the Southwest
China). In early Little Vehicle theory, Buddhism really had a tradition that kept off the secular society. Then
such tradition was criticized by Great Vehicle Buddhism when it took place and became actively to join in
common affairs of the secular society. The present Buddhism researching circle has got a same view on it to a
large extent. For instance, Du Jiwen (杜继文) said in his book History of Buddhism (佛教史): “The basic
characteristic of Great Vehicle was to participate and intervene in the common people’s life of secular society”
(Du, 2006, p. 78). It was the real fact when Great Vehicle Buddhism spread in the most part of China.

No doubt, such spirit of Great Vehicle in the Chinese Buddhism was an important thinking premise and
theory foundation for it to take part in science research and technology action. Science or technology is one of
social actions closely linked with ordinary life, also is one of significant sources to promote social progression,
so it was naturally to cause the Chinese Buddhism paying interest and attention in science and technology.

The Chinese Buddhism Had a High Adaptability to Its Existence Environment
As an outside culture, Buddhism could take root deeply and prospered successfully on Chinese earth, then

even surpassed development in its own country; no one could deny that it was a result owing to its high
adaptability to its existence environment. History of Buddhism developing in China, actually was a process of
transforming itself unceasingly in order to suit Chinese reality, to suit changes of social superstructure and
economy foundation, to suit spirit need of intellectuals and common people, therefore it could spread wildly
and get more and more prosperous.

Buddhism adapted to Chinese society comprehensively that naturally included adapting to development of
science and technology. Science and technology is an important factor to promote social productive forces and
economic development, meanwhile is a major force which would bring about changes of people’s thought and
action pattern; it also required Buddhism to adapt and throw into. Therefore we could say that the spirit of
Buddhism actively getting into the secular society provided a possibility for itself to take part in science and
technology actions, if so, we could also admit that the adaptability of Chinese Buddhism had turned such
possibility into reality, as well as had gained many important achievements of science and technology.

The Chinese Buddhism Possessed Fine Thinking Level
Another excellent point of the Chinese Buddhism was that it had fine thinking level, because it attracted

many intellectuals, promoted itself to bring forth new ideas and development in practice constantly. Such fine
thinking level not only reflected making a careful and detail analysis to everything of universe, embodied
outstanding dissection, and detailed inspection actions of the mankind psychology, but also displayed at lasting
exploration and profound grasp to formal logic and dialectical thought of the mankind thinking law.

This exquisite theory level and dialectical thinking element of the Chinese Buddhism provided a necessary
support of thinking method for Buddhists to take part in science and technology actions, still further to
recognize and understand natural world. Science needs logic, not only formal logic but also dialectical logic, as
well as needs theory; it could not go without theory. The Chinese Buddhism was not short of either logic or
theory; on the contrary it unusually resembled scientific thinking method at some special angle of view. When
it held such theory thinking level to get into the secular society, suit the tide of science and technology at that
time, made efforts in researching and spreading science and technology knowledge, therefore it was a rather

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natural thing for the Chinese Buddhism which had got a series of achievements in many fields of science and
technology.

Main Ways of the Chinese Buddhism Influence on Ancient Science and Technology
Now let’s discuss how the Chinese Buddhism actually carried out its influence on the development of

ancient science and technology. According to our research, there were four main channels.

The Buddhist Scriptures Actually Contain a Wealth of Knowledge of Science and Technology; the
Eminent Buddhist Monks Introduced Them Into China Through Translation, Therefore Enriched
Contents of Science and Technology in Ancient China

It has been a common view by researchers of Buddhist philosophy and the history of science and
technology that there are unusual rich knowledge of science and technology in the extant Chinese Buddhist
scriptures. From their own disciplines, some researchers had made effort to analyze and list the knowledge of
science and technology in the Buddhist scriptures, and had got obvious achievements. Generally speaking, the
contents of science and technology knowledge in the Chinese Buddhist scriptures mostly are about astronomy
and medical science, also concern mathematics, geography, and so on.

Those astronomy materials in Chinese Buddhist scriptures which had been listed carefully and detailedly
are in a book named Gazing Into the Western Sky: Source and Course About Astronomy in the Buddhist
Scriptures Translated Into Chinese (西望梵天:汉译佛经中的天文学源流) written by Niu Weixing (钮卫星)
(2004). In this book, the writer classified to display astronomy materials in those Buddhist scriptures for five
respects: (1) about quantity and measurement; (2) about cosmology; (3) about the galaxy; (4) about the sun and
moon; (5) about planets. These five respects of astronomy materials lie in 97 kinds of Buddhist scriptures as a
whole. The work by Niu Weixin (钮卫星) had testified that astronomy materials in the Chinese translated
Buddhist scriptures are really very rich.

Still there are another large number of medicine knowledge in the Chinese Buddhist scriptures that also
caused academic circles to pay much attention. According to the statistics by Li Liangsong (李良松) (1997) in
his book Summary of General Catalogue About Medicine Books in the Buddhist Scriptures (佛教医籍总目提
要), there are 85 monographs which on medicine, as for the other books involved medicine content, even
extend more than 370 volumes.

Except the knowledge of astronomy and medicine, the Chinese Buddhist scriptures still included scientific
materials of mathematics, geography, and so on. No doubt, the eminent Buddhist monks introduced such
knowledge into China through translating Buddhist scriptures; their work and effort brought about an active
result to promote a further development of science and technology in ancient China.

Though Some Knowledge of Science and Technology in Ancient Indian and Other Districts Was Not
Actually Invented by Buddhism or Not Only Possessed by Buddhism, But They Got Into China Along
With the Spread of Buddhism

For instance, in ancient China there were a sort of science and technology works named “Brahman” (婆罗
门), such as Brahman Astronomy, Brahman Mathematics, Brahman Prescription, and so on. The great part of
these works have been lost now, so we cannot conclude that these knowledge of science and technology
whether or not belonged to Buddhism itself. But anyway, the sending of these knowledge and materials and
getting to China were together with the spread of Buddhism.

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Except for India works and knowledge, there still were other west countries’ works and materials that
were introduced into China by the spread of Buddhism. For example, in medicine field, there are more than 10
works recorded in Sui Shu·Classics Volume (隋书·经籍志). The Song (宋) Dynasty scholar Zheng Qiao (郑樵)
also recorded the above works’ names in his book Complete History·Art and Literature Column (通志·艺文略)
and displayed them as a special kind which called “胡方” (“Non-Han Prescription”). It is clear that such
medicine works have reached a large scale and conducted certain influence.

Ancient Chinese Buddhists (Including Those Foreign Buddhists Who Lived in China and Those
Buddhists Who Lived at Home) Took Part in Science and Technology Practice Actively at That Time,
and They Had Got a Series of Achievements in Science and Technology

No one could be greater than the Tang (唐) Dynasty talent monk Yi Xing (一行) who had got outstanding
achievements in astronomy in ancient China. He compiled Da Yan Almanac (大衍历) which was one of few
“most excellent almanacs” in Chinese history. It did not only use in China, but also passed on into Japan and
continued to use for many years. He also created a batch of new astronomy instruments together with Liang
Lingzan (梁令瓒), meanwhile had got a series of new results about astronomical phenomena observation and
the regularities of celestial body movement on this foundation. The great success achieved by Yi Xing (一行)
in astronomy, calendar, and mathematics, was enough to establish him an important position in Chinese history
of science.

The most closed relation was between astronomy and mathematics. In Chinese history those persons who
were proficient in astronomical mathematics were always called as “Chou Ren (畴人)”. Therefore in Buddhist
circles who had special talent at astronomy, also were scholars at mathematics. Among them Zhen Luan (甄鸾)
proved himself competent as a true and famous mathematician. He lived in the North and South Dynasties (南
北朝), and believed in Buddhism. He had written two mathematics books which were named Wu Cao
Arithmetic Classic (五曹算经) and Arithmetic in Five Classics (五经算术), and he also had done explanatory
notes to many famous mathematics works. These mathematics works together with Zhen Luan (甄鸾)’s
explanations were compiled in Ten Mathematics Classics (算经十书) in the Sui (隋) and Tang (唐) Dynasty.
They were elected as textbooks for mathematics education in the Imperial College, and necessary teaching
materials in imperial examinations, which had a great influence in Chinese mathematics history. Then these
mathematics works were brought into the Korea and Japan, and also played an important role in mathematics
education in East Asia countries.

Medicine work done by Chinese Buddhists was even more. According to our rough calculation, there were
nearly 100 important Buddhist monks who had taken part in medicine researching and practicing activities, and
who left their names and deeds in history. Such was not included about those persons who were in Tibetan
Buddhism and Southwestern Buddhism, and still was not included those groups which made medicine work in
some special temples such as Shao Lin Temple (少林寺), Bamboo Forest Temple (竹林寺), and so on. If
account them as a whole, that must be a big number team.

Except mentioned above, Chinese Buddhist also had taken part in other scientific activities in the fields of
geography, agronomy, architecture, technology, and so on, meanwhile had got many achievements. No doubt,
all of such science and technology practice and excellent achievements made by Chinese Buddhists were a kind
of important way to influence on the development of science and technology.

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Inspired and Affected by Buddhist Scientific Knowledge, Those Non-Buddhist Scientists Had Done
Many Created Work in a Further Step, and Made Much Contributions to Development of Science and
Technology

In the respect of astronomy knowledge of ancient India spread with Buddhism which had produced good
result to Chinese non-Buddhist astronomers, we can take He Chengtian (何承天) and his Yuan Jia Almanac (元
嘉历) as an example. He lived in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (南北朝) and did not believe in
Buddhism, but he absorbed essence from the ancient Indian astronomy knowledge and put them into Yuan Jia
Almanac (元嘉历) compiled by himself. In Chinese astronomical history, Yuan Jia Almanac (元嘉历) was an
important calendar. It was not only published and used at that time, but also displayed much influence on
almanac after the Tang (唐) and Song (宋) Dynasties. According to Niu Weixing (钮卫星)’s research, there
were five main reformations in Yuan Jia Almanac (元嘉历), and all these reformations kept a close link with
ancient Indian astronomy knowledge, and at least we can find two of them which had obviously relevant way
of doing.

It was more prominent for Buddhist medicine knowledge which exerted influence on medical experts of
non-Buddhists in ancient China. There was a famous medical expert Sun Simiao (孙思邈) who lived in the
Tang (唐) Dynasty, though he was a Taoist scholar, but was affected powerfully by Buddhism. In his great
medical writing Qian Jin Major Prescriptions (千金方), he once clearly quoted the Buddhist scriptures in order
to explain medical theory. Besides above-mentioned, according to textual research by Fan Xingzhun (1936)
that is in Sun Simiao (孙思邈)’s another work Qian Jin Assistant Prescriptions (千金翼方) which had more
than 20 prescriptions sourced from Indian recipes, all of these had relations with the spread of Buddhism.

In the Ming (明) Dynasty, Li Shizhen (李时珍) also recorded a large number of medicines from India and
Southern Asia in his great book Compendium of Materia Medica (本草纲目), and extensively quoted the
Buddhist scriptures to make a check. Some of them were given indication by Sanskrit term, such as “tulip”,
“datura”, and so on. From these instances we can see that prescriptions of ancient India and Southern Asia had
slowly mixed together with Chinese traditional medicine system, and the Buddhist medicine brought obvious
influence on non-Buddhist circles.

To put it briefly, above four main ways might be summarized for the Chinese Buddhism giving influence
to science and technology in ancient China.

Some Contents in Buddhist Doctrine Which Are Beneficial to Promote Development of
Science and Technology

The first, the “Empty (空)” theory in Buddhist doctrine actually pointed out that “principal and subsidiary
causes” is the last origin for everything in universe to emerge. The Buddhist world outlook told us that all
appearance of things would always change themselves from birth to death; no one could be existed isolatedly
and could have no change forever. Now that it exposed universal contact of the objective world as well as the
law of eternal change to a certain degree, these views are very similar to the views of science.

The next, Buddhism considered that all things in the world have inevitable relations between cause and
effect. “If this one exists, would cause another one to exist; if this one rises, would cause another one to rise;
when this one disappears, another one would follow it to disappear; when this one goes to die, another one
would follow it to go to die”. Though this idea of causality was mainly used to explain ethical principles such
as “Good is rewarded with good, and evil with evil”, it could be in the same way to explain everything in the

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nature. It was very close to the law of causation for which scientists always make their efforts to seek among
natural things. A book named Things Responded With Each Other (物类相感志) written by the Song (宋)
Dynasty talent monk Zan Ning (赞宁) was to search after the law of cause and effect between different sorts of
things. It put great influence on the writing of scientific works later, such as Li Shizhen (李时珍)’s
Compendium of Materia Medica (本草纲目) and so on.

The third, Buddhism thought that it was a necessary way for someone who wanted to be a Buddhist to
practice “The Five Clarities”. These five clarities include “Sound Clarity” (knowledge about language,
characters, and so on); “Craft Clarity” (knowledge about handicraft, technology, calendar system, calculation,
and so on); “Medical Clarity” (knowledge about medical skill, medicine making, and so on); “Logic Clarity”
(knowledge about cause and effect, true and false, argument, and so on); “Inside Clarity” (knowledge about
Buddhism theory itself). In above five items, there are at least three items related with science and technology;
they are “Craft Clarity”, “Medical Clarity”, and “Logic Clarity”, which covered contents of many fields in
science and technology.

Except what we have mentioned above, Buddhism still advocated using many ways to accumulate merit in
its doctrine. These ways include building images of Buddha and towers, planting trees and constructing gardens,
giving medicines and curing sickness, erecting bridges and making boats, digging wells and providing toilets,
and so on. All these things would bring about an active result on development of architecture, medicine,
gardening, and botany.

In short, the doctrine of Buddhism was not to hinder the development of science and technology
completely; the result turned out contrary in many respects that it had promoted development of science and
technology. Like summarized by us at the second section, Chinese Buddhism had played an active influence on
the development of ancient science and technology through many ways, and had made important contributions
in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and so on. Since it was so, how could we have any reasons
to doubt such a historical fact that Chinese Buddhism had put an active and helpful role in the development of
ancient science and technology?

References
Du, J. W. (2006). History of Buddhism (佛教史). Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House.
Fan, X. Z. (1936). Check on Non-Han Prescriptions (胡方考). Chinese Medical Magazine, 22(12).
Li, L. S. (1997). Summary of general catalogue about medicine books in the Buddhist scriptures (佛教医籍总目提要). Xiamen:

Lujiang (鹭江) Publishing House.
Needham, J. (1956). Science and civilization in China, volume 2: History of scientific thought. Cambridge: The Syndics of the

Cambridge University Press.
Niu, W. X. (2004). Gazing into the Western Sky: Source and course about astronomy in the Buddhist scriptures translated into

Chinese (西望梵天:汉译佛经中的天文学源流). Shanghai: Shanghai Traffic University Publishing House.

The Chinese Buddhism Had a Strong Spirit to Get Into the Secular Society
The Chinese Buddhism Had a High Adaptability to Its Existence Environment
The Chinese Buddhism Possessed Fine Thinking Level
The Buddhist Scriptures Actually Contain a Wealth of Knowledge of Science and Technology; the Eminent Buddhist Monks Introduced Them Into China Through Translation, Therefore Enriched Contents of Science and Technology in Ancient China
Though Some Knowledge of Science and Technology in Ancient Indian and Other Districts Was Not Actually Invented by Buddhism or Not Only Possessed by Buddhism, But They Got Into China Along With the Spread of Buddhism
Ancient Chinese Buddhists (Including Those Foreign Buddhists Who Lived in China and Those Buddhists Who Lived at Home) Took Part in Science and Technology Practice Actively at That Time, and They Had Got a Series of Achievements in Science and Technology
Inspired and Affected by Buddhist Scientific Knowledge, Those Non-Buddhist Scientists Had Done Many Created Work in a Further Step, and Made Much Contributions to Development of Science and Technology

Journal of Asia Pacific Studies (2021) Volume 6 No 2, 213-228

213

Spread of Buddhism and Peace in Southeast Asia

Dr. Alok Kumar Verma1
Assistant Professor
Samrat Ashok Subharti School of Buddhist Studies
Swami Vivekanand Subharti University

Abstract: Buddhism developed from the teachings of the Buddha, whose origins are believed to be

in North India between the 6th and 4th centuries. Spreading from India to Central and Southeast

Asia, China, Korea and Japan, Buddhism has played a central role in the cultural and social life

of Asia. Presently, Buddhism has reached every corner of the world through its teachings. The main

reason for this is the message of world peace. Peace is the basic foundation of human civilization.

Without the ideals of peace, human civilization cannot exist and human civilization will become

meaningless without peace. However, peace has been troubled by various forms of war and

violence at various stages of human history. Thus, alternatively, Buddhism teaches real feeling and

peace as a feeling that must come from inside and not from outside sources. Buddhist precepts

always inspire harmony between human beings, though dependent on inner companions. Buddhism

believes in helping others as a good deal. Therefore, peace has a very important role in human life

and civilization. For that reason, the main objective of this paper is to examine the spread of

Buddhism and peace in Southeast Asian countries and its new dimensions in today’s era.

Keywords: Buddhism, Peace, Southeast Asia, Inter-religious issues, and the Contemporary era.

1. Introduction

Siddhartha Gautama, who lived before 2500 years ago. With the passage of time, Buddhism

spread throughout Asia, Europe and America. After Buddha got enlightenment, he preached his

‘Dhamma’ for nearly 45 years. He visited different places in order to instill the right knowledge

among the people. It has been argued that his effort to establish a new religion brought a significant

change to a large section of the population. However, some scholars are of the view that his

philosophy poses a political and religious problem. Most of the teachings of the Buddha’s life and

philosophy are available in Pali language. However, the problem is that his teachings are not in

chronological order and not in a combined form. According to Pali sources, the story of the Buddha

and his followers is very interesting and it is very important (Dhammika, 1989). In Buddhism, one

can purify his life, by various methods. After the inspiration from the Buddha and his philosophy,

millions of people followed him.

On the basis of archaeological sources, people living in regions of Southeast Asia who were

skilled in “making casting metals and pottery” date to around 3000 BCE (Osborne 2002: p. 21). On

the basis of historical evidence, it has been proved that the civilizations of Southeast Asia are as old

as Egypt, Greece, India and China. The region has maintained a long historical record, known as

the Golden Age of Southeast Asia. In this way, Buddhism is one of the most ancient traditions of

the world which was founded by Gautama Buddha, before 2500 years, in India. Buddhism

developed from the teachings of the Buddha, whose origins are believed to be in northern India

1 Dr. Alok Kumar Verma, Assistant Professor at Samrat Ashok Subharti School of Buddhist Studies, Swami
Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India, 250005.
Email Id: [email protected], [email protected], Cont. No. +918707484725, +918460887342

mailto:[email protected]

mailto:[email protected]

Dr. Alok Kumar Verma

214

between the 6th and 4th centuries. Spreading from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China,

Korea, and Japan, Buddhism has played a central role in the cultural and social life of Asia.

Buddhism has turned into a worldwide religion with followers all around the world. It has spread

the message of peace and harmony and has introduced the idea of humanism into the world.

Buddhism with its simplest teaching of peace and tolerance has paved its way for a huge number

of followers in the entire world and has given the new vision of life to the world.

Buddhism has long been celebrated as non-violence and peace. With its increasing power, the

world is doing relief and guidance for the people of Buddhism. Currently, Buddhism has reached

every corner of the world through its teachings. The main reason for this is the message of world

peace, because, peace is the basic strand of human civilization. Without the ideals of peace, human

civilization cannot exist and human civilization will become meaningless without peace. Though

in different phases in human history peace has been disturbed by different forms of war and

violence, but later on peace has been restored with the realization that without peace human

civilization will be extinct. Thus, alternatively, Buddhism teaches genuine happiness and peace as

a feeling that must come from inside and not from outside sources (Olson, 2005: pp. 16-17).

Many human beings today trust that peace is a sense of contentment brings about the conditions

around them including feeling safe, successful, or fortunate. Therefore, Buddhist teachings are

always inspiring harmony amongst human beings, although majoring at the inner fellow. For

example, Buddhism trusts in assisting others as a good deal as they can as a source of happiness.

Buddhism believes that each time one helps others; they shift from viewing their struggling as a

large disaster and cognizance of the bigger struggling of the one they intend to help. Therefore,

peace has a very essential and significant role in human life and human civilization. Peace has also

tremendous ramifications in the animal world. In view of the modern world scenario, which has

been marred by colonialism, two world wars, cold war, religious confusion and sometimes

barbarism, crumbling down of ethics and morals, etc. peace has held the only light. Peace has been

restored through agreements and engagements (Panjvani, 2013: pp. 36-37).

Before the era of mass tourism, trade was a major resource by which people from different

religions and scriptures came into contact with each other. Although Buddhism is not traditionally

a religion that actively seeks convertibility, it nonetheless extends to Southeast Asia and has a large

number of Buddhist merchants in Central Asia in many countries in the ‘Middle Ages Religion’

was widely followed. Buddhist monks also traveled on merchant ships, to go on pilgrimage, thus

taking their religious practices too far. Appropriately, based on the evidence, it can be said that

through its propagation, Buddhism has done an important task of bringing peace in Southeast Asian

reason (Heine, and Prebish, 2003: p. 21-22). The main reason for the spread of Buddhism in this

region was the local interest in the beliefs of Buddhists among foreign traders. Therefore, Buddhism

developed organically in these areas. Sometimes rulers adopted Buddhism to help bring morality

to their people, but no one was forced to convert. By making Buddha’s message available to the

public, people were free to choose what was helpful to them (Ibid: p. 26).

2. History of Buddhism in Southeast Asia:

Historically, the Buddha’s teaching got divided into two fundamental orders namely, the

‘Mahayana and the Theravada’. Theravada is known as the original form of Buddhism and

Mahayana is known as the created form of Buddhism (Laumakis, 2008: pp, 190-99). Mahayana

Spread of Buddhism and Peace in Southeast Asia

215

Buddhism is followed in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. Mahayana Buddhism

is not a single tradition, but it is a collection of Buddhist traditions like Zen Buddhism, Pure Land

Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism which are types of Mahayana Buddhism (BBC, 2002:

02/10/2002). Theravada Buddhist traditions are followed in most of the South-Asian countries and

it is also spread in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos (Silananda, 1997: pp. 29-30).

In Southeast Asia, Hinduism and Buddhism both were practiced in the first century BC. One of

the Chinese travelers was established as a center of Buddhist education in the 7th century in

Indonesia. Indonesia built-in central Java in the 9th century is still the largest Buddhist temple,

called Borobudur. After the end of Srivijaya’s kingdom in the 13th century, Buddhism also declined

in the region, and Borobudur was abandoned. It was situated in an area of active volcanoes,

Borobudur remained buried under the volcanic ash and forest growth until it was discovered by

British explorers in the 19th century (Braun, 2009: p. 37).

Angkor Wat, another huge temple complex of Buddhism, was built in Cambodia by the Khmer

people in the 12th century. Its history tells us how Buddhism developed in the region. Originally

dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, this temple was finally dedicated to Angkor Wat by

‘Mahayana Buddhism’ by the Khmer kings. In the 13th century, missionary monks, after joining

Sri Lanka, introduced ‘Theravada Buddhism’ to the Khmer person, which remains in Cambodia to

this day. Sri Lankan missionaries established ‘Theravada Buddhism’ in Laos and Thailand. It is

believed that the Buddha himself came to Myanmar, there is archaeological evidence of Buddhism

in southern Myanmar, which dates back to the 4th century CE, but most of the people of Myanmar

accompanied the king there in the middle of the 11th century adopted Buddhism and made it their

state religion (McGovern, 1919: pp. 17-18).

Southeast Asia is geographically and religiously divided between major regions. It encompasses

Buddhism on a large scale, and is followed by Muslims. Sunni Muslims in this region represent the

majority religion with estimates of over 40 percent. Buddhism (mainly Theravada Buddhism)

comes second, followed by Christianity in Southeast Asian countries, with the majority of its

members living in the Philippines. Thus, while almost all countries in Southeast Asia are religiously

pluralistic. Ethnicity is an issue in religious conflict here because in Southeast Asia religious

identity is often inseparable from ethnic identity (Kosuta, 2017: p. 24).

Today, Buddhism has become the predominant religion of the southeastern nations and spread

the message of peace. However, it is a minority religion among the people of the island except for

Singapore. People from many parts of Asia, who have settled in Singapore for centuries, bring

various forms of Buddhism, and Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in that country

today.

3. Inter-religious Tensions in Southeast Asia:

The growing tension between Buddhist heads of Southeast Asian countries and Muslim

minorities is a major challenge for peace and security within these countries and in the wider region.

Amid such increasing tension, it will not be sufficient to implement the rule of common law in any

country. In such a stressful time, only the deep understanding of Buddhist nationalist discourse can

reduce complaints to a great extent. In this way, Buddhism is most important for improving mutual

coexistence in the region. As such, Buddha’s emphasis on the moral duty of a ruler inspired

Dr. Alok Kumar Verma

216

Emperor Ashoka in the third century BCE to use public power to improve the welfare of the public

(Bhikkhu, 2012: pp. 36-39).

Similarly, with a shining example of this principle, Emperor Ashoka resolved to live according

to Dhamma and serve the entire humanity. Hence, Buddha should be considered as a social

reformer. He did not agree with the caste system, he recognized the equality of the people, spoke

on the need to improve socio-economic conditions, recognized the importance of the more equitable

distribution of wealth between rich and poor. He raised the status of women, recommended for their

welfare, incorporated humanism into government and administration, and taught that a society

should be run not with greed but with consideration and compassion for the people (Berzin, 1996:

pp. 15-16).

Theravada Buddhism served as the organizing principle of pre-modern states in Thailand,

Myanmar and parts of Sri Lanka before European colonial integration in South and Southeast Asia

in the late 19th century. These three countries, the scriptures, the monarchical states drew their

legitimacy prominently by basing their rule on the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha and the

support of Buddhist monks. Thus Monarchus was interested in supporting the nuns physically and

politically and played the role of defenders and promoters of Buddhism. Buddhism played a

historical role in legitimizing state rights. Buddhism has also played a major role in pre-colonial

Burman and Sinhalese societies as a path to culture, language, law and education. Thus, Buddhism

became a major component of modern nationalist self-concepts (Stein, 2014: pp. 2-3).

Transformative influences still exist in modern conceptions of nationalism brought about by

Western education in Southeast Asian countries. Buddhism has played a historical role in

legitimizing the rights of the states of these countries. Buddhism has played an important role in

pre-colonial Burman and Sinhalese societies as the head of the path of culture, language, law and

education. Thus Buddhism has become a major component of modern nationalist self-concepts.

Despite the relentless efforts of Buddhism, many traditional institutions remained unchanged,

which is being tried all over by Buddhism. Despite this, colonial encroachment in the region has

challenged the religious legitimacy of the state. In order to secure sovereignty in an expanding

system of nation-states, the ruling elites saw the need to build a modern ‘Thai’ nation. In this way,

the Southeast Asian nation can be given a new identity through the ‘teachings of Buddhism’, and a

great state can be created (Iselin, 2015: p. 2).

The emergence of modern Buddhist nations has expanded the traditional relationship between

state and Buddhism in Southeast Asia to include a third powerful element. Thus, the danger to the

state, to religion, and to the nation has now become interrelated. With the end of colonialism,

sections of monks are continuing their mission to defend Buddhism against new threats. This is

particularly true in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, where the traditional monarchy is not allowed to be

restored. Here, monks have played an assertive and independent role in protecting the nation and

religion. This includes increasing pressure on newly independent states to promote and support

Buddhism. Politically active monks have also rejected religious minority rights for non-Buddhist

minorities. Such activism gave rise to state policies, which have been criticized for being

exclusionary and discriminatory against religious minorities. Therefore, Buddhism is becoming a

distinct identity in the South Asian region (Schober, 1995: pp. 12-15).

Spread of Buddhism and Peace in Southeast Asia

217

Thus, Buddhism has served to reinforce the state’s identity as well as the political, economic,

military and cultural dominance of Burman and Sinhala ethnic majorities in both colonial Myanmar

and Sri Lanka. Similarly, the same was true in Thailand, although here, the role of monks was less

prominent. Nevertheless, Buddhism helped strengthen state sovereignty here, including territories

in northern Thailand settled by non-Buddhist groups such as hill tribes. These are the main features

of Buddhism (Ibid).

Therefore, mutual tension in this area cannot be ignored. Strengthening the rule of law and

security in the region, a solution advocating some domestic and international voices, will not be

sufficient. Furthermore, here, the question also arises as to how different the attitude of the

concerned states is from the politically active clerics. Responding to these realities, several local

and national efforts have been launched by the respective Buddhist and Muslim religious leaders

and laymen to address the violence. These initiatives, with the support of international peace

building, NGOs, dialogue and joint activities in faith groups as well as training of religious leaders

including monks in conflict prevention and resolution have been included. In this way, mainly

Buddhism has played a major role in organizing such incidents (Stein, 2014: pp. 3-4).

4. Popular Traditions in Southeast Asian Countries:

In Southeast Asia, mainly two major communities are Muslim and Buddhism, followed by

Christianity. If an event occurs in an area, it first affects its neighbors, after that the event or new

idea starts spreading to other parts. Therefore, the process of propagation of any religion or sect is

known as the spatial spread in geography. In this way, world communities share many different

cultural traits. Hence, Buddhism can be accepted as a cultural and religious phenomenon. It gives

rise to new forms of cultural and religious beliefs affecting the field of study of geographical factors

and the attitudes of people of any community (Brown, 2001: pp. 7-8). The world’s major religions

are specifically associated with racial groups, cultures, political systems, and lifestyles. For

example, it is difficult to imagine Thailand without Buddhism, without Hinduism in Nepal and

India, and the British without Christianity. Religion has no limited boundaries. Buddhism is the

best example of this because, at present, it has spread very rapidly in the western world (Park, 2004:

p. 11).

Buddhism is accepted as a religion as well as a philosophy. Philosophy is a discipline, which

encompasses the process of investigation, analysis, and development of ideas. It deals with a

common understanding of values and reality. The use of discipline in Buddhism is based on the

important ideas and concepts of the Buddha, moral obligation, knowledge, reason, issues, problems,

logic, ethics, conceptual analysis, and a theoretical aspect. In Buddhism, the emphasis has been

placed on reasoning and reasoning. It creates an atmosphere of equality and brotherhood in the

society. Buddhism includes all traditions based on the teachings of the Buddha (Berzin, 1996: pp.

6-19).

Buddhism is divided into two main traditions (Theravada and Mahayana). Theravada Buddhism

is one of these two major traditions, the word Theravada means ‘teaching of the elders’. Its origins

are closely associated with the history of Sri Lanka, Theravada Buddhism is also known as Southern

Buddhism. It has 150 million followers, living in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and

Thailand. Mahayana Buddhism is one of the other and larger traditions of Buddhism. It is practiced

mainly in East Asia in places such as China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet. Therefore, Theravadins follow

Dr. Alok Kumar Verma

218

practices passed by senior monks since the time of the Buddha, such as living in the forests and

meditating. The goal in Theravada Buddhism is an Arhat, a person, free from grief. It is also known

as the Southern School (Alexander, 1996: pp. 36-37).

Presently, Theravada Buddhism is the most popular tradition in Southeast Asian countries.

Therefore, the actual practices of Buddhism in Southeast Asian countries are still alive today. The

main basis of the teachings of Buddhism is the ‘Four Noble Truth and the Noble Eightfold Path’.

So of course, Theravada Buddhism of Southeast Asia is unlike other great historical religions,

which define the moral perfection of Buddhism and the ideal goal of ultimate self-transformation

and the means to achieve them. Therefore, Buddhism in South-East Asia provides equal rights and

resources for all. With this, people can face the problems of life as well as the justification to

vindicate all the activities of the world. Such goals have been accepted in the writings of the Pali

canon, a discourse of Theravada Buddhism (Nunlist, 2014: pp. 4-9).

Theravada Buddhism is in the strongest position in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar in the

ancient period. Therefore, Sri Lankan monks have greatly helped to revive Theravada Buddhism in

Southeast Asian countries (Bali, Indonesia, and Malaysia), where it gradually came to an end by

the end of the fifteenth century. In Indonesia, Buddhism is officially considered one of the five state

religions. The other four are Catholic and Protestant forms of Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. In

Thailand, the Buddhist monastic community has supreme patriarchy and a council of elders, who

take responsibility for maintaining the purity of this tradition. It has two types of monastic

communities, one inhabiting forests, and the other living in villages. There is also a Buddhist

university for monks. It is mainly opened for Buddhist teachings (Evers, 1991: pp. 63-64).

Similarly, in Myanmar, military rule ruthlessly destroyed the monasteries where disgruntled

people lived, especially in the north of the country. Now, the government is giving big money to

the monks to win their support and silence. The country has a long tradition of equal emphasis on

meditation and study, particularly the ‘Abhidhamma’ system of Buddhist psychology, metaphysics,

and ethics (McGovern, 1919). There are several meditation centers where monks and teachers

instruct people in basic meditation practices. Similarly, in 2007, thousands of Buddhist monks took

to the streets of Myanmar to protest peacefully against the military regime that ruled the country at

the time. The ‘saffron revolution’, as the events showed, caused the colorful robes of the spiritual

leaders of Myanmar to fall before the bullets of Myanmar’s powerful army. Today, the images

emanating from Myanmar are different. Around the country, monks are demonstrating in defense

of Buddhism, which has been directed against the country’s minority Muslim communities (Taylor,

1987: pp. 6-9).

Similarly, mutual tensions are also increasing in several Southeastern countries. Among these,

in Sri Lanka, monk-led groups such as the ‘Bodu Bala Sena’ (BBS, Sinhalese for Buddhist Power

Force) have attempted to reform similar campaigns. There have been demonstrations against the

halal certification, along with the construction of mosques and churches. Similarly, in the south of

Thailand, where the government is engaged in a century of conflict with the ‘Malay Muslim

Rebels’, the monks are caught in conflict. Hence, the army has entered some temples, and rumors

are circulating socially to ‘military monks’ (Butwell, 1969: pp. 3-7).

Such developments are opposite to the concept of Buddhism, which prohibits the killing of any

living being. These types of developments predict a growing rift between Buddhist and Muslim

Spread of Buddhism and Peace in Southeast Asia

219

communities in the most populous Theravada Buddhist-Muslim countries, which leads to such a

sense of development. This kind requires an appreciation of the historical role of Buddhism in

legitimizing political authority in Theravada Buddhist societies. It also calls for an understanding

of Buddhist nationalist discourses, which claim that the state belongs to a majority nation, be it

Burman, Sinhalese, or Thai, this nation would naturally be a Buddhist nation. Only, if the driving

force behind these discourses is understood can the growing interrelated tensions in South and

South East Asia are addressed constructively (Hipsher, 2011: pp. 6-15).

5. Present Circumstances of Buddhism in Southeast Asia:

The historical development of Buddhism has been full of complexities. Buddhism is not meant

to be a philosophy with only a defined doctrine and a set of rituals but includes a whole range of

human activities, including literature and art. The influence of Buddhist ideas on social institutions

creates an important network of mutual relationships. Today, Buddhism has spread to almost the

entire region of Asia, extending from Afghanistan as a western border to Java in the south and

Japan, Korea, and China-Mongolia in the north. Southeast Asia comprises 11 countries; covering

an area of 4,545,792 sq. km. Islam and Buddhism are the two most prevalent religions for this

reason. Apart from the unique people of Hinduism, animism, Tai folk, Taoism, Vietnamese folk

live here. Approximately 190–205 million Buddhists live in this area (Abhayawansa, 2019: pp. 37-

38).

The most notable fact of the spread of Buddhism in Southeast Asia was that its mode of

transmission was important for the ease with which it was received. Buddhism came peacefully as

a missionary or riding on the sailors and merchants, which spread here completely. After this,

Buddhist literature gradually reached Asian countries. Buddhist missionaries and scholars, who

were also tireless travelers, did important work in the affairs of the Southeast Asian states. More

important for the development of Southeast Asian states was the fact that Buddhism became a

demonstrative system of beliefs operating in India along with Hinduism. The role of Buddhism as

a magnetism force was growing on average much higher than that of Hinduism. The main reason

for this was the main principle of Buddhism (Birodkar, 1998: pp. 36-37).

When Buddhism arrived in Asia, the multiplicity of beliefs and practices was in full swing.

Buddhism and Hinduism made this stream of diverse beliefs a part of their respective religions and

strengthened their hold over them. Simultaneously, Mahayana and Theravada were undergoing

popularization in Buddhism as a sect. These were conditions that sustained Buddhism in Southeast

Asia, even in India that faded in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Buddhism found a more receptive

society in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia. Countries, that to date consider Buddhism as

the core of their social ethos and where the circle of Buddhist customs focuses on social

relationships even at the rural level. These are the main features of Buddhism, which remain today

(Banerjee, 1990: pp. 32-33).

6. Influence of Buddhism and Peace in Southeast Asia:

Peace as a concept has had a variety of understanding in different cultures. It can be said to exist

when people resolve their differences or work together without any conflict. Scholars would claim

pithily that peace is not just the absence of war (Galtung, 1969). The term peace has been articulated

almost as frequently as terms like truth, beauty, and love. It has been argued by scholars that the

Dr. Alok Kumar Verma

220

concept of peace has emerged since the birth of humanity and is most of the time linked with

Chinese, Indian, Arabic and other cultures. The concept of peace is not so much concerned with

how certain individuals or leagues conceptualized the realization of an eternal dream and the

investigation of peace and how to change the world in socio-political institutions.

Serious academic engagement with the concept of peace began around the 1960s (Matsuo,

2007). In the 1960s’, Galtung articulated the idea of peace and violence in the context of indirect

or structural violence. According to Grewal, such an attempt by Galtung was a direct test to

establish ideas about the nature of peace (Grewal, 2003). In conceptualizing the term ‘peace’ and

to measure its complexity, Galtung employed two perspectives such as peace value and peace

sphere. Galtung argued that “an important task in peace research has always been and always be

the exploration of the concept of peace” (Galtung, 1981).

According to Galtung, the following are the main three principles of the idea of peace. “The

term peace will be used for social goals at least verbally agreed to be many, if not necessarily be

the most. These social goals may be complex and difficult, but not impossible to attain. The

statement of peace is the absence of violence will be retained as valid” (Galtung, 1969). The third

conviction makes it clear that the concept of peace and violence are interlinked concepts because

peace can be achieved in the absence of war (Ibid). Coming to the Indian context, it could be seen

that in contemporary India, violence and conflict take place in many parts of Indian society such as

religious, political and economic conflicts and violence against human rights (Matsuo, 2007).

Though almost all the religions of the world believe in the ideals of peace, in Buddhism, it is

the first and foremost essence of life. Peace is the most important part of Buddhism. Peace in

Buddhism can be traced to Buddha’s teachings and his lifestyle. Buddha’s ideals of peace are based

on his teachings and his lifestyle. Buddha’s teaching and lifestyle are not only very simple but also

very practical. In Buddha’s philosophy, peace is the way of achieving salvation. A person has to

follow certain rules of morality to attain salvation (Loomba, 2013: pp. 11-12). Buddha has focused

on certain moral principles that are very much essential for …

Buddhist Impact on Chinese Culture

Xing Guang

The Chinese traditional culture includes three systems of thought: Confucianism,
Daoism and Buddhism. The first two are Chinese culture, and Buddhism is a foreign
religion introduced from India. Although there had been conflicts among the three
systems of thoughts, but integration is the mainstream in the development of Chinese
cultural thought. Thus, Chinese culture has developed into a system by uniting the
three religions into one with Confucianism at the centre supported by Daoism
and Buddhism. For over 2,000 years, Buddhism has interacted with all levels of
Chinese culture such as literature, philosophy, morality, arts, architecture and religions.
As a result, Buddhism has successfully integrated into the traditional Chinese culture
and has become one of the three pillars. In this paper, I will discuss the Buddhist impact
on Chinese culture from the following four points: (1) philosophy and moral teaching;
(2) religions and popular beliefs; (3) language and literature; and (4) art and
architecture.

Introduction

The Chinese traditional culture includes three systems of thought: Confucianism,
Daoism and Buddhism. The first two are indigenous Chinese culture while
Buddhism is a foreign religion introduced from India, and thus, the latter is quite
different from the former in thought, tradition and beliefs. Although sometimes
there were conflicts among the three systems of thoughts since the introduction of
Buddhism in Han dynasty, harmony and integration are the mainstream in the
development of Chinese cultural thought. Thus, Chinese culture has developed into
a united system of the three religious thought with Confucianism at the centre
supported by Daoism and Buddhism. For over 2,000 years, Buddhism has interacted
with all levels of Chinese culture such as literature, philosophy, mores and beha-
vioural norms, arts and architecture, and religions of all classes. As a result,
Buddhism has successfully integrated into the traditional Chinese culture and
became one of the three pillars. Arthur Wright, quoting from the French
Sinologist Sylvain Levi, says,

Buddhism interacted through the centuries with all levels of Chinese culture: with
literary and philosophic traditions, with economic and political institutions, with

Correspondence to: Xing Guang, Assistant Professor, Centre of Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong,
Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong. Email: [email protected]

Asian Philosophy, 2013
Vol. 23, No. 4, 305–322, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09552367.2013.831606

© 2013 Taylor & Francis

mores and behavioral norms, with indigenous traditions in art and architecture,
with the religions of all classes and of all the subcultures of China. (Wright, 1957,
pp. 17–42)

As Buddhism brought to China new thought and ideas, it promoted the development
of Chinese philosophy, ethics, language, literature, arts, religions, popular belief etc.
On the other hand, as Buddhism is not a cultural bound religion, it also makes use
of and adapts to the local culture and thought. Arthur Wright has already made a
historical survey of the development of Buddhism in China and its four phases of
interaction with Chinese culture. In this essay, I will briefly discuss the Buddhist
impact on Chinese culture from the following four aspects: (1) philosophy and moral
teaching; (2) religions and popular beliefs; (3) language and literature; and (4) art and
architecture. I will also briefly discuss the philosophical reasons why Buddhism can be
integrated into Chinese culture.

The Reasons for Buddhist Integration

There may be many factors contributed to the Buddhist integration in Chinese
culture such as historical, social and other causes in the process of 2,000 years of
interaction, but I will concentrate on the philosophical ideas and thought. The first
and also the most important reason is the liberal attitude of mind in both
Confucianism and Buddhism because for a culture or thought to integrate in
another culture, both must be liberal and receptive, particularly the receiving
party. The open-minded attitude of mind in Confucianism can be seen from the
following saying found in the Confucius Analects or Lunyu, ‘The Master said, “The
gentleman harmonizes (he 和), and does not merely agree (tong 同). The petty
person agrees, but he does not harmonize”’ (Lunyu 13:23).1 The saying itself may
not be quite clear, but He Yan 何晏 (195–249) in his Commentary to the Analects
made it explicit,

Gentlemen are in harmony in their minds but their opinions or thoughts may
be different, so it is said not same. The inferior men have the same habit or
indulgence, but they fight for profit, so it is said not in harmony. (Li Xueqing,
1999, p. 179)2

The importance of this saying is the tolerant and harmonious spirit of mentality in
thought and culture. It is based on these ideas and thought that Chinese people
emphasize on harmony and unity as Confucius said, ‘When it comes to the practice
of ritual, it is harmonious ease (he 和) that is to be valued’ (Lunyu 1:12). The Doctrine
of the Mean further explains, ‘This notion of equilibrium and focus (zhong 中) is
the great root of the world; harmony then is the advancing of the proper way (dadao
達道) in the world’ (Ames & Hall, 2001, p. 89). It is because of this liberal and
tolerant spirit of mentality that Chinese people could absorb good thought and
practices from other culture. Confucius said, ‘When walking with two other people,

306 X. Guang

I will always find a teacher among them. I focus on those who are good and seek to
emulate them, and focus on those who are bad in order to be reminded of what needs
to be changed in myself’ (Lunyu 7.22). ‘With regard to the world, the gentleman has
no predispositions for or against any person. He merely associates with those he
considers right’ (Lunyu 4.10). These ideas and thought have been influencing Chinese
people for over 2,000 years.
On the other hand, Buddhism also has the liberal attitude of mind and accepts

whatever is good as it is said in the Uttaravipatti Sutta of the Anguttaranikāya.
Sakka asked the bhikkhu Uttara whether his talk comes from the Buddha or not,
Uttara said, ‘Whatsoever is well spoken, all that is the word of the Buddha.’3 The
saying is also quoted in the Satyasiddhi Śāstra and the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Śāstra
both of which are translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva.4 It is due to this attitude
of mind, the Buddha advised his lay disciples even to make offerings to local gods
as they are important part of the local culture.5 This thought has influenced
Buddhists tremendously and led to important consequences in the transmission
of Buddhism to other cultures. Thus, Buddhism has not caused any conflict with
hosting local culture, but absorbed local cultures wherever it has been transmitted.
As a result, it becomes Chinese Buddhism with a Chinese cultural marks and colour
when it comes to China as Buddhism absorbed many Chinese cultural elements in
the last 2,000 years.
Second, Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism are Chinese religions that do not

accept a divine revelation but they are inclusive in nature. So they are religions that
do not exclusively claim truth as Vincent Goossaert says in the Encyclopedia of
Religion,

Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism within Chinese religion do not function as
separate institutions that provide their members an exclusive way to salvation, as in
the nineteenth-century Western concept of religion; rather, their purpose is to
transmit their tradition of practice and make it available to all, either as individual
spiritual techniques or liturgical services to whole communities. (Goossaert, 2005,
p. 1614)

Thus, the inclusiveness of the three religions provides the philosophical foundation
for Buddhism to integrate into Chinese culture and thought. Chinese scholars such as
Sun Chuo (314–371) started to promote the idea of syncretism of three religions from
the fourth century onwards and he said that the sages Zhou and Confucius are like
the Buddha and the Buddha is like the sages Zhou and Confucius (CBETA, 2011,
T52, no. 2102, p. 17, a7). As a result of the successive Chinese Buddhists and scholars’
efforts, Buddhism had fully integrated into Chinese culture by the tenth century and
the three religions complement each other in the holistic cultivation of the person.
Just as the Song dynasty Chinese scholars stated that Buddhism is for cultivation of
the mind, Daoism is for the cultivation of the physical body and Confucianism is for
the governing of state. Thus, the three religions have played an important role in the
life of Chinese people and society.

Asian Philosophy 307

Buddhist Impact on Philosophy and Moral Teaching

The Buddhist interaction with Chinese philosophy started in Jin dynasty (265–420)
with the rise of xuanxue (metaphysical learning) in the third century. Chinese
intellectuals dissatisfied with the Confucian classical learning established since the
Han dynasty and turned their attention to cosmological questions. Scholars such as
He Yan and Wang Bi (226–249) concentrated on the explanation of the ontological
questions of you (being or existence) and wu (non-being or nothingness), and they
established the view that all beings ‘have their roots in wu’. But other scholars like
Guo Xiang argued that ‘non-being (wu) cannot change into being’ so the phenomena
comes into existence spontaneously. Guo Xiang was later named as those who valued
you in contrast to those who valued wu. The Buddhist scriptures of the
Prajñāpāramitā introduced in the second and the third centuries discuss the concept
of emptiness which is translated in Chinese as kong, a word similar to wu. Thus,
many Chinese Buddhist monks well versed in Laozi ang Zhuangzi also participated in
the discussion of xuanxue. The similarities between Chinese philosophy of Laozi and
Zhuangzi and the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness attracted the Chinese intellectuals’
attention and interest so they also started to study the Buddhist teaching. This
facilitated the Chinese reception of Buddhist philosophy which developed during
the Sui and Tang dynasties and became the prominent thought in Chinese history.
Thus, there came up eight different Buddhist schools of thought and four of them
were more influenced by Chinese thought and became distinctive Chinese Buddhist
schools. They are Tiantai, Huayan, Chan and Pure Land. Huayan scholars such as
Chengguan 澄觀 (738–839) and Zongmi 宗密 (780–841) emphasized the learning of
Confucian Yijing (the Book of Change).
The Confucian scholars in the Tang and Song dynasties took up the challenge to

respond to Daoism and Buddhism and formulated sophisticated philosophical the-
ories by assimilation of both ideas and thought from the other two religions. Liu
Zongyuan 柳宗元 (773–819), for instance, tried to reconcile and unite the Confucian
and Buddhist doctrines into a pervasive and inclusive understanding from the
Confucian perspective. He considered that Buddhist teachings are similar to the
ideas found the Yijing and the Lunyu so they are not different from those of
Confucius and further explained that the importance of precepts in Buddhism is
similar to the importance of li 禮 (ritual) in Confucianism. Li Ao 李翱 (772–841), on
the other hand, further advanced Liu Zongyuan’s idea and assimilated Buddhist
teachings into his thought as he interpreted Confucian thought of human nature by
assimilation of Buddhist teaching.
Song dynasty Confucian scholars continued to assimilate Buddhist thought with an

aim to revive Confucian teaching, but most scholars criticized Buddhism as a foreign
religion. Ming dynasty Confucian scholars such as Wang Yangming (1472–1529)
openly studied Buddhist philosophy and absorbed Buddhist thought into his
system. Leading Confucian scholars in Song dynasty such as Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤
(1017–1073), two Chen brothers 二程, Zhang Zai 張載 (1020–1077) and Zhu Xi 朱
熹 (1030–1200) all ‘studied Daoism and Buddhism for many years’. According to the

308 X. Guang

Chinese scholar Fang Litian, Buddhism influenced Chinese philosophy in Song
dynasty in the following four aspects (Fang, 2006, pp. 256–260). First, just as the
Buddhists emphasized their scriptures, Neo-Confucian scholars also emphasized the
basic Confucian texts such as the Analects, the Mencius, the Great Learning and the
Doctrine of Mean which are known as the four books. Second, the major Buddhist,
particularly Chan influence on Neo-Confucianism is the study of mind and its nature
which was quite weak in early Confucian tradition. Third, Buddhism had a direct
influence on Neo-Confucian scholars’ theory of ontology that they also discussed the
relationship between principle and phenomena. Fourth, Buddhism also influenced the
way of thinking of Neo-Confucian scholars that they made use of the theory of
principle and activity to discuss ontological questions. In the modern time, Buddhist
philosophy, particularly Yogācāra thought, influenced modern Chinese scholars in
their search for new ideas and thought to revive Chinese culture by criticizing
Confucianism.
But Buddhism brought with it a whole set of total new ideas and thought which

the Chinese people never heard of and which influenced the Chinese culture and
thought. In the process of integration, there had been conflicts as well as absorp-
tions and also interpenetration between the two philosophies and cultures. Wing-
Tsit Chan once said,

If one word could characterize the entire history of Chinese philosophy, that word
would be humanism—not the humanism that denies or slights a Supreme Power,
but one that professes the unity of man and Heaven. In this sense, humanism has
dominated Chinese thought from the dawn of its history. (Chan, 1963, p. 3)

In other words, Chinese people concentrate on human welfare and do not discuss
metaphysical questions of the universe and after life as Confucius said, ‘You are not
yet able to serve people—how could you be able to serve ghosts and spirits?’ when
Ji Lu, a disciple of Confucius, asked about serving the spirits (Lunyu: 11.12). In
another place, Fan Chi asked what constituted wisdom, ‘The Master said, Working to
ensure social harmony among the common people, respecting the ghosts and spirits
while keeping them at a distance—this might be called wisdom’ (Lunyu: 6.22). So
Confucian teaching centres on man or humanity while respecting but no discussion
with regard to gods and ghosts. However, death and after life are important issues in
human’s life, so Chinese, particularly the ordinary people naturally wish to know
what happens after death, heavens and hells, but there is no discussion of these in
Chinese philosophy. But Buddhism is a system of moral teaching complimentary with
Chinese philosophy.
This is because, on the other hand, Buddhism also concentrates on human welfare

not metaphysical inquires as the Buddha never answered any questions concerning
the universe and soul when other religious teachers at his time came to him for a
debate.6 However, when a disciple of the Buddha named Mālunkyaputta who asked
him the same metaphysical questions, he explained that human life does not depend
on these views. Whatever opinion one may have about these problems, there is birth,

Asian Philosophy 309

old age, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, ‘the Cessation of which
(nirvān:a), I declare in this very life’.

7

First, Buddhism influenced Chinese cosmology with its rich narratives. According
to Livia Kohn, an expert in Daoist studies, the Lingbao school of Daoism created ‘a
new central deity, named Yuanshi Tianzun (Heavenly Worthy of Primordial
Beginning), who was a merging of the Shangqing creator god and the Buddha and
was known as shizun or “World Honored One”’ (Kohn, 2001, pp. 95–98). Just like the
Buddha in the Buddhist scriptures, Yuanshi Tianzun also gives sermons in reply to
learned questions.
It is well known that there are much description of heaven and hell in Buddhist

literature and the name of hell is already mentioned in the translations of An Shigao
and Dharmaraks:a.

8 Daoism has absorbed these ideas and thoughts and incorporated
into their system of thought and it has become an important part of the popular
beliefs in China. For instance, we find the description of heaven in the Daoist
scripture Yunji Qiqian《雲笈七簽》and the description of hell in the Daoist
Lingbao Jing《靈寶經》. The Daoist scripture Yunji Qiqian《雲笈七簽》describes
ten continents around China, and the four directions around China are called
Fuyudai 弗於岱 (Pūrvavideha) for East, Yanfuli 閻浮利 (Jambudvīpa) for South,
Yuyanni 俱耶尼 (Aparagodānīya) for West and Yudan 郁單 (Uttarakuru) for North
(Xue, 2006, pp. 17–19).9 These four names are actually old translations for the
four continents around Mt. Sumeru in Buddhist scriptures. The Daoist
Lingbao Jing《靈寶經》describes twelve hells and the Daoist Sanshi liubu jing
Yuqing jing《三十六部經玉清經》describes twenty hells, the names of these hells
suggest that they are taken from Buddhist sources (Xue, 2006, pp. 17–19). Thus, the
information about the continents and hells is actually taken from the Buddhist
sources.
Second, Buddhism filled a gap in Chinese philosophy regarding next life by its

teaching of rebirth as Confucius refused to discuss after life and Daoist teaching
concerning next life is also not clear, particularly regarding one’s bad deeds.
According to the Chinese scholar Tang Yijie 湯一介, there is no idea of retribution
in the next life in ancient Chinese thought (Tang Yi-Jie, 1999, p. 164). This is
supported by the Mouzi Lihoulun 《牟子理惑論》 written in the second- or third-
century CE, according to which, Chinese people did not believe in next birth at that
time. A critic asked: ‘the Buddha’s teaching says that after death people must be
reborn. I just cannot believe this opinion!’ (Keenan, 1994, p. 94). But Buddhism
teaches the doctrine of karma and rebirth, one may be reborn as human, gods, ghosts
or even animals including insects depending on his or her own karma which means
intentional actions.
To be reborn as gods and ghosts is easy to understand for Chinese people as this

kind of belief was already there at the time when Buddhism was introduced (Ren Jiyu,
1985, pp. 11–18). But it is quite foreign to Chinese people when they learn
that human beings can be born as animals or even insects. Therefore, He
Chengtian 何承天 (370–447) asked how a human being could become an insect in
next life (CBETA, 2011, T52, no. 2102, p. 22, a2–4).

310 X. Guang

Third, death is an important issue in Buddhism so the discussion of it is found in
many Buddhist scriptures. There is nearly no discussion on death in Chinese philo-
sophy when Buddhism introduced in Eastern Han dynasty (25–220) as Confucius
said ‘You are not yet able to serve people—how could you be able to serve ghosts and
spirits?’ (Lunyu: 11.12). This is also evidenced in the Mouzi Lihoulun,

A critic asked: Confucius says: ‘You are not able even to serve man. How can you
serve the spirits? While you do not know life, how can you know about death?’
These are recorded words of the Sage. But nowadays, the Buddhists blurt
out opinions about the realities of life and death and the affairs of the
spirits. This dangerous course is against the clear words of the sage. One who
treads the way must indeed abide tranquilly in emptiness and return his
attention to basic simplicity. Why then do they discourse on life and death, thereby
dissipating their resolves? Why speak of the various deeds of the spirits? (Keenan,
1994, p. 100) 孔子云:『未能事人,焉能事鬼 ?未知生,焉知死。』此聖人之
所紀也。今佛家輒說生死之事,鬼神之務,此殆非聖哲之語也?

This passage shows that the critic quoted from the Lunyu to challenge the Buddhist
discussion on death. However, the Buddhist attitude to death is, just as to all other
problems in our life, to face it rather than to escape from it because death is an
inevitable fact of life, the sooner we know our condition the safer are we, for we can
then take the steps necessary for our betterment. Therefore, death is included in the
first of the four noble truths as one of the eight kinds of sufferings to discuss openly.
Buddhist monks are even advised to meditate on death.10

Fourth, Buddhist teaching of karma filled a gap in explaining man’s fortune in the
world because Confucianism never really discusses man’s fortune in society, their
sufferings and their positions. All these are attributed to heaven without explanation
as it is said, ‘As to what lies beyond the six realms of Heaven and Earth, East and
West, North and South, the sages set aside without discussion’ (Wang Rongpei, 1999,
p. 31). The Confucian philosophy of life is entirely confined to this life itself, and it
teaches people to actively participate in life and contribute to society.
The Chinese ancient text Yijing 《易經》 has the following idea, ‘The families that

accumulate goodness will have good fortunate, the families that accumulate bad
things will have misfortune’ (Tang Yi-Jie, 1999, p. 164).11 According to Tang Yijie,
this means that ancient Chinese people believed in some kind of retribution. If the
doer does not experience the consequences of his own actions, then his offspring will
experience it (Tang Yi-Jie, 1999, p. 164). However, this is very different from the
Buddhist teaching of karma which is an individual responsibility. Daoism, based their
thought on this idea, developed the theory called Chengfu 承負 to explain retribution.
According to this theory, future generations will suffer the consequences of their fore
fathers’ bad deeds. But according to the Buddhist teaching of karma, each one is
responsible for his or her own deeds. In other words, one will experience the result of
one’s own deeds but not his or her fore fathers’ deeds. Thus, the Buddhist explanation
of man’s fortune in society is more reasonable. As a result, the Buddhist teaching of
karma spread fast in Chinese society and it has been quickly accepted by Chinese

Asian Philosophy 311

people. Thus, today Chinese people’s belief is a combination of Daoist teaching of
Chengfu and Buddhist teaching of karma.
Furthermore, there is no theory in Chinese philosophy to retaliate or punish the

people who want to do bad things. Daoist teaching of Chengfu does not cover this.
But the Buddhist teaching of karma is a theory to fill up this gap. So according to this
theory, bad people will never escape but will definitely suffer the consequences of
their bad actions. So people will think twice when they want to do bad things. Thus, it
is conducive to promote social peace and harmony.
Fifth, there was hierarchy in traditional Chinese society and the well-known

Xiaojing (The Classic of Filial Piety) discusses five classes of people: emperors,
princes, high ministers and great officers, inferior officers and common people.
Buddhism teaches the equality of all people, particularly Mahāyāna Buddhism teaches
that all sentient beings have the potentiality to attain enlightenment and become
Buddhas. It depends on oneself whether he or she works diligently or not, but it does
not depend on someone else or other outside supernatural power. Ordinary people at
the bottom of the Chinese society saw some hope so Buddhism spread quite fast
during the third to the six centuries.

Buddhist Impact on Chinese Religions and Popular Beliefs

When Buddhism was first introduced into China, the Buddha was worshipped
together with other Chinese gods like Laozi 老子 and Yellow emperor (Huangdi
黃帝), the two ancient Chinese sages. It is reported by Xiangkai 襄楷 in 166 CE that
even in the imperial court, there were altars for Yellow emperor and Laozi as well as
for the Buddha as recorded in the Houhanshu 《後漢書》, the History of Latter Han
written by Fanye. The second example is found from Sichuan that a Buddha statue
probably made in late Han to Shanguo 三國 shows that Buddhist practices
were mixed with folk religious beliefs. The Buddha was considered as a god like
Xiwangmu 西王母 by Chinese people at the beginning (Nanjing Bowuyuan, 1991).
Later as systematic Buddhist teachings as well as many Bodhisattvas and gods were
gradually introduced in China, it influenced Chinese religions and some Buddhist
bodhisattvas became very popular and are worshipped by Chinese people throughout
the year.
Most of the Chinese scholars are of the opinion that Daoism became an organized

religion due to many reasons, but one of the important reasons is the Buddhist
influence. Here, I just quote Tang Yijie’s discussion and he says,

Third, the introduction of Buddhism into China had greatly stimulated the devel-
opment of Chinese religion. From the time Buddhism spread to China during the
Western Han till after the middle of the Eastern Han, it maintained a steady level of
propagation. Buddhism, acting like a catalyst, escalated the development of Daoism
(Taoism). (Tang Yi-Jie, 1991, p. 70)

312 X. Guang

Tang Yijie further says,

Thus, from the end of the Han dynasty, through the Three Kingdoms, till after the
Western and Eastern Jin, there emerged Daoists like Ge Hong, Lu Xiujing, Kou
Qianzhi, Tao Hongjing and others who, in an attempt to fulfill the requirement of
the time, not only integrated some of the Daoist and Confucian ideas but also
absorbed some of the Buddhist elements to enrich Daoism (Taoism). (Tang Yi-Jie,
1991, pp. 73–74)

AccordingtoTang Yijie,Buddhism had servedas a model for the establishmentofDaoism
in China as an organized church, with a religious canon and a spiritual community. Daoist
masters organized their scriptures into three sections named Sandong 三洞 as the
Buddhist scripture of three baskets, Sanzang 三藏 and they even copied from Buddhist
scriptures. Theyalsoestablisheda religious organization witha permanentmembership of
disciples, together with a body of clergy and church leaders by modelling the Buddhist
Sangha. They established Daoist seven immortals, the highest of which was occupied by
the first three: the Primal Lord of Heaven (Yuanshi Tianzun 原始天尊), the Daoist Lord
on High (Gaoshang Daojun 高上道君) and the First Divine Daoist Lord (Yuanhuang
Daojun 元皇道君) by modelling the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in Buddhism and they
even absorbed ritual performances from Buddhist tantra in Tang dynasty. Thus, Daoism
became an organized religion in Northern and Southern dynasties.
Buddhism also inspired many religious movements in Chinese history such as the

White Lotus Society 白蓮教 established in Song dynasty as a society practicing Pure
Land and recitation of Amitabha with Mao Zhiyuan 茅子元 as the founder, but later
it developed into a secret society. Another is the White Cloud Society 白雲宗 which
was originally a branch of the Huayan school, but towards the end of Song dynasty,
Kong Qingjue 孔清覺 (1043–1121), a monk from the White Cloud monastery
advocated vegetarian meal to attract many lay people. Thus, it was named.
Apart from Daoism, Buddhism also influenced popular religions in China and

many Buddhist bodhisattvas and Buddhas became popular gods in China. The most
popular Buddhist bodhisattva in China is Avalokiteśvara, the Chinese name of which
is Guanyin who is worshipped by most of Chinese people as the goddess of mercy.
The images of Guanyin either in painting or in sculptural form are found in many
homes in China, many of them may not be Buddhists.
Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is introduced from India but it became popular from

the Southern and Northern dynasties and continues to be the most popular Buddhist
deity not only in China but also in all East Asia. Daoism also introduced Guanyin
into their temples and named it as the True Man of Compassion 慈航真人, Great
Person of Compassion 慈航大士. The Daoists of the Lingbao 靈寳school even
created Jiuku tianzun 救苦天尊 (the Heavenly Venerable Saviour from Suffering)
by imitation of the …

A Silk Road Legacy: The Spread of Buddhism and Islam

Author(s): XINRU LIU

Source: Journal of World History , March 2011, Vol. 22, No. 1 (March 2011), pp. 55-81

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press on behalf of World History Association

Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23011678

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A Silk Road Legacy:
The Spread of Buddhism and Islam*

XINRU LIU

The College of New Jersey

Since Andre Gunder Frank published The Centrality of Central Asia1 in 1992, world historians have paid more attention to the dynamic
forces radiating from Central Asia during the last few thousand years.
However, scholars are frustrated by the extremely fluid nature of the
region's ethnic, religious, and political composition, which makes
research on the historical process of any specific period seem like an
overwhelming task. Scholars of Central Asia's Buddhist culture feel
reluctant to deal with the region after the Islamic conquest, which
occurred in the late seventh and early eighth centuries, while those
who study its history after the Islamic conquest are perplexed by the
persistent presence of many pre-Islamic languages and cultural traits
in the region. Likewise, scholars who are familiar with the Chinese
historical literature on Central Asia often hesitate venturing into the
deep ocean of Persian and Arabic literature on the region. Further
more, in the last two decades, the discovery of many documents writ
ten in various versions of Greek alphabets in the region that once was
Bactria makes the task of treading through literary sources even more
daunting. Nevertheless, this article takes up the challenge of exploring

* This article was first presented at the 2009 Numata Conference "Buddhism and
Islam," 29-30 May 2009 at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Professor Lynda Shaffer,
who has been my coauthor and first reader of my writings for the last decade, has edited and
revised this article as well.

1 Andre Gunder Frank, The Cencrality of Central Asia (Amsterdam: VU University
Press, 1992).

Journal of World History, Vol. 22, No. 1
© 2011 by University of Hawai'i Press

55

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JOURNAL OF WORLD HISTORY, MARCH 201 I

the religious and social life of Central Asian people both before and
after Islamization, mainly by using sources written in Arabic, Persian,
and Chinese records, as well as modern scholarship in art history and
archaeology. Limited by my own language skills in Sanskrit and Classi
cal Chinese, I have had to rely heavily on English translations of Ara
bic and Persian works. Fortunately, many historical writings in these
two major Western Asian languages have been translated and edited
in recent decades by experts whose erudition make possible a world
historical approach of studying Central Asia.

The Setting

Long before the arrival and spread of Islam in Central Asia, Buddhism
was already well established within two of its regions—Tukharistan,
in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Transoxiana (Khoresm and
Sogdiana) in what is now Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan where two riv
ers, the Amu and the Syr, flow westward into the Aral Sea. These two
regions encompassed the most important way stations on the caravan
routes that moved Chinese silks westward to India, and in addition,
Tukharistan and Sogdiana became the homeland of Central Asian
Buddhists, some of whom played a major role in the spread of Buddhist
faith from South Asia to China.

By the first century c.e. the area that encompassed both Tukharistan
and Sogdiana (the southern part of Transoxiana) had become the site
of a major junction where routes going east and west crossed those
going north and south. It had also become a major trading center for
Chinese as well as Mediterranean and Iranian goods. In addition, Bud
dhist missionaries from India, including some who were planning to go
on to China, moved to this area, and were thus located in the midst of
this commercial activity. By the third century c.e. artisans had begun
sculpting images of the Buddha on the sandstone walls of Tukharistan's
Bamiyan Valley (about one hundred miles west of Kabul). The artistic
style of these Buddhas was closely related to the sculptural art of Gand
hara (in northwestern India), and thus it displayed the results of the
Gandharan's highly successful merging of Indian, Iranian, and Greek
aesthetic traditions. It was the fourth century b.c.e. presence of Alex
ander of Macedonia's armies, and their descendants, in Afghanistan
and northeastern India that accounts for the presence of Greek artis
tic styles in this region. Probably during the fifth century c.e., when
a nomadic people, Hephthalites in the Greek record, Huna in the
Indian record, occupied the region and then further invaded India, two

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Liu: A Silk Road Legacy

colossal Buddhas (one 165 feet high and the other 119 feet high) were
carved on the sandstone walls of Bamiyan Valley, where they stood for
more than 1,500 years as a testament to the Buddhist heritage of this
area. Even after the Taliban completely destroyed them in 2001, their
ruins still stand as a witness to the long legacy of Buddhism on this
route that connected India and China. The cosmopolitan nature of
this area continued to increase when Turkish nomads, originally from
the eastern steppe north of China, invaded it from the north around
the sixth century c.E. Some of these Turks also settled in this area, or
moved even farther south into India.

The ever-changing political situation in this region forced its popu
lation to rely heavily upon nongovernmental institutions for both social
stability and local security. Zoroastrian and Buddhist establishments,
as well as other institutions and cultural practices, provided religious
and social cohesion in the region. The elites, which included scholars,
merchants, and generals, learned to be flexible regarding their political
allegiance and often changed masters in accordance with their eco
nomic and social interests. Meanwhile, Indian, Chinese, Persian, and
Greek cultural elements continued to arrive and flourish in the region,
thereby contributing to a unique and robust Central Asian culture.

Perhaps it was in large part due to this eclectic but sound cultural
foundation that Central Asia would produce so many outstanding
politicians, religious leaders, and scientists during its transition from
a Buddhist religious sphere to an Islamic domain in the years between
700 and 1100 c.E. Although many of these individuals are now men
tioned in the world history literature and texts, they are almost always
presented as "Islamic scholars," or set in Persian Islamic heritage.
Their Central Asian origins are rarely, if ever, mentioned. Even after
the establishment of Islam in the region the local culture still retained
elements of its earlier multicultural traditions, including the Helle
nistic culture that had taken root there during and after Alexander's
conquests. This was especially true with regard to various artistic and
architectural styles, as well as the Dionysian viniculture that included
music, dancing, and wine drinking.

Buddhism in Central Asia before the Arab Conquest

Since Kushan times (ca. second century B.c.E.-third century c.E.)
Buddhist institutions had been entrenched in Tukharistan. Chinese

records, however, indicate that it was their northern neighbors, the
Sogdians, who lived in the southern part of Transoxiana, both as trad

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JOURNAL OF WORLD HISTORY, MARCH 201 I

ers and religious teachers, who were among the first travelers to bring
Buddhism to China. Exactly how these Sogdians became exceedingly
competent teachers of Buddhism and the Sanskrit language is not clear.
Neither the written records of Sogdiana nor those of the Indian sub
continent reveal the presence of Sogdian Buddhists studying in India.
This, however, does not necessarily mean that there were no Sogdian
converts studying Buddhism in India. Unfortunately, from the point
of view of historians, Indian governments during these centuries did
not attempt to compile records describing foreign travelers or foreign
residents within their domain, and thus they are largely absent from
the subcontinent's records.

Although the archives of India are of little help, records from
other countries, especially China, clearly indicate that from the sec
ond to the fourth century C.E. many of the Sogdian traders in China
were Buddhists. Indeed, Chinese records reveal that during the Han
dynasty, when Buddhists first started coming to China, some of the
earliest arrivals were not from India, the Buddhist homeland, but from
Sogdiana. It was a time that Kushan Empire controlled both north
ern India and Central Asia. Kanishka, the most powerful Kushan king
who probably reigned between the first and second centuries, is a well
known royal patron in Chinese Buddhist literature. Sogdian traders,
who most likely acted as trading agents for the Kushans, were among
the first to introduce the religion to the Chinese, and for some time
thereafter they continued to play an important role in the study of
Buddhism in China. For example, two Sogdians, whose Chinese
names were Kang Ju and Kang Mengxiang, lived in China for more
than twenty years (ca. 168-189 c.e.), and during this time they helped
translate Buddhist Sanskrit texts into the Chinese language. At that
time, the only place one could study the Sanskrit language and the
Buddhist scriptures was in India. Thus, given these very early dates
for the presence of such Sogdian Buddhist scholars in China, one can
conclude that at least some Sogdian traders must have first learned
about Buddhism in India, and then made their way to China, where
they practiced and preached it.

Despite the growing significance of Buddhism in Sogdiana it never
became an exclusively Buddhist country. Politically, the numerous
city-states never unified themselves into a single polity, and they often
fought among themselves for hegemony in the region. In general, in
each city urban elites, warriors, and merchant-princes formed oligar
chies that made the decisions regarding war and diplomacy. Even when
a city-state established a local monarchy, its power, even over its own
subjects, tended to be weak. Likewise, the Sogdian city-states never

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Liu: A Silk Road Legacy

established an official religion, and they hosted a variety of religious
institutions. All of these city-states were interested in making com
mercial profits, either from the long-distance trade on the Silk Road or
the local trade in food and clothing. Also there is much evidence that
Sogdian merchants who lived abroad practiced not only Buddhism, but
also Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism in their diasporas. For example,
recent discoveries of Sogdian merchant tombs in western China reveal
that those who were wealthy enough to build such elaborate graves
for themselves strictly followed Zoroastrian funeral rituals.2 Most likely
these Sogdians were Zoroastrians at heart, regardless of whatever
religious affiliation they may have claimed in the larger commercial
community.

Nevertheless, it should be noted here that the Zoroastrianism prac
ticed in Samarkand and other Sogdian cities was quite different from
that practiced in Iran, the religion's homeland. Just as there was no
strong monarchy in Sogdiana, Mazda Ahura was not the only patron
god. In the Sogdian homeland people worshiped gods from a variety
of religions. Every urban household made its own choices with regard
to its supreme patron god, and they also made their own choices with
regard to a host of minor deities. Thus a household "pantheon" often
included both imported and local deities.3 When the Chinese Buddhist
pilgrim Xuanzang passed through Sogdiana around 630, he noticed that
many people in the large and beautiful city of Samarkand did not wor
ship the Buddha, but worshipped with fire, a practice of Zoroastrianism.
He also thought that the local residents were using firebrands to chase
worshippers of the Buddha away from the monasteries. According to
an account written by his disciples, Xuanzang subsequently preached
before the king and convinced him to stop this harassment.4

In this account Xuanzang, or his disciples, may well have been
exaggerating his power as a missionary. If there really had been little
tolerance of Buddhism in the city, it is unlikely that there would have
been two Buddhist monasteries located there. Furthermore, given that
the city's highest priority and most revered doctrine seems to have been
that its own commercial interests should prosper, and given that there
were many Buddhist merchants active on this portion of the Silk Road

2 Rong Xinjiang and Zhang Zhiqing, From Samarkand to Chang'an-. Cultural Traces of the
Sogdians in China (Beijing: Beijing Library Press, 2004).

3 Boris Marshak, Legends, Tales, and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana (New York: Bibliotheca
Persica Press, 2002), p. 19.

4 Huili and Yanzong, Da Ci-ensi Samang Fashi Zhuan [Biography of the Darma Teacher
of the Great Ci'en Monastery] (Beijing, Zhonghua Shuju, 1983), p. 30.

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JOURNAL OF WORLD HISTORY, MARCH 201 I

who expected to be hosted by the hostels that the monasteries pro
vided, it would seem that the city-state's protection of these Buddhist
monasteries would have been crucial to its own interests. Thus it is

quite possible that those wielding the firebrands were actually engaged
in a local fire ritual that had its roots in Zoroastrianism, but was prac
ticed by the Samarkandis as a way of worshipping the Buddha. If so,
this use of the firebrands would not have been the only Zoroastrian
ritual that had been mixed into Buddhist worship in this region. As
early as the Kushan era, Buddhist rituals were mixed with Zoroastrian
fire worship, as Kushan kings patronized both religions.

The Sogdians also enjoyed a wide variety of entertainment in their
homeland. Many urban homes had murals of blissful scenes painted
on their walls, and they also held banquets where wine was served
and entertainment was provided by musicians, dancers, acrobats, and
probably storytellers. The wealthiest of the Sogdian merchants living
in China even engraved their tombs with displays of such banquets,
including the various performances enjoyed by the masters. At least by
the latter part of the sixth century, Central Asian musicians and danc
ers were arriving in China on horseback or on camels, and soon there
after the music and dancing of Samarkand became the most famous
in China. Indeed, a description of the dancers even made it into a
Tang dynasty history book, where the author wrote the following. "The
musicians wear black silk scarves and red silk robes with brocade col
lars. (There are also) two dancers in red blouses with brocade collars
and green sleeves, green damask silk trousers, red boots and a white sash
that served as a belt. They whirl as fast as the wind, and thus the dance
is called huxuan (the Sogdian whirling dance). The instruments in the
band include two flutes, one main drum, one secondary drum, and a
pair of brass cymbals."5 During the Tang dynasty (618-907), Sogdians
came to China in such large numbers and attracted so much atten
tion that Chinese artisans began turning out large numbers of figurines
representing them, and today, one can see these Tang dynasty tricolor
figurines displayed in museums all over the world.

South of Sogdiana, in the region known as Tukharistan (now in
the northern half of Afghanistan), Buddhist institutions were even
older, having become well established during Kushan times (ca. sec
ond century B.c.E-third century c.e.). Tukharistan was similar to Sog
diana, in that it was divided into many city-states. However, in the

5 Liu Xu (ioth century), Jiu Tang Shu [Old Edition of Tang History] (Beijing: Zhonghua
Shuju, 1975), p. 29/1071.

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Liu: A Silk Road Legacy 61

seventh century, when Xuanzang's pilgrimage took him through this
region, all of Tukharistan was under Turkish rule. The nomadic Turks'
homeland was originally in Mongolia, but they had been making their
way westward for many years by this time. Balkh, the most important
city in Tukharistan, had once been known as Bactra, when it served
as the capital of Hellenistic Bactria. Greek cultural features had been
especially important in this region ever since Alexander, the king of
Macedonia (d. 323 b.c.e.), had led his armies into Central Asia in the
fourth century b.c.e.

Indeed, the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang makes it quite clear that the
Greek language was still being used, at least as a written language, in
Tukharistan in the seventh century c.E. He realized that its written lan
guage was different from all the other languages that he had encoun
tered in the regions through which he had already passed. In particular
he noted that it used twenty-five "signs," that is, letters, which were
variously combined to write different words. He also noted that unlike
the Indian script Kharoshthi, which reads from right to left, the words
of this language were read from left to right. It was even more different
from classical Chinese, since the latter was written in vertical lines
from the top to the bottom of a piece of paper. In fact, the literary tra
ditions of Tukharistan so impressed Xuanzang that he concluded that
they even surpassed those of Sogdiana.6 The discovery of more than
150 documents inscribed in Greek letters expressing local Bactrian
language dating from the second to the mid sixth century verifies that
Xuanzang's observation is accurate.7

To Xuanzang, however, what was even more significant in the
Balkh area was a magnificent Buddhist monastery, the New Monastery
(Nafusengjialan) which not only housed many precious relics of the
Buddha, but was also the center of religious life in Balkh. The monas
tery and the relics were so famous that Balkh was called "Little Raja
graha" by both the local people and their Turkish overlords.8 Rajagraha
was a city in east Ganges basin where Buddha frequently sojourned, so
that its fame as a Buddhist pilgrimage destination remained to the time

6 Xuanzang, Da Tang Xiyu Ji [Pilgrimage to the Western Region], ed. Ji Xianlin et al.
(Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1985), p. 100.

7 Nicholas Sims-Williams, Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan, 1: Legal and
Economic Documents (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); see also Nicholas Sims-Wil
liams, "Linguistic Evidence from the Bactrian Documents and Inscriptions," in Indo'Iranian
Languages and People, ed. Nicholas Sims-Williams, pp. 225-242 (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2002).

8 Huili and Yanzong, DaCi-ensi, pp. 31-32.

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JOURNAL OF WORLD HISTORY, MARCH 201 I

of Xuanzang. The title "Little Rajagraha" means that Balkh claimed
its importance to the Buddhist followers just next to Rajagraha. Need
less to say, Xuanzang enjoyed his stay there, where he visited many of
the relics attributed to the Buddha. As far as he was concerned, the
New Monastery was the most prestigious and wealthy Buddhist center
in Balkh. All its halls as well as its statues of the Buddha were richly
decorated with precious jewels, jewels so valuable that they appear to
have invited robberies carried out by greedy chiefs and kings. Never
theless, owing to the protection of Vaishravana-deva, the Buddhist
deity who guards the northern heaven, the monastery survived many
attempted or even anticipated robberies. Xuanzang heard, for example,
that during the most recent incident, a prince of the powerful Kehan
(Khan) of the Turks had stationed his troops nearby in order to rob
the monastery. Then, in a dream the prince saw the god who guarded
the monastery using a long pike in order to pierce the prince's chest,
and once the prince woke up from this nightmare he suffered a fatal
heart attack, and thus the robbery never happened.9 The moral of the
story was that even the Turkish power that controlled the region at this
time could not succeed in its attempt to run off with the monastery's
treasures. Thus the Barmaki family, which was in charge of the monas
tery, the most prestigious and powerful institution in Balkh, weathered
many invasions of the region and managed to keep themselves and the
wealth of the monastery intact.

After traveling southeast from Balkh toward the Bamiyan Valley
in the Hindu-Kush mountains, Xuanzang was welcomed by the two
gigantic standing statues of the Buddha. These landmarks appeared
some time after the collapse of the Kushan Empire, when nomadic
groups, first the Hephthalites, and then the Turks, ruled Tukharistan,
which included the region that stretched from Balkh to the Bamiyan
Valley. Nomadic rulers were friendly toward Buddhism in this region
and patronized it as well. Indeed, it was the Turkish ruler in Huoguo, a
mountain valley to the east of Balkh, Kunduz in modern Afghanistan,
who had persuaded Xuanzang to make the long detour westward to
Balkh, thereby delaying his trip to India.

During the seventh century, Turkish powers had expanded all the
way from northwest China to the border of India. Turkish rulers were
trade partners of Sogdians and patrons of whatever religions their
sedentary counterparts followed. On the steppe, where the Western

9 Xuanzang, Da Tang Xiyuji, p. 117.

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Liu: A Silk Road Legacy

Turkish ruler Yabgu Khan observed Zoroastrian rituals as the Sogdians
did. In Tukharistan, the ruler of Huoguo patronized Buddhism. Mean
while, they shared much of the cultural life of their sedentary partners,
especially the wine drinking and music. Xuanzang thus described the
banquet of Yabgu Khan:

The khan, his ministers, and envoys drank wine, and grape juice was
served to the Dharma Master (Xuanzang). Thus, all urged others to
drink; wine was poured into bowls and goblets, accompanied by music
melodies of various styles of the region. Even though the music was
non-Chinese, was quite pleasing to one's senses and feelings. After
a short while, foods such as cooked fresh lamb and veal were served,
set in front of everyone except for the Dharma Master, whom special
vegetarian food was served, which included such things as pancakes,
cream, crystallized sugar, honey, and grapes. After the food, they again
filled the Dharma Master's cup with grape juice, and asked him to lec
ture on the Dharma.10

Given that the steppe Turks were nomads, such things as the grapes,
the wine, and the crystalized sugar had to have come from their seden
tary partners, the Sogdians or the Tukharians. To gain protection while
traveling on the Silk Roads, merchants were quite willing to entertain
their Turkish patrons with wine and music. In China there are still
visual depictions of this relationship. For example, the stone tomb of
An Jia, a Sogdian chief from Bukhara who died in China in 579, has
two scenes carved on it, one showing the Sogdian chief and a Turkish
chief, both on horseback, reaching out to each other, and the other
showing them both sitting down for a banquet.11 In short, during the
sixth and seventh centuries, Sogdians, Tukharians, and Turks followed
the tenets of a variety of religions, especially Buddhism and Zoroastri
anism, and their religious practices were also imbued with local cus
toms and values. Pervading all was a culture of commercial entrepre
neurship, as well as a high level of literacy in traditions of scholarship
and learning that had roots in a variety of places. And last, but not
least, they shared a culture that was imbued with drinking, music, and
dancing that may well have evolved from both local, Hellenistic, and
nomadic traditions.

10 Huili and Yanzong, Da Ci-ensi, pp. 27-28.
11 Rong and Zhang, From Samarkand to Chang'an, p. 70.

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JOURNAL OF WORLD HISTORY, MARCH 201 I

The Arab Conquest of Central Asia

The Arab takeover of Central Asia was anything but a sweeping mili
tary conquest followed by forced religious conversions. The aim here,
however, is not to analyze the complicated movements of the mili
tary forces or the paths that led to Central Asia's conversion to Islam.
From the perspective of the Islamic empires, the Arab conquest of this
part of Central Asia was an extension of the conquest of the Sasanian
Empire. The conquest therefore incorporated both Transoxiana and
Tukharistan into the Iranian province of Khurasan. From a Central
Asian perspective, the more interesting question with regard to early
eighth-century Islamic history is how the Arab takeover of Central
Asian lands, especially Transoxiana and Tukharistan, suddenly pro
pelled a significant number of Central Asians into powerful positions
on the front stage of the Islamic empire.

A recent study of the decline and fall of the Sasanian Empire argues
that the goal of the Arab conquest of the Iranian plateau was to con
trol Central Asia, where the key stations of the Silk Road trade were
located. Relatively few Arabs established themselves on the Iranian
plateau. Indeed, most went farther east in order to settle in Tukharistan
and Transoxiana, which was referred to as "Outer Khurasan."12 Given
the commercial entrepreneurship of the Islamic cause and the amount
of information available about the Silk Road trade in the eastern

Mediterranean region, it is quite likely the case that Central Asia pro
vided more interesting prey than the Iranian Plateau. Some details of
Arab conquests of Central Asia are available thanks to English trans
lations of Arab …

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