A Comprehensive History of Chinese Buddhism
This is a comprehensive account of the history of Chinese Buddhism from the earliest times to the 15th Century. While the author has based his work on extensive study, he does not seem to have full grasp of the history of orient as is evident from some of his conclusions about Indian art and mathematics. Like many historians of the British era, he believes that if there was something good about India or China it must have come from either Greece or Rome. Regarding Indian art the author believes that Indians had no art till the Greeks came to India and that Indians got their mathematics from Babylon. Ancient Indians had knowledge of art as early as 2500 BC as is evident from the excavations at many of sites of the Indus valley civilization and Indians had knowledge of mathematics and astronomy independent of Babylonians as is evident from many ancient Indian scriptures. - Jayaram V
The emperor Ming-ti sends an embassy to India for images, A.D. 61—Kashiapmadanga arrives in China—Spread of Buddhism in A.D. 335—Buddojanga—A pagoda at Nanking, A.D. 381—The translator Kumarajiva, A.D. 405—The Chinese traveller, Fa-hien visits India—His book—Persecution, A.D. 426—Buddhism prosperous, 451—Indian embassies to China in the Sung dynasty—Opposition of the Confucianists to Buddhism—Discussions on doctrine—Buddhist prosperity in the Northern Wei kingdom and the Liang kingdom—Bodhidharma—Sung-yün sent to India—Bodhidharma leaves Liang Wu-ti and goes to Northern China—His latter years and death—Embassies from Buddhist countries m the south—Relics—The Liang emperor Wu-ti becomes a monk—Embassies from India and Ceylon—Influence of Sanscrit writing in giving the Chinese the knowledge of an alphabet—Syllabic spelling—Confucian opposition to Buddhism in the T‘ang dynasty—The five successors of Bodhidharma—Hiuen-tsang's travels in India—Work as a translator—Persecution, A.D. 714—Hindoo calendar in China—Amogha introduces the festival for hungry ghosts—Opposition of Han Yü to Buddhism—Persecution of 845—Teaching of Matsu—Triumph of the Mahayana—Budhiruchi—Persecution by the Cheu dynasty—Extensive erection of pagodas in the Sung dynasty—Encouragement of Sanscrit studies—Places of pilgrimage—P‘uto—Regulations for receiving the vows—Hindoo Buddhists in China in the Sung dynasty—The Mongol dynasty favoured Buddhism—The last Chinese Buddhist who visited India—The Ming dynasty limits the right of accumulating land—Roman Catholic controversy with Buddhists—Kang-hi of the Manchu dynasty opposes Buddhism—The literati still condemn Buddhism.
Summary: IT was in the year A.D. 61, that the Chinese emperor Ming-ti, in consequence of a dream, in which he saw the image of a foreign god, sent messengers to India, a country several thousand miles to the south-east of the capital, to ask for Buddhist books and teachers. 1 A native of Central India named Kashiapmadanga, with others, accompanied them back. He translated a small but important Sutra, called the Sutra of Forty-two Sections, and died at Lo-yang. The religion had now long been established in Nepaul and Independent Tartary, as the travels of the patriarchs indicate. It had also extended itself throughout India and Ceylon, and the persecution of the Brahmans, instigated partly by controversial feeling, and more by a desire to increase their caste influence, had not yet commenced. Long before this, it is stated that in B.C. 217, Indians had arrived at the capital of China in Shen-si, in order to propagate their religion. Remusat, after mentioning this in the Foĕ kouĕ ki, adds that, towards the year B.C. 122, a warlike expedition of the Chinese led them to Hieou-thou, a country beyond Yarkand. Here a golden statue was taken, and brought to the emperor. The Chinese author states that this was the origin of the statues of Buddha that were afterwards in use.
At this period the geographical knowledge of the Chinese rapidly increased. The name of India now occurs for the first time in their annals. In the year B.C. 122 Chang K‘ien, a Chinese ambassador, returned from the country of the Getæ, and informed the Han emperor Wu-ti, of the kingdoms and customs existing in the west. Among other things, he said, "When I was in the country of the Dahæ, 2 12,000 Chinese miles distant to the south-west, I saw bamboo staves from K’iung and cloth from Sï-ch’uen. On asking whence they came, I was told that they were articles of traffic at Shin-do ('Scinde,' a country far to the south-east of the Dahæ)." It is added in the commentary to the T’ung-kien-kang-muh, that the name is also pronounced, Kan-do and T’in-do, and that it is the country of the barbarians called Buddha.
Early in the fourth century, native Chinese began to take the Buddhist monastic vows. Their history says, under the year 335, that the prince of the Ch’au kingdom in the time of the Eastern Ts’in dynasty, permitted his subjects to do so. He was influenced by an Indian named Buddojanga, 1 who pretended to magical powers. Before this, natives of India had been allowed to build temples in the large cities, but it was now for the first time that the people of the country were suffered to become "Shamen" 2 (Shramanas), or disciples of Buddha. The first translations of the Buddhist books had been already made, for we read that at the close of the second century, an Indian residing at Ch’ang-an, the modern Si-an fu, produced the first version of the "Lotus of the Good Law." The emperor Hiau Wu, of the Ts’in dynasty, in the year A.D. 381, erected a pagoda in his palace at Nanking.
At this period, large monasteries began to be established in North China, and nine-tenths of the common people, says the historian, followed the faith of the great Indian sage.
Under the year A.D. 405, the Chinese chronicles record that the king of the Ts’in country gave a high office to Kumarajiva, an Indian Buddhist. This is an important epoch for the history of Chinese Buddhist literature. Kumarajiva was commanded by the emperor to translate the sacred books of India, and to the present day his name may be seen on the first page of the principal Buddhist classics. The seat of the ancient kingdom of Ts’in was in the southern part of the provinces Shen-si and Kan-su. Ch’au, another kingdom where, a few years previously, Buddhism was in favour at court, was in the modern Pe-chi-li and Shan-si. That this religion was then flourishing in the most northerly provinces of the empire, and that the date, place (Ch’ang-an), and other circumstances of the translations are preserved, are facts that should be remembered in connection with the history of the Chinese language. The numerous proper names and other words transferred from Sanscrit, and written with the Chinese characters, are of great assistance in ascertaining what sounds were then given to those characters in the region where Mandarin is now spoken.
Kumarajiva was brought to China from Kui-tsi, a kingdom in Thibet, east of the Ts’ung-ling mountains. The king of Ts’in had sent an army to invade that country, with directions not to return without the Indian whose fame had spread among all the neighbouring nations. The former translations of the Buddhist sacred books were to a great extent erroneous. To produce them in a form more accurate and complete was the task undertaken by the learned Buddhist just mentioned, at the desire of the king. More than eight hundred priests were called to assist, and the king himself, an ardent disciple of the new faith, was present at the conference, holding the old copies in his hand as the work of correction proceeded. More than three hundred volumes were thus prepared. 1
While this work, so favourable to the progress of Buddhism, was proceeding, a Chinese traveller, Fa-hien, was exploring India and collecting books. The extension of the religion that was then propagated with such zeal and fervour very much promoted the mutual intercourse of Asiatic countries. The road between Eastern Persia and China was frequently traversed, and a succession of Chinese Buddhists thus found their way to the parent land of the legends and superstitions in which they believed. Several of them on their return wrote narratives of what they had seen. Among those that have been preserved, the oldest of them, the Account of Buddhist Kingdoms, 1 by Fa-hien, is perhaps the most interesting and valuable. He describes the flourishing condition of Buddhism in the steppes of Tartary, among the Ouighours and the tribes residing west of the Caspian Sea, in Afghanistan where the language and customs of Central India then prevailed, and the other lands watered by the Indus and its tributary rivers, in Central India and in Ceylon. Going back by sea from Ceylon, he reached Ch‘ang-an in the year 414, after fifteen years’ absence. He then undertook with the help of Palats’anga, a native of India, the task of editing the works he had brought with him, and it was not till several years had elapsed that at the request of Kumarajiva, his religious instructor, he published his travels. The earnestness and vigour of the Chinese Buddhists at that early period, is shown sufficiently by the repeated journeys that they made along the tedious and dangerous route by Central Asia to India. Neither religion nor the love of seeing foreign lands, are now enough, unless the emperor commands it, to induce any of the educated class among them to leave their homes. Fa-hien had several companions, but death and other causes gradually deprived him of them all.
The Ts’in dynasty now fell (A.D. 420), and with it in quick succession the petty kingdoms into which China was at that time divided. The northern provinces became the possession of a powerful Tartar family, known in history as the Wei dynasty. A native dynasty, the first of the name Sung, ruled in the southern provinces. The princes of these kingdoms were at first hostile to Buddhism. Image making and the building of temples were forbidden, and in the north professors of the prohibited religion were subjected to severe persecution. The people were warned against giving them shelter, and in the year 426 an edict was issued against them, in accordance with which the books and images of Buddha were destroyed, and many priests put to death. To worship foreign divinities, or construct images of earth or brass, was made a capital crime. The eldest son of the Tartar chief of the Wei kingdom made many attempts to induce his father to deal less harshly towards a religion to which he himself was strongly attached, but in vain.
The work of this king was undone by his successor who, in the year A.D. 451, issued an edict permitting a Buddhist temple to be erected in each city, and forty or fifty of the inhabitants to become priests. The emperor himself performed the tonsure for some who took the monastic vows.
The rapid advancement of Buddhism in China was not unnoticed in neighbouring kingdoms. The same prosperity that awoke the jealousy of the civil government in the country itself, occasioned sympathy elsewhere. Many embassies came from the countries lying between India and China during the time of Sung Wen-ti. whose reign of more than thirty years closed in 453. Their chief object was to congratulate the ruling emperor on the prosperity of Buddhism in his dominions, and to pave the way for frequent intercourse on the ground of identity in religion. Two letters of Pishabarma, king of Aratan, to this emperor are preserved in the history of this dynasty. He describes his kingdom as lying in the shadow of the Himalayas, whose snows fed the streams that watered it. He praises China 1 as the most prosperous of kingdoms, and its rulers as the benefactors and civilisers of the world. The letter of the king of Jebabada, another Indian monarch, expresses his admiration of the same emperor in glowing language. He had given rest to the inhabitants of heaven and earth, subjected the four demons, attained the state of perfect perception, caused the wheel of the honoured law to revolve, saved multitudes of living beings, and by the renovating power of the Buddhist religion brought them into the happiness of the Nirvâna. Relics of Buddha were widely spread—numberless pagodas erected. All the treasures of the religion (Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood) were as beautiful in appearance, and firm in their foundations as the Sumeru mountain. The diffusion of the sacred books and the law of Buddha was like the bright shining of the sun, and the assembly of priests, pure in their lives, was like the marshalled constellations of heaven. The royal palaces and walls were like those of the Tauli heaven. In the whole Jambu continent, there were no kingdoms from which embassies did not come with tribute to the great Sung emperor of the Yang-cheu 1 kingdom. He adds, that though separated by a wide sea, it was his wish to have embassies passing and repassing between the two countries.
The extensive intercourse that then began to exist between China and India may be gathered from the fact that Ceylon 1 also sent an embassy and a letter to Sung Wen-ti. In this letter it is said, that though the countries are distant three years’ journey by sea and land, there are constant communications between them. The king also mentions the attachment of his ancestors to the worship of Buddha.
The next of these curious memorials from Buddhist kings preserved in the annals of the same Chinese emperor, is that from "Kapili" (Kapilavastu), the birthplace of Shakyamuni, situated to the north-west of Benares.
The compiler of the Sung annals, after inserting this document, alludes to the flourishing state of Buddhism in the countries from which these embassies came, and in China itself. He then introduces a memorial from a magistrate representing the disorders that had sprung from the wide-spread influence of this religion, and recommending imperial interference. That document says that "Buddhism had during four dynasties been multiplying its images and sacred edifices. Pagodas and temples were upwards of a thousand in number. On entering them the visitor's heart was affected, and when he departed he felt desirous to invite others to the practices of piety. Lately, however, these sentiments of reverence had given place to frivolity. Instead of aiming at sincerity and purity of life, gaudy finery and mutual jealousies prevailed. While many new temples were erected for the sake of display, in the most splendid manner, no one thought of rebuilding the old ones. Official inquiries should be instituted to prevent further evils, and whoever wished to cast brazen statues should first obtain permission from the authorities."
A few years afterwards (A.D. 458) a conspiracy was detected in which a chief party was a Buddhist priest. An edict issued on the occasion by the emperor says, that among the priests many were men who had fled from justice and took the monastic vows for safety. They took advantage of their assumed character to contrive new modes of doing mischief. The fresh troubles thus constantly occurring excite the indignation of gods and men. The constituted authorities, it is added, must examine narrowly into the conduct of the monks. Those who are guilty must be put to death. It was afterwards enacted that such monks as would not keep their vows of abstinence and self-denial should return to their families and previous occupations. Nuns were also forbidden to enter the palace and converse with the emperor's wives.
The advances of Buddhism later in the fifth century were too rapid not to excite much opposition from the literati of the time, and a religious controversy was the result.
In the biography of Tsï Liang, a minister of state under the emperor Ts’i Wu-ti (A.D. 483), there are some fragments of a discussion he maintained in favour of Buddhism. He says, "If you do not believe in 'retribution of moral actions' (yin-kwo), then how can you account for the difference in the condition of the rich and the poor?" His opponent says, "Men are like flowers on trees, growing together and bent and scattered by the same breeze. Some fall upon curtains and carpets, like those whose lot is cast in palaces, while others drop among heaps of filth, representing men who are born in humble life. Riches and poverty, then, can be accounted for without the doctrine of retribution." To this the advocate of Buddhism is said to have been unable to reply. He also wrote on the destruction of the soul. Personating the Confucianists, he says that, "The 'soul' (shin) is to the 'body' (hing) as sharpness to the knife. The soul cannot continue to exist after the destruction of the body, more than sharpness can remain when the knife is no more." These extracts show that some of the Confucianists of that age denied any providential retribution in the present or a future life. Whatever may be thought of notions connected with ancestral worship, and the passages in the classical books that seem to indicate the knowledge of a separate life for the soul after death, they were too imperfect and indistinct to restrain the literati from the most direct antagonism on this subject with the early Buddhists. Holding such cheerless views as they did of the destiny of man, it is not to be wondered at that the common people should desert their standard, and adopt a more congenial system. The language of daily life is now thoroughly impregnated with the phraseology of retribution and a separate state. All classes make use of very many expressions in common intercourse which have been originated by Buddhism, thus attesting the extent of its influence on the nation at large. And, as the Buddhist immortality embraces the past as well as the future, the popular notions and language of China extend to a preceding life as much as to a coming one.
A distinct conception of the controversy as it then existed may be obtained from the following extracts from an account of a native Buddhist, contained in the biographical section of the History of the Sung dynasty:—"The instructions of Confucius include only a single life; they do not reach to a future state of existence, with its interminable results. His disciple, in multiplying virtuous actions, only brings happiness to his posterity. Vices do but entail greater present sufferings as their punishment. The rewards of the good do not, according to this system, go beyond worldly honour, nor does the recompense of guilt include anything worse than obscurity and poverty. Beyond the ken of the senses nothing is known; such ignorance is melancholy. The aims of the doctrine of Shakya, on the other hand, are illimitable. It saves from the greatest dangers, and removes every care from the heart. Heaven and earth are not sufficient to bound its knowledge. Having as its one sentiment, mercy seeking to save, the renovation of all living beings cannot satisfy it. It speaks of hell, and the people fear to sin; of heaven, and they all desire its happiness. It points to the Nirvâna as the spirit's 'final home' (ch’ang-kwei, lit. 'long return'), and tells him of 'the bodily form of the law' (fa-shen), 1 as that last, best spectacle, on which the eye can gaze. There is no region to which its influence does not reach. It soars in thought into the upper world. Beginning from a space no larger than the well's mouth in a courtyard, it extends its knowledge to the whole adjacent mansion." These sentiments are replied to, in the imaginary dialogue in which they occur, by a Confucian, who says, "To be urged by the desire of heaven to the performance of virtue, cannot bear comparison with doing what is right for its own sake. To keep the body under restraint from the fear of hell, is not so good as to govern the heart from a feeling of duty. Acts of worship, performed for the sake of obtaining forgiveness of sins, do not spring from piety. A gift, made to secure a hundredfold recompense to the giver, cannot come from pure inward sincerity. To praise the happiness of the Nirvâna promotes a lazy inactivity. To speak highly of the beauty of the embodied ideal representation of Buddhist doctrine, seen by the advanced disciple, tends to produce in men a love of the marvellous. By your system, distant good is looked for, while the desires of the animal nature, which are close at hand, are unchecked. Though you say that the Bodhisattwa is freed from these desires, yet all beings, without exception, have them." To these arguments for the older Chinese system, the Buddhist comes forward with a rejoinder:—"Your conclusions are wrong. Motives derived from a future state are necessary to lead men to virtue. Otherwise how could the evil tendencies of the present life be adjusted? Men will not act spontaneously and immediately without something to hope for. The countryman is diligent in ploughing his land, because he expects a harvest. If he had no such hope, he would sit idle at home, and soon go down for ever 'below the nine fountains.'" 1 The Confucian answers that "religion" (tau) consisting in the repression of all desires, it is inconsistent to use the desire of heaven as a motive to virtue.
The discussion is continued with great spirit through several pages, turning entirely on the advantage to be derived from the doctrine of the future state for the inculcation of virtue. The Buddhist champion is called the teacher of the "black doctrine," and his opponent that of "the white." The author, a Buddhist, has given its full force to the Confucian reasoning, while he condemns without flinching the difficulties that he sees in the system he opposes. The whole is preserved in a beautifully finished style of composition, and is a specimen of the valuable materials contained in the Chinese dynastic histories for special inquiries on many subjects not concerned with the general history of the country. It was with fair words like these, the darker shades of Buddhism being kept out of view, that the contest was maintained in those days by such as would introduce a foreign form of worship, against the adherents to the maxims of Confucius. The author of the piece was rewarded for it by the reigning emperor.
In the northern provinces Buddhism was now flourishing. The prince of the Wei kingdom spared no expense in promoting it. History says, that in the year 467 he caused an image to be constructed "forty-three feet" in height (thirty-five English feet). A hundred peculs of brass, or more than five tons, were used, and six peculs of gold. Four years after, he resigned his throne to his son, and became a monk. When, about the same time, the Sung emperor erected a magnificent Buddhist temple, he was severely rebuked by some of his mandarins.
The time of Wu-ti, the first emperor of the Liang dynasty, forms an era in the history of Chinese Buddhism, marked as it was by the arrival in China of Ta-mo (Bodhidharma), the twenty-eighth of the patriarchs, and by the extraordinary prosperity of the Buddhist religion under the imperial favour.
At the beginning of the sixth century, the number of Indians in China was upwards of three thousand. The prince of the Wei kingdom exerted himself greatly to provide maintenance for them in monasteries, erected on the most beautiful sites. Many of them resided at Lo-yang, the modern Ho-nan fu. The temples had multiplied to thirteen thousand. The decline of Buddhism in its motherland drove many of the Hindoos to the north of the Himalayas. They came as refugees from the Brahmanical persecution, and their great number will assist materially in accounting for the growth of the religion they propagated in China. The prince of the Wei country is recorded to have discoursed publicly on the Buddhist classics. At the same time, he refused to treat for peace with the ambassadors of his southern neighbour, the Liang kingdom. Of this the Confucian historian takes advantage, charging him with inconsistency in being attached to a religion that forbids cruelty and bloodshed, while he showed such fondness for war.
Soon after this, several priests were put to death (A.D. 515) for practising magical arts. This is an offence attributed more than once by the Chinese historians to the early Buddhists. The use of charms, and the claim to magical powers, do not appear to have belonged to the system as it was left by Shakyamuni. His teaching, as Burnouf has shown, was occupied simply with morals and his peculiar philosophy. After a few centuries, however, among the additions made by the Northern Buddhists to popularise the religion, and give greater power to the priests, were many narratives full of marvels and impossibilities, falsely attributed to primitive Buddhism. These works are called the Ta-ch’eng, or "Great Development" Sutras. Another novelty was the pretence of working enchantments by means of unintelligible formulæ, which are preserved in the books of the Chinese Buddhists, as in those of Nepaul, without attempt at explanation. These charms are called Dharani. They occur in the Great Development classics, such as the "Lotus of the Good Law," Miau-fa-lien-hwa-king (Fa-hwa-king), and in various Buddhist works. The account given in the T’ung-kien-kang-muh of the professed magician who led the priests referred to above, says that he styled himself Ta-ch’eng, used wild music to win followers, taught them to dissolve all the ties of kindred, and aimed only at murder and disturbance.
The native annotator says that Ta-ch’eng is the highest of three states of intelligence to which a disciple of Buddha can attain, and that the corresponding Sanscrit word, Mahayana, means "Boundless revolution and unsurpassed knowledge." It is here that the resemblance is most striking between the Buddhism of China and that of other countries where it is professed in the north. These countries having the same additions to the creed of Shakya, the division of Buddhism by Burnouf into a Northern and Southern school has been rightly made. The superadded mythology and claim to magical powers of the Buddhists, who revere the Sanscrit as their sacred language, distinguish them from their co-religionists who preserve their traditions in the Pali tongue.
In the year A.D. 518, Sung-yün was sent to India by the prince of the Wei country for Buddhist books. He was accompanied by Hwei-sheng, a priest. He travelled to Candahar, stayed two years in Udyana, and returned with 175 Buddhist works. His narrative has been translated by Professor Neumann into German.
In A.D. 526, Bodhidharma, after having grown old in Southern India, reached Canton by sea. The propagation of Buddhism in his native country he gave in charge to one of his disciples during his absence. He was received with the honour due to his age and character, and immediately invited to Nanking, where the emperor of Southern China, Liang Wu-ti, held his court. The emperor said to him—"From my accession to the throne, I have been incessantly building temples, transcribing sacred books, and admitting new monks to take the vows. How much merit may I be supposed to have accumulated?" The reply was, "None." The emperor: "And why no merit?" The patriarch: "All this is but the insignificant effect of an imperfect cause not complete in itself. It is the shadow that follows the substance, and is without real existence." The emperor: "Then what is true merit?" The patriarch: "It consists in purity and enlightenment, depth and completeness, and in being wrapped in thought while surrounded by vacancy and stillness. Merit such as this cannot be sought by worldly means." The emperor: "Which is the most important of the holy doctrines?" The patriarch: "Where all is emptiness, nothing can be called 'holy' (sheng)." The emperor: "Who is he that thus replies to me?" The patriarch: "I do not know." The emperor—says the Buddhist narrator—still remained unenlightened. This extract exhibits Buddhism very distinctly in its mystic phase. Mysticism can attach itself to the most abstract philosophical dogmas, just as well as to those of a properly religious kind. This state of mind, allying itself indifferently to error and to truth, is thus shown to be of purely subjective origin. The objective doctrines that call it into existence may be of the most opposite kind. It grows, therefore, out of the mind itself. Its appearance may be more naturally expected in the history of a religion like Christianity, which awakens the human emotions to their intensest exercise, while, in many ways, it favours the extended use of the contemplative faculties, and hence the numerous mystic sects of Church history. Its occurrence in Buddhism, and its kindred systems, might with more reason occasion surprise, founded as they are on philosophical meditations eminently abstract. It was reserved for the fantastic genius of India to construct a religion out of three such elements as atheism, annihilation, and the non-reality of the material world; and, by the encouragement of mysticism and the monastic life, to make these most ultimate of negations palatable and popular. The subsequent addition of a mythology suited to the taste of the common people was, it should be remembered, another powerful cause, contributing, in conjunction with these quietist and ascetic tendencies, to spread Buddhism through so great a mass of humankind. In carrying out his mystic views, Ta-mo discouraged the use of the sacred books. He represented the attainment of the Buddhist's aim as being entirely the work of the heart. Though he professed not to make use of books, his followers preserved his apophthegms in writing, and, by the wide diffusion of them, a numerous school of contemplatists was originated, under the name of Ch‘an-hio (dhyana doctrine) and Ch‘an-men (dhyana school).
Bodhidharma, not being satisfied with the result of his interview with royalty, crossed the Yang-tsze keang into the Wei kingdom and remained at Lo-yang. Here, the narrative says, he sat with his face to a wall for nine years. The people called him the "Wall-gazing Brahman." 1 When it was represented to the Liang emperor, that the great teacher, who possessed the precious heirloom of Shakya, the symbol of the hidden law of Buddha, was lost to his kingdom, he repented and sent messengers to invite him to return. They failed in their errand. The presence of the Indian sage excited the more ardent Chinese Buddhists to make great efforts to conquer the sensations. Thus one of them, we are told, said to himself, "Formerly, for the sake of religion, men broke open their bones and extracted the marrow, took blood from their arms to give to the hungry, rolled their hair in the mud, or threw themselves down a precipice to feed a famishing tiger. What can I do?" Accordingly, while snow was falling, he exposed himself to it till it had risen above his knees, when the patriarch observing him, asked him what he hoped to gain by it. The young aspirant to the victory over self wept at the question, and said, "I only desire that mercy may open a path to save the whole race of mankind." The patriarch replied, that such an act was not worthy of comparison with the acts of the Buddhas. It required, he told him, very little virtue or resolution. His disciple, stung with the answer, says the legend, took a sharp knife, severed his arm, and placed it before the patriarch. The latter expressed his high approval of the deed, and when, after nine years’ absence, he determined to return to India, he appointed the disciple who had performed it to succeed him as patriarch in China. He said to him on this occasion, "I give you the seal of the law as the sign of your adherence to the true doctrine inwardly, and the kasha (robe worn by Buddhists) as the symbol of your outward teaching. These symbols must be delivered down from one to another for two hundred years after my death, and then, the law of Buddha having spread through the whole nation, the succession of patriarchs will cease." He further said, "I also consign to you the Lenga Sutra in four sections, which opens the door to the heart of Buddha, and is fitted to enlighten all living men." Ta-mo's further instructions to his successor as to the nature and duties of the patriarchate are fully detailed in the Chï-yue-luh. He died of old age after five attempts to poison him, and was buried at the Hiung-er mountains between Ho-nan and Shen-si. At this juncture Sung-yün, who had been sent to India a few years previously for Buddhist books, returned, and inspected the remains of Bodhidharma. As he lay in his coffin he held one shoe in his hand. Sun;-yün asked him whither he was going. "To the Western heaven," was the reply. Sung-yün then returned home. The coffin was afterwards opened and found empty, excepting that one of the patriarch's shoes was lying there. By imperial command, the shoe was preserved as a sacred relic in the monastery. Afterwards in the T‘ang dynasty it was stolen, and now no one knows where it is.
The embassies from Buddhist kingdoms in the time of Liang Wu-ti afford other illustrations of the passion for relics and mementoes of venerated personages, encouraged by the Buddhist priests. The king of Bunam, the ancient Siam, wrote to the emperor that he had a hair of Buddha, twelve feet in length, to give him. Priests were sent from the Chinese court to meet it, and bring it home. Three years before this, as the History of the Liang dynasty informs us, in building, by imperial command, a monastery and pagoda to king A-yo (Ashôka), a sharira, or "relic of Buddha," had been found under the old pagoda, with a hair of a blue lavender colour. This hair was so elastic that when the priests pulled it, it lengthened ad libitum, and when let alone curled into a spiral form. The historian quotes two Buddhist works in illustration. The "Seng-ga Sutra" (king) says, that Buddha's hair was blue and fine. In the San-mei-king, Shakya himself says, "When I was formerly in my father's palace, I combed my hair, and measuring it, found that it was twelve feet in length. When let go, it curled into a spiral form." This description agrees, it is added, with that of the hair found by the emperor.
In A.D. 523, the king of Banban sent as his tributary offering, a true "sharira" (she-li) with pictures and miniature pagodas; also leaves of the Bodhi, Buddha's favourite tree. The king of another country in the Birmese peninsula had a dream, in which a priest appeared to him and foretold to him that the new prince of the Liang dynasty would soon raise Buddhism to the summit of prosperity, and that he would do wisely if he sent him an embassy. The king paying no attention to the warning, the priest appeared again in a second dream, and conducted the monarch to the court of Liang Wu-ti. On awaking, the king, who was himself an accomplished painter, drew the likeness of the emperor as he had seen him in his dream. He now sent ambassadors and an artist with instructions to paint a likeness of the Chinese monarch from life. On comparing it with his own picture, the similarity was found to be perfect.
This emperor, so zealous a promoter of Buddhism, in the year A.D. 527, the twenty-sixth of his reign, became a monk and entered the Tung-tai monastery in Nanking. The same record is made in the history two years afterwards. As might be expected, this event calls forth a long and severe critique from the Confucian historian. The preface to the history of the dynasty established by this prince, consists solely of a lament over the sad necessity of adverting to Buddhism in the imperial annals of the nation, with an argument for the old national system, which is so clearly right, that the wish to deviate from it shows a man to be wrong. In reference to the emperor's becoming a priest, the critic says, "that not only would the man of common intelligence condemn such conduct in the ruler of a commonwealth, but even men like Bodhidharma would withhold their approval."
A few years afterwards, the same emperor rebuilt the Ch’ang-ts’ien monastery five le to the south of "Nanking," in which was the tope (shrine for relics) of A-yo or Ashôka. The writer in the T‘ung-kien-kang-muh adds, that a true relic of Buddha's body is preserved near "Ming-cheu" (now Ningpo). Ashôka erected 80,000 topes, of which one-nineteenth were assigned to China. The tope and relic here alluded to are those of the hill Yo-wang shan, well known to foreign visitors, and situated fifty-two li eastward of Ningpo. To Buddhist pilgrims coming from far and near to this sacred spot, the she-li is an object of reverential worship, but to unbelieving eyes it presents a rather insignificant appearance. The small, reddish, beadlike substance that constitutes the relic, is so placed in its lantern-shaped receptacle, that it does not admit of much light being thrown upon it. The colour is said to vary with the state of mind of the visitor. Yellow is that of happiest omen. The theory is a safe one, for there is just obscurity enough to render the tint of the precious remains of Shakya's burnt body somewhat uncertain.
King Ashôka, to whom this temple is dedicated, was one of the most celebrated of the Buddhist kings of India. Burnouf in his Introduction à l’Histoire du Buddhisme Indien, has translated a long legend of which Ashôka is the hero, and which is also contained in the Chinese work, Fa-yuen-chu-lin. The commencement in the latter differs a little from that given by Burnouf. Buddha says to Ananda, "You should know that in the city 'Palinput' (Pataliputra), there will be a king named 'The moon protected' (Yue-hu; in Sanscrit, Chandragupta). He will have a son named Bindupala, and he again will have a son Susima." Ashôka was the son of Bindupala by another wife, and succeeded his father as king. The Indian king Sandracottus, who concluded a treaty with Seleucus Nicator, the Greek king of Syria, B.C. 305, was identified with Chandragupta by Schlegel and Wilson. According to the Mahavanso, the Pali history of the Buddhist patriarchs, there was an interval of 854 years from Buddha's death to the accession of Chandragupta, making that event to be in B.C. 389, which is more than half a century too soon. Turnour thinks the discrepancy cannot be accounted for but by supposing a wilful perversion of the chronology. These statements are quoted in Hardy's Eastern Monachism, from Wilson's Vishnu Purana. By this synchronism of Greek and Indian literature, it is satisfactorily shown that Ashôka lived in the second century before Christ, and Buddha in the fourth and fifth. The commonly received chronology of the Chinese Buddhists is too long, therefore, by more than five hundred years. 1 Probably this fraud was effected to verify predictions found in certain Sutras, in which Buddha is made to say that in a definite number of years after his death, such and such things would happen. The Northern Buddhists wrote in Sanscrit, made use of Sanscrit Sutras, and were anxious to vindicate the correctness of all predictions found in them. Burnouf supposes that the disciples of Buddha, would naturally publish their sacred books in more than one language; Sanscrit being then, and long afterwards, spoken by the literati, while derived dialects were used by the common people. By Fa-hien Ashôka is called A-yo Wang, as at the monastery near Ningpo. In Hiuen-tsang's narrative, the name Wu-yeu wang, the "Sorrowless king," a translation of the Sanscrit word, is applied to him.
The Liang emperor Wu-ti, after three times assuming the, Buddhist vows and expounding the Sutras to his assembled courtiers, was succeeded by a son who favoured Tauism. A few years after, the sovereign of the Ts’i kingdom endeavoured to combine these two religions. He put to death four Tauist priests for refusing to submit to the tonsure and become worshippers of Buddha. After this there was no more resistance. In A.D. 558 it is related that Wu-ti, an emperor of the Ch’in dynasty, became a monk. Some years afterwards, the prince of the Cheu kingdom issued an edict prohibiting both Buddhism and Tauism. Books and images were destroyed, and all professors of these religions compelled to abandon them.
The History of the Northern Wei dynasty contains some details on the early Sanscrit translations in addition to what has been already inserted in this narrative. 1 The pioneers in the work of translation were Kashiapmadanga and Chu-fa-lan, who worked conjointly in the time of Ming-ti. The latter also translated the "Sutra of the ten points of rest." In A.D. 150, a priest of the "An-si" (Arsaces) country in Eastern Persia is noticed as an excellent translator. About A.D. 170, Chitsin, a priest of the Getæ nation, produced a version of the Nirvâna Sutra. Sun K’iuen, prince of the Wu state, one of the Three Kingdoms, who, some time after the embassy of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the Roman emperor, to China, received with great respect a Roman merchant at his court, 1 treated with equal regard an Indian priest who translated for him some of the books of Buddha. The next Indian mentioned is Dharmakakala, who translated the "Vinaya" or Kiai-lü (Discipline) at Lo-yang. About A.D. 300, Chï-kung-ming, a foreign priest, translated the Wei-ma and Fa-hwa, 2 "Lotus of the Good Law Sutras," but the work was imperfectly done. Tau-an, a Chinese Buddhist, finding the sacred books disfigured by errors, applied himself to correct them. He derived instruction from Buddojanga and wished much to converse with Kumarajiva, noticed in a previous page. The latter, himself a man of high intelligence, had conceived an extraordinary regard for him, and lamented much when he came to Ch’ang-an from Liang-cheu at the north-western corner of China where he had long resided, that Tau-an was dead. Kumarajiva found that in the corrections he proposed to make in the sacred books, he had been completely anticipated by his Chinese fellow-religionist. Kumarajiva is commended for his accurate knowledge of the Chinese language as well as of his own. With his assistants he made clear the sense of many profound and extensive "Sutras" (King) and "Shastras" (Lun), twelve works in all. The divisions into sections and sentences were formed with care. The finishing touch to the Chinese composition of these translations was given by Seng-chau. Fa-hien in his travels did his utmost to procure copies of the Discipline and the other sacred books. On his return, with the aid of an Indian named Bhadra, he translated the Seng-kï-lü (Asangkhyea Vinaya), which has since been regarded as a standard work.
Before Fa-hien's time, about A.D. 290, a Chinese named Chu Sï-hing went to Northern India for Buddhist books. He reached Udin or Khodin, identified by Remusat with Khoten, and obtained a Sutra of ninety sections. He translated it in Ho-nan, with the title Fang-kwang-pat-nia-king (Light-emitting Prajna Sutra). Many of these books at that time so coveted, were brought to Lo-yang, and translated there by Chufahu, a priest of the Getæ nation, who had travelled to India, and was a contemporary of the Chinese just mentioned. Fa-ling was another Chinese who proceeded from "Yang-cheu" (Kiang-nan) to Northern India and brought back the Sutra Hwa-yen-king and the Pen-ting-lü, a work on discipline. Versions of the "Nirvâna Sutra" (Ni-wan-king), and the Seng-ki-lü were made by Chi-meng in the country Kau-ch‘ang, or what is now "Eastern Thibet." The translator had obtained them at Hwa-shï or "Pataliputra," a city to the westward. The Indian Dharmaraksha brought to China a new Sanscrit copy of the Nirvâna Sutra and going to Kau-ch‘ang, compared it with Chi-meng's copy for critical purposes. The latter was afterwards brought to Ch‘ang-an and published in thirty chapters. The Indian here mentioned, professed to foretell political events by the use of charms. He also translated the Kin-kwang-king, or "Golden Light Sutra," and the Ming-king, "Bright Sutra." At this time there were several tens of foreign priests at Ch‘ang-an, but the most distinguished among them for ability was Kumarajiva. His translations of the Wei-ma, Fa-hwa, and C‘heng-shih (complete) Sutras, with the three just mentioned, by Dharmaraksha and some others, together form the Great Development course of instruction. The "Longer Agama Sutra" 1 and the "Discipline of the Four Divisions" 2 were translated by Buddhayasha, a native of India, the "Discipline of the Ten Chants" 3 by Kumarajiva, the "Additional Agama Sutra" by Dharmanandi, and the "Shastra of Metaphysics" (Abhidharma-lun) by Dharmayagama. These together formed the Smaller Development course. In some monasteries the former works were studied by the recluses; in others the latter. Thus a metaphysical theology, subdivided into schools, formed the subject of study in the Asiatic monkish establishments, as in the days of the European school-men. The Chinese travellers in India, and in the chain of Buddhist kingdoms extending—before the inroads of Mohammedanism—from their native land into Persia, give us the opportunity of knowing how widely there as well as in China the monastic life and the study of these books were spread. About A.D. 400, Sangadeva, a native of "Cophen" (Kipin), translated two of the Agama Sutras. The "Hwa-yen Sutra" was soon afterwards brought from Udin by Chi Fa-ling, a Chinese Buddhist, and a version of it made at Nanking. He also procured the Pen-ting-lü, a work in the Vinaya or "Discipline" branch of Buddhist books. Ma Twan-lin also mentions a Hindoo who, about A.D. 502, translated some Shastras of the Great Development (Ta-ch‘eng) school, called Ti-ch‘ï-lun (fixed position), and Shi-ti-lun (the ten positions).
The Hindoo Buddhists in China, whose literary labours down to the middle of the sixth century are here recorded, while they sometimes enjoyed the imperial favour, had to bear their part in the reverses to which their religion was exposed. Dharmaraksha was put to death for refusing to come to court on the requisition of one of the Wei emperors. Sihien, a priest of the royal family of the Kipin kingdom in Northern India, in times of persecution assumed the disguise of a physician, and when the very severe penal laws then enacted against Buddhism were remitted, returned to his former mode of life as a monk. Some other names might be added to the list of Hindoo translators, were it not already sufficiently long.
About the year 460 it appears from the history that five Buddhists from Ceylon arrived in China by the Thibetan route. Two of them were Yashaita and Budanandi. They brought images. Those constructed by the latter had the property of diminishing in apparent size as the visitor drew nearer, and looking brighter as he went farther away. Though a literary character is not attributed to them, the Southern Buddhist traditions might, through their means, have been communicated at this time to the Chinese. This may account for the date—nearly correct—assigned to the birth of Buddha in the History of the Wei dynasty, from which these facts are taken, and in that of the Sui dynasty which soon followed.
According to the same history there were then in China two millions of priests and thirty thousand temples. This account must be exaggerated; for if we allow a thousand to each district, which is probably over the mark, there will be but that number at the present time, although the population has increased very greatly in the interval. 1
Buddhism received no check from the Sui emperors, who ruled China for the short period of thirty-seven years. The first of them, on assuming the title of emperor in 581, issued an edict giving full toleration to this sect. Towards the close of his reign he prohibited the destruction or maltreatment of any of the images of the Buddhist or Tauist sects. It was the weakness of age, says the Confucian historian, giving way to superstitions that led him to such an act as this. The same commentator on the history of the period says, that the Buddhist books were at this time ten times more numerous than the Confucian classics. The Sui History in the digest it gives of all the books of the time, states those of the Buddhist sect to be 1950 distinct works. Many of the titles are given, and among them are not a few treating of the mode of writing by alphabetic symbols used in the kingdoms from whence Buddhism came. The first alphabet that was thus introduced appears to have been one of fourteen symbols. It is called Si-yo hu-shu or "Foreign Writing of the Western countries," and also Ba-la-men-shu, "Brahmanical writing." The tables of initials and finals found in the Chinese native dictionaries were first formed in the third century, but more fully early in the sixth century, in the Liang dynasty. It was then that the Hindoos, who had come to China, assisted in forming, according to the model of the Sanscrit alphabet, a system of thirty-six initial letters, and described the vocal organs by which they are formed. They also constructed tables, in which, by means of two sets of representative characters, one for the initials and another for the finals, a mode of spelling words was exhibited. The Chinese were now taught for the first time that monosyllabic sounds are divisible into parts, but alphabetic symbols were not adopted to write the separated elements. It was thought better to use characters already known to the people. A serious defect attended this method. The analysis was not carried far enough. Intelligent Chinese understand that a sound, such as man, can be divided into two parts, m and an; for they have been long accustomed to the system of phonetic bisection here alluded to, but they usually refuse to believe that a trisection of the sound is practicable. At the same time the system was much easier to learn than if foreign symbols had been employed, and it was very soon universally adopted. Shen-kung, a priest, is said to have been the author of the system, and the dictionary Yü-p’ien was one of the first extensive works in which it was employed. 1 That the Hindoo Buddhists should have taught the Chinese how to write the sounds of this language by an artifice which required nothing but their own hieroglyphics, and rendered unnecessary the introduction of new symbols, is sufficient evidence of their ingenuity, and is not the least of the services they have done to the sons of Han. It answered well for several centuries, and was made use of in all dictionaries and educational works. But the language changed, the old sounds were broken up, and now the words thus spelt are read correctly only by those natives who happen to speak the dialects that most nearly resemble in sound the old pronunciation.
To Shen Yo, the historian of two dynasties, and author of several detached historical pieces, is attributed the discovery of the four tones. His biographer says of him in the "Liang History:"—"He wrote his 'Treatise on the Four Tones,' to make known what men for thousands of years had not understood—the wonderful fact which he alone in the silence of his breast came to perceive." It may be well doubted if the credit of arriving unassisted at the knowledge of this fact is due to him. He resided at the court of Liang Wu-ti, the great patron of the Indian strangers. They, accustomed to the unrivalled accuracy in phonetic analysis of the Sanscrit alphabet, would readily distinguish a new phenomenon like this, while to a native speaker, who had never known articulate sounds to be without it, it would almost necessarily be undetected. In the syllabic spelling that they formed, the tones are duly represented, by being embraced in every instance in the final.
The extent of influence which this nomenclature for sounds has attained in the native literature is known to all who are familiar with its dictionaries, and the common editions of the classical books. In this way it is that the traditions of old sounds needed to explain the rhymes and metre of the ancient national poetry are preserved. By the same method the sounds of modern dialects that have deviated extensively from the old type have been committed to writing. The dialects of the Mandarin provinces, of Northern and Southern Fu-kien, and Canton have been written down by native authors each with its one system of tones and alphabetic elements, and they have all taken the method introduced by the Buddhists as their guide. The Chinese have since become acquainted with several alphabets with foreign symbols, but when they need to write phonetically they prefer the system, imperfect as it is, that does not oblige them to abandon the hieroglyphic signs transmitted by their ancestors. Never, perhaps, since the days of Cadmus, was a philological impulse more successful than that thus communicated from India to the Chinese, if the extent of its adoption be the criterion. They have not only by the use of the syllabic spelling thus taught them, collected the materials for philological research afforded by the modern dialects, but, by patient industry, have discovered the early history of the language, showing how the number of tones increased from two to three by the time of Confucius, to four in the sixth century of our era, and so on to their present state. Few foreign investigators have yet entered on this field of research, but it may be suggested that the philology of the Eastern languages must without it be necessarily incomplete, and that the Chinese, by patience and a true scientific instinct, have placed the materials in such a form that little labour is needed to gather from them the facts that they contain.
The Thibetans, and, probably, the Coreans also, owe their alphabets, which are both arranged in the Sanscrit mode, to the Buddhists. Corean ambassadors came in the reign of Liang Wu-ti to ask for the "Nirvâna" and other Buddhistic classics. It may then have been as early as this that they had an alphabet, but the writing now in use dates from about A.D. 1360, as Mr. Scott has shown. 1 The first emperor of the T‘ang dynasty was induced by the representations of Fu Yi, one of his ministers, to call a council for deliberation on the mode of action to be adopted in regard to Buddhism. Fu Yi, a stern enemy of the new religion, proposed that the monks and nuns should be compelled to marry and bring up families. The reason that they adopted the ascetic life, he said, was to avoid contributing to the revenue. What they held about the fate of mankind depending on the will of Buddha was false. Life and death were regulated by a "natural necessity" with which man had nothing to do (yeu-ü-tsï-jan). The retribution of vice and virtue was the province of the prince, while riches and poverty were the recompense provoked by our own actions. The public manners had degenerated lamentably through the influence of Buddhism. The "six states of being" 1 into which the souls of men might be born were entirely fictitious. The monks lived an idle life, and were unprofitable members of the commonwealth. To this it was replied in the council, by Siau Ü, a friend of the Buddhists, that Buddha was a "sage" (shing-jen), and that Fu Yi having spoken ill of a sage, was guilty of a great crime. To this Fu Yi answered, that the highest of the virtues were loyalty and filial piety, and the monks, casting off as they did their prince and their parents, disregarded them both. As for Siau Ü, he added, he was—being the advocate of such a system—as destitute as they of these virtues. Siau Ü joined his hands and merely replied to him, that hell was made for such men as he. The Confucianists gained the victory, and severe restrictions were imposed on the professors of the foreign faith, but they were taken off almost immediately after.
The successors of Bodhidharma were five in number. They are styled with him the six "Eastern patriarchs," Tung-tsu. They led quiet lives. The fourth of them was invited to court by the second emperor of the T‘ang dynasty, and repeatedly declined the honour. When a messenger came for the fourth time and informed him that, if he refused to go, he had orders to take his head back with him, the imperturbable old man merely held out his neck to the sword in token of his willingness to die. The emperor respected his firmness. Some years previously, with a large number of disciples, he had gone to a city in Shansi. The city was soon after laid siege to by rebels. The patriarch advised his followers to recite the "Great Prajna," Ma-ha-pat-nia, an extensive work, in which the most abstract dogmas of Buddhist philosophy are very fully developed. The enemy, looking towards the ramparts, thought they saw a band of spirit-soldiers in array against them, and consequently retired.
In the year 629 the celebrated Hiuen-tsang set out on his journey to India to procure Sanscrit books. Passing from Liang-cheu at the north-western extremity of China, he proceeded westward to the region watered by the Oxus and Jaxartes where the Turks 1 were then settled. He afterwards crossed the Hindoo-kush and proceeded into India. He lingered for a long time in the countries through which the Ganges flows, rich as they were in reminiscences and relics of primitive Buddhism. Then bending his steps to the southwards, he completed the tour of the Indian peninsula, returned across the Indus, and reached home in the sixteenth year after his departure. The same emperor, T‘ai-tsung, was still reigning, and he received the traveller with the utmost distinction. He spent the rest of his days in translating from the Sanscrit originals the Buddhist works he had brought with him from India. It was by imperial command that these translations were undertaken. The same emperor, T‘ai-tsung, received with equal favour the Syrian Christians, Alopen and his companions, who had arrived in A.D. 639, only seven years before Hiuen-tsang's return. The Histoire de la Vie de Hiouen-thsang, translated by M. Julien, is a volume full of interest for the history of Buddhism and Buddhist literature. As a preparation for the task, the accomplished translator added to his unrivalled knowledge of the Chinese language an extensive acquaintance with Sanscrit, acquired when he was already advanced in life, with this special object. Scarcely does the name of a place or a book occur in the narrative which he has not identified and given to the reader in its Sanscrit form. The book was originally written by two friends of Hiuen-tsang. It includes a specimen of Sanscrit grammar, exemplifying the declensions of nouns, with their eight cases and three numbers, the conjugation of the substantive verb, and other details. Hiuen-tsang remained five years in the monastery of Nalanda, on the banks of the Ganges, studying the language, and reading the Brahmanical literature as well as that of Buddhism.
Hiuen-tsang was summoned on his arrival to appear at court, and answer for his conduct, in leaving his country and undertaking so long a journey without the imperial permission. The emperor—praised by Gibbon as the Augustus of the East—was residing at Lo-yang, to which city the traveller proceeded. He had brought with him 115 grains of relics taken from Buddha's chair; a gold statue of Buddha, 3 feet 3 inches in height, with a transparent pedestal; a second, 3 feet 5 inches in height, and others of silver and carved in sandal-wood. His collection of Sanscrit books was very extensive. A sufficient conception of the voluminous contributions then made to Chinese literature from India will be obtained by enumerating some of the names.
Of the Great Development school, 124 Sutras.
On the Discipline and Philosophical works of the following schools:—
These works, amounting with others to 657, were carried by twenty-two horses.
The emperor, after listening to the traveller's account of what he had seen, commanded him to write a description of the Western countries, and the work called Ta-t‘ang-si-yü-ki was the result. 1
Hiuen-tsang went to Ch‘ang-an (Si-an-fu) to translate, and was assisted by twelve monks. Nine others were appointed to revise the composition. Some who had learned Sanscrit also joined him in the work. On presenting a series of translations to the emperor, he wrote a preface to them; and at the request of Hiuen-tsang issued an edict that five new monks should be received in every convent in the empire. The convents then amounted to 3716. The losses of Buddhism from the persecutions to which it had been exposed were thus repaired.
At the emperor's instance, Hiuen-tsang now corrected the translation of the celebrated Sutra Kin-kang-pat-nia-pa-la-mi-ta-king (in Sanscrit, Vajra-chedika-prajna-para-mita Sutra). Two words were added to the title which Kumarajiva had omitted. The new title read Neng-twan-kin, etc. The name of the city Shravasti was spelt with five characters instead of two. The new translation of this work did not supplant the old one—that of Kumarajiva. The latter is at the present day the most common, except the "Daily Prayers," of all books in the Buddhist temples and monasteries, and is in the hands of almost every monk.
This work contains the germ of the larger compilation Prajna paramita in one hundred and twenty volumes. The abstractions of Buddhist philosophy, which were afterwards ramified to such a formidable extent as these numbers indicate, are here found in their primary form probably, as they were taught by Shakyamuni himself. The translation of the larger work was not completed till A.D. 661. That Hiuen-tsang, as a translator, was a strong literalist, may be inferred from the fact, that when he was meditating on the propriety of imitating Kumarajiva, who omitted repetitions and superfluities, in so large a work as this, he was deterred by a dream from the idea, and resolved to give the one hundred and twenty volumes entire, in all their wearisome reiteration of metaphysical paradoxes.
Among the new orthographies that he introduced was that of Bi-ch‘u for Bi-k‘u, "Mendicant disciple," and of Ba-ga-vam instead of But for "Buddha." This spelling nearly coincides with that of the Nepaulese Sanscrit, Bhagavat. In the Pali versions he is called "Gautama," which is a patronymic, in Chinese, Go-dam. Ba-ga-vam is used in the Sutra Yo-sï-lieu-li-kwang-ju-lai-kung-te-king. Modern reprints of Hiuen-tsang's translation of the Shastras called Abhidharma, are found in a fragmentary and worm-eaten state in many of the larger Buddhist temples near Shanghai and elsewhere at the present time. He lived nineteen years after his return, and spent nearly the whole of that time in translating. He completed 740 works, in 1335 books. Among them were three works on Logic, viz., Li-men-lun, In-ming-lun, In-ming-shu-kiai. Among other works that he brought to China, were treatises on Grammar, Shing-ming-lun and Pe-ye-kie-la-nan, and a Lexicon, Abhidharma Kosha. 1
The modern Chinese editor of the "Description of Western Countries" complains of its author's superstition. Anxiety to detail every Buddhist wonder has been accompanied by neglect of the physical features of the countries that came under review. Here, says the critic, he cannot be compared with Ngai Ju-lio (Julius Aleni, one of the early Jesuits) in the Chih-fang-wai-ki (a well-known geographical work by that missionary). In truthfulness this work is not equal, he tells us, to the "Account of Buddhist kingdoms" by Fa-hien, but it is written in a style much more ornamental. The extensive knowledge, he adds, of Buddhist literature possessed by Hiuen - tsang himself, and the elegant style of his assistants, make the book interesting, so that, though it contains not a little that is false, the reader does not go to sleep over it.
The life and adventures of Hiuen-tsang have been made the basis of a long novel, which is universally read at the present time. It is called the Si-yeu-ki or Si-yeu-chen-ts‘euen. The writer, apparently a Tauist, makes unlimited use of the two mythologies—that of his own religion and that of his hero—as the machinery of his tale. He has invented a most eventful account of the birth of Hiuen-tsang. It might have been supposed that the wild romance of India was unsuited to the Chinese taste, but our author does not hesitate to adopt it. His readers become familiar with all those imaginary deities, whose figures they see in the Buddhist temples, as the ornaments of a fictitious narrative. The hero, in undertaking so distant and dangerous a journey to obtain the sacred books of Buddhism, and by translating them into his native tongue, to promote the spread of that superstition among his countrymen, is represented as the highest possible example of the excellence at which the Buddhist aims. The effort and the success that crowns it, are identified with the aspiration of the Tauist after the elixir of immortality; the hermit's elevation to the state of Buddha, and the translation of those whose hearts have been purified by meditation and retirement, to the abodes of the genii.
The sixth emperor of the T‘ang dynasty was too weak to rule. Wu, the emperor's mother, held the reins of power, and distinguished herself by her ability and by her cruelties.
In the year 690 a new Buddhist Sutra, the Ta-yün-king, "Great cloud Sutra," was presented to her. It stated that she was Maitreya, the Buddha that was to come, and the ruler of the Jambu continent. She ordered it to be circulated through the empire, and bestowed public offices on more than one Buddhist priest.
Early in the eighth century, the Confucianists made another effort to bring about a persecution of Buddhism. In 714, Yen Ts’ung argued that it was pernicious to the state, and appealed for proof to the early termination of those dynasties that had favoured it. In carrying out an edict then issued, more than 12,000 priests and nuns were obliged to return to the common world. Casting images, writing the sacred books, and building temples, were also forbidden.
At this time some priests are mentioned as holding public offices in the government. The historians animadvert on this circumstance, as one of the monstrosities accompanying a female reign.
About the beginning of the same century, Hindoos were employed to regulate the national calendar. The first mentioned is Gaudamara, whose method of calculation was called Kwang-tse-li, "The calendar of the bright house." It was used fur three years only. A better-known Buddhist astronomer of the same nation was Gaudamsiddha. By imperial command he translated from Sanscrit, the mode of astronomical calculation called Kien-chï-shu. It embraced the calculation of the moon's course and of eclipses. His calendar of this name was adopted for a few years, when it was followed in A.D. 721 by that of the well-known Yih-hing, a Chinese Buddhist priest, whose name holds a place in the first rank of the native astronomers. The translations of Gaudamsiddha are contained in the work called K‘ai-yuen-chan-king, a copy of which was discovered accidentally, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, inside an image of Buddha. It has been cut in wood more than once since that time. The part translated from Sanscrit is but a small portion of the work. The remainder is chiefly astrological. Among other things, there is a short notice of the Indian arithmetical notation, with its nine symbols and a dot for a cipher. There was nothing new in this to the countrymen of Confucius, so far as the principle of decimal notation was concerned; but it is interesting to us, whose ancestors did not obtain the Indian numerals till several centuries after this time. The Arabs learned them in the eighth century, and transmitted them slowly to Europe. Among the earlier Buddhist translations, a book is mentioned under the title of Brahmanical Astronomy," P‘o-lo-men-t‘ien-wen, in twenty chapters. It was translated in the sixth century by Daluchi, a native of the Maleya kingdom. Another is Ba-la-men-gih-ga-sien-jen-t‘ien-wen-shwo, "An Account of Astronomy by the Brahman Gigarishi." 1
The date of these translations, mentioned in the "History of the Sui dynasty," can be no later than the sixth century or very early in the seventh. The same should be observed of two works on Brahmanical arithmetic, viz., Ba-la-men-swan-fa and Ba-la-men-swan-king, each containing three chapters, and a third on the calculation of the calendar, Ba-la-men-yin-yang-swan-li, in one chapter. All these works, with one or two others given by the same authority, are now hopelessly lost, but the names as they stand in the history unattended by a word of comment, are an irrefragable testimony to the efforts made by the Hindoo Buddhists to diffuse the science and civilisation of their native land. The native mathematicians of the time may have obtained assistance from these sources, or from the numerous Indians who lived in China in the T‘ang dynasty. In the extant arithmetical books composed before the date of these works, examples of calculation are written perpendicularly, like any other writing, but in all later mathematical works they are presented to the eye as we ourselves write them from left to right. The principle by which figures are thus arranged as multiples of ten changing their value with their position, was known to the Chinese from the most ancient times. Their early mode of calculating by counters, imitated more recently in the common commercial abacus, was based on this principle. 1 But it does not appear that they employed it to express arithmetical processes in writing before the Hindoos began to translate mathematical treatises into the language.
The next notice of Buddhism in the history is after several decades of years. The emperor Su-tsung, in A.D. 760, showed his attachment for Buddhism by appointing a ceremonial for his birthday, according to the ritual of that religion. The service was performed in the palace, the inmates of which were made to personate the Buddhas and Bodhisattwas, while the courtiers worshipped round them in a ring.
The successor of this emperor, T‘ai-tsung, was still more devoted to the superstitions of Buddhism, and was seconded by his chief minister of state and the general of his army. A high stage for reciting the classics was erected by imperial command, and the "Sutra of the Benevolent King," Jen-wang-king, chanted there and explained by the priests.
This book was brought in a state carriage, with the same parade of attendant nobles and finery as in the case of the emperor leaving his palace. Two public buildings were ordered to be taken down to assist in the erection and decoration of a temple built by Yü Chau-shï, the general, and named Chang-king-sï. A remonstrance, prepared on the occasion by a Confucian mandarin, stated that the wise princes of antiquity secured prosperity by their good conduct—not by prayers and offerings. The imperial ear was deaf to such arguments. The reasoning of those who maintained that misfortune could be averted and happiness obtained by prayer was listened to with much more readiness. Tae-tsung maintained many monks, and believed that by propitiating the unseen powers who regulate the destinies of mankind, he could preserve his empire from danger at a less cost than that of the blood and treasure wasted on the battle-field. When his territory was invaded, he set his priests to chant their masses, and the barbarians retired. The Confucianist commentary in condemning the confidence thus placed in the prayers of the priests, remarks that to procure happiness or prevent misery after death, by prayers or any other means, is out of our power, and that the same is true of the present life. One of those who had great influence over the emperor was a Singhalese priest named "Amogha," Pu-k‘ung, 1 "Not empty," who held a high government office, and was honoured with the first title of the ancient Chinese nobility. Monasteries and monks now multiplied fast under the imperial favour. In the year 768, at the full moon of the seventh month, an offering bowl for feeding hungry ghosts was brought in state by the emperor's command from the palace, and presented to the Chang-king-sï temple. This is an allusion to a superstition still practised in the large Buddhist monasteries. Those who have been so unhappy as to be born into the class of ngo-kwei, or "hungry spirits," at the full moon of the seventh month, have their annual repast. The priests assemble, recite prayers for their benefit, and throw out rice to the four quarters of the world, as food for them. The ceremony is called Yü-lan-hwei (ulam), "the assembly for saving those who have been overturned." It is said to have been instituted by Shakyamuni, who directed Moginlin, one of his disciples, to make offerings for the benefit of his mother, she having become a ngo-kwei.
The emperor Hien-tsung, A.D. 819, sent mandarins to escort a bone of Buddha to the capital. He had been told that it was opened to view once in thirty years, and when this happened it was sure to be a peaceful and prosperous year. It was at Fung-siang fu, in Shen-si, and was to be reopened the next year, which would afford a good opportunity for bringing it to the palace. It was brought accordingly, and the mandarins, court ladies, and common people vied with each other in their admiration of the relic. All their fear was, lest they should not get a sight of it, or be too late in making their offerings.
On this occasion Han Yü, or Han Wen-kung, presented a strongly-worded remonstrance to the emperor, entitled Fo-ku-piau, "Memorial on the bone of Buddha." He was consequently degraded from his post as vice-president of the Board of punishments, and appointed to be prefect of Chau-cheu, in the province of Canton. A heavier punishment would have been awarded him, had not the courtiers represented the propriety of allowing liberty of speech, and succeeded in mitigating the imperial anger.
In this memorial he appealed first to antiquity, arguing that the empire was more prosperous and men's lives were longer before Buddhism was introduced than after. After the Han dynasty, when the Indian priests arrived, the dynasties all became perceptibly shorter in duration, and although Liang Wu-ti was on the throne thirty-eight years, he died, as was well known, from starvation, in a monastery to which he had retired for the third time. 1 The writer then pleads to Hien-tsung the example of his predecessor, the first Tang emperor, and the hope that he himself had awakened in the minds of the literati by his former restrictions on Buddhism, that he would tread in his steps. He had now commanded Buddha's bone to be escorted to the palace. This could not be because he himself was ensnared into the belief of Buddhism. It was only to gain the hearts of the people by professed reverence for that superstition. None who were wise and enlightened believed in any such thing. It was a foreign religion. The dress of the priests, the language of the books, the moral code, were all different from those of China. Why should a decayed bone, the filthy remains of a man who died so long before, be introduced to the imperial residence? He concluded by braving the vengeance of Buddha. If he had any power and could inflict any punishment, he was ready to bear it himself to its utmost extent. This memorial has ever since been a standard quotation with the Confucianists, when wishing to expose the pernicious effects of Buddhism. The boldness of its censures on the emperor's superstition, and the character of the writer as one who excelled in beauty of style, have secured it lasting popularity. Among the crowd of good authors whose names adorn the T‘ang dynasty, Han Wen-kung stands first of those who devoted themselves to prose composition. Christian natives in preaching to their countrymen often allude to this document.
Extraordinary superstition provoked extraordinary resistance. The sovereigns of the T‘ang dynasty were so fond of Buddhism that it has passed into a proverb. 2 the year 845 a third and very severe persecution befell the Buddhists. By an edict of the emperor Wu-tsung, 4600 monasteries were destroyed, with 40,000 smaller edifices. The property of the sect was confiscated, and used in the erection of buildings for the use of government functionaries. The copper of images and bells was devoted to casting cash. More than 260,000 priests and nuns were compelled to return to common employments. The monks of Wu-t‘ai, in Shan-si, near T'ai-yuen fu, fled to "Yen-cheu" (now Peking), in Pe-chi-li, where they were at first taken under the protection of the officer ill charge, but afterwards abandoned to the imperial indignation.
At this place there was a collection of five monasteries, constituting together the richest Buddhist establishment in the empire. There is a legend connected with this spot, which says that Manjusiri, one of the most celebrated of the secondary divinities of Buddhism, has frequently appeared in this mountain retreat, especially as an old man. By the Northern Buddhists "Manjusiri," Wen-shu-shï-li (in old Chinese, Men-ju-si-li), is scarcely less honoured than the equally fabulous Bodhisattwa, Kwan-shï-yin. The chief seat of his worship in China is the locality in Shan-si just alluded to, where he is regarded like P‘u-hien in Sï-ch‘wen and Kwan-yin at P‘u-to the Buddhist sacred island, as the tutelary deity of the region. Wen-shu p‘u-sa, as he is called, differs from his fellow Bodhisattwas in being spoken of in some Sutras as if he were an historical character. On this there hangs some doubt. His image is a common one in the temples of the sect.
The emperor Wu-tsung died a few months afterwards. Siuen-tsung, who followed him, commenced his reign by reversing the policy of his predecessor in reference to Buddhism. Eight monasteries were reared in the metropolis, and the people were again permitted to take the vows of celibacy and retirement from the world. Soon afterwards the edifices of idolatry that had been given over to destruction were commanded to be restored. The Confucian historian expresses a not very amiable regret at the shortness of the persecution. Those of the Wei and Cheu emperors had been continued for six and seven years, while in this case it was only for a year or two that the profession of Buddhism was made a public crime.
A memorial was presented to the emperor a few years after by Sun Tsiau, complaining that the support of the Buddhist monks was an intolerable burden on the people, and praying that the admission of new persons might be prohibited. The prayer was granted.
The line of the patriarchs had terminated a little before the period which this narrative has now reached, and the most influential leader of the Chinese Buddhists was Matsu, who belonged to the order of Ch‘an-shï, 1 one of the three divisions of Buddhist monks. As such, he followed the system taught by Bodhidharma, which consisted in abstraction of the mind from all objects of sense, and even its own thoughts. He addressed his disciples in the following words, "You all believe that the 'mind' (sin) itself is 'Buddha' (intelligence). Bodhidharma came to China, and taught the method of the heart, that you might be enlightened. He brought the Lenga Sutra, exhibiting the true impression of the human mind as it really is, that you might not allow it to become disordered. Therefore that book has but one subject, the instructions of Buddha concerning the mind. The true method is to have no method. Out of the mind there is no Buddha. Out of Buddha there is no mind. Virtue is not to be sought, nor vice to be shunned. Nothing should be looked upon as pure or polluted. To have a sensation of an object is nothing but to become conscious of the mind's own activity. The mind does not know itself, because it is blinded by the sensations." He was asked, by what means excellence in religion should be attained? He replied, "Religion does not consist in the use of means. To use means is fatal to the attainment of the object." Then what, he was again asked, is required to be done in order to religious advancement? "Human nature in itself," he said, "is sufficient for its own wants. All that is needed is to avoid both vice and virtue. He that can do this is a 'religious man' (sieu-tau-jen)."
These extracts indicate that a great change had taken place in the popular teaching of Buddhism. In the first centuries of its history in China, retribution and the future life were most insisted on. But the tenets of Bodhidharma, who aimed to restore what he considered the true doctrine of Buddha, gradually diffused themselves and became the most powerful element in the system. The consequence was a less strong faith in the future life.
I-tsung, who ascended the throne A.D. 860, was devoted to the study of the Buddhist books. Priests were called in to discourse on their religion in the private apartments of his palace, and the monasteries were frequently honoured with the imperial presence. He was memorialised in vain by the Confucian mandarins, who represented that Tauism, speaking as it did of mercy and moderation, and the original religion of China, of which the fundamental principles were benevolence and rectitude, were enough for China, and the emperor should follow no other. This emperor practised writing in Sanscrit characters, and chanted the classics in the originals according to the musical laws of the land from which they came. Nothing could be more irritating to rigid conservatives, who hated everything foreign and lived to glorify Confucius, than to hear such sounds issuing from the imperial apartments. In this reign another bone of Buddha was brought to the palace. When it arrived the emperor went out to meet it, and prostrated himself on the ground before it, weeping while he uttered the "invocation of worship" (namo). The ceremonies were on a scale even greater than at the annual sacrifice to Heaven and Earth. Similar scenes occurred at about the same time in the West, when European kings were not ashamed to honour the relics of Christian romance, just as their contemporaries in the far East revered those of the equally luxuriant imagination of Buddhism. No one in the West, however, raised so loud a voice of warning against these superstitions as the Confucian mandarins at the court of Ch‘ang-an.
Among the foreign Buddhists who took up their residence in China in the first T‘ang dynasty was Bodhiruchi. He translated the Hwa-yen and Pau-tsih Sutras. Lenga, a second, came from the north of the Ts’ung-ling mountains; others from India. The usual story of these wanderers was that they were the sons of kings, and had resigned their title to the crown to free themselves from worldly cares, and cultivate the heart. These tales may have been true, but they should not be repeated too often, for fear of exciting suspicion in the mind of the reader. More than one of these ci-devant princes adopted the profession of rainmaker at the Chinese court, and saved the country from drought for a considerable period. On one occasion the emperor was assured that it would rain when certain images opened their eyes. After three days the images showed the same willingness to gratify the expectation of their worshippers as have those of another religion, and the prophecy was fulfilled.
Pu-k‘ung, already mentioned, came from Ceylon. 1 As he was travelling, a herd of elephants rushed towards him. He sat quietly on the way side. The elephants all knelt down before him and retired. When he came to China, he produced, it is said, a great reformation of manners in court and country, and was reverenced as a divinity. If judged by his works, 2 however, consisting of unintelligible charms with pictures of many Bodhisattwas, he brought a grosser superstition than before. His book of directions for calling hungry spirits to be fed, by magical arrangements of the fingers, delineations of Sanscrit characters and such like means, vindicates for him the unenviable honour of being the chief promoter of Buddhist fetishism in China. From Sin-la, a kingdom now forming part of Corea, some priests also came. One of these, named Wu-leu, was retained by the emperor Hiuen-tsung, with Pu-k‘ung, to pray for the imperial and national prosperity. When he approached his end he rose in the air a foot high, and so died. 3
At this time some priests came from Japan, bringing ten of the monastic dresses denominated Sanghali, as presents to those in China who should best deserve them. Lan-chin praised the gift as evidence of the advancement made by the donors in the knowledge and dispositions of the true Buddhist. He determined to go to Japan, and after a tempestuous voyage he arrived there. The king came out to meet him, and assigned him a residence. From him the Japanese received their first instructions in the Discipline of Buddhism, or the rules of the monastic life.
Under the Later T‘ang dynasty a native priest of Wu-t‘ai, observing the mode in which the foreign Buddhists obtained their influence, felt a wish to share with them in the dominion of the atmosphere. He gave out that the dragon of the sky was obedient to him, and that wind and rain came at his call. The emperor and empress prostrated themselves before him, and he did not think it necessary to rise in their presence. Unfortunately a long drought arrived, and his prayers were unavailing to bring it to a termination. Enraged at his want of success, some proposed to burn him, but he was permitted to return home, and died of disappointment.
The last emperor of this short dynasty was much under the influence of Ajeli, a foreigner at Fung-siang, in Shen-si. He was memorialised by an officer of his court, on the subject of instituting examinations for those who wished to adopt the Buddhist life of reading and retirement. The monks and nuns should both be examined in the "Shastras" (Lun), the "Sutras" (King), and the daily duties of the monastery. In the same way he recommended that those who aspired to become Tauist priests should be examined in the literature of that sect. The emperor assented to these propositions. His successor of the Later Tsin dynasty distributed favours and titles very freely among the professors of the two faiths, and, as was natural, foreign priests, with teeth and other relics of Buddha, continued to arrive.
A little later a prince of the Cheu family and the immediate predecessor of the founder of the Sung dynasty, placed severe restrictions on Buddhism, and prohibited all temples except those that had received an inscribed tablet from former emperors. More than thirty thousand of these buildings were in consequence suppressed by edict; 2694 temples were retained. The same edict prohibited the monks and lay Buddhists from cutting off their hands and feet, burning their fingers, suspending lighted lamps by hooks inserted into the flesh, and from carrying pincers in a similar manner. "Let us not smile," says Mr. Watters, "at these self-imposed tortures, unless we can also weep to think that similar tortures have been practised by the followers of Jesus—not only by individuals on their own bodies, but also upon those of their fellows."
T‘ai-tsu, the first emperor of the Sung family (A.D. 964), sent messengers to persuade his contemporary of the house of T‘ang not to show such devotion to Buddhist superstitions as he had done. The latter took the remonstrance in good part, and ceased to look with his former regard on the crowd of priests that frequented his capital. T‘ai-tsung, the second in the new succession, stopped the public examinations of candidates for monk's orders. He was an enemy to the delusions which he saw to be so popular among his subjects. Hearing that wood was being collected to form a death pyre for a priest who had determined to burn himself, he thought it was time to act, and issued an edict forbidding new temples. He changed his policy a few years after; for the history of the time relates the erection by his command of a pagoda 360 Chinese feet in height. It was completed in eight years, and relics of Buddha were deposited in it. A short notice of this class of structures will be here introduced.
The number of pagodas in China is very great. There are nine within thirty miles of Shanghai. When complete and well situated, the pagoda is without dispute the most ornamental edifice to be seen in this Eastern world. Perhaps no more beautiful single object could be added by the hand of man to hill and wood scenery. At Lo-yang, in the Tsin dynasty (A.D. 350), there were forty-two, from three to nine stories high, richly painted, and formed after Indian models. The word t‘a (formerly t‘ap), now in universal use, has displaced the older names feu-t‘u (budu) and fo-t‘u (buddu). The original purpose of the edifice was to deposit relics of Buddha. These relics might be a hair, tooth, metamorphosed piece of bone, article of dress, or rice vessel. When the bodies of deceased Bodhisattwas and other revered persons were burnt, the remains were placed in structures which received the same name, t‘upa or st‘upa, and it is these that have been described by travellers, in Afghanistan and other regions where Buddhism formerly prevailed, as topes.
"When there is no 'relic'" (she-li; in Sanscrit, sharira), says the cyclopædia Fa-yuen-chu-lin, "the building is called chi-ti" (in Sanscrit, chaitya), and it may be intended to commemorate the birthplace of Buddha, the spot where he became enlightened, where he taught, or where he entered into the Nirvâna. Footsteps of Buddha, an image of a Bodhisattwa or of a Pratyeka Buddha, are also honoured with the erection of a chi-ti.
When pagodas are without relics and unconnected with any legend, their erection must be attributed to reasons founded on the Chinese "geomancy" (feng-shui). These buildings are supposed to have a very important and happy influence on the districts in which they are situated. The charity of the contributors is also believed to be repaid in riches, longevity, and forgiveness of sins, as in the case of all Chinese almsgiving.
Most of the existing pagodas date from the time at which our narrative has now arrived. Those built in the T‘ang and previous dynasties have many of then fallen a prey to the ruinous hand of time; while more recently the diminished favour which those possessing wealth and power have extended to Buddhism has caused an entire cessation of pagoda building, except when old ones were to be restored.
In the tenth century, 1 the royal family of the Min kingdom, bearing the surname Wang, were very much devoted to Buddhism. To them the city of Foochow owes the two pagodas which adorn it. The king admitted ten thousand persons to the vows in A.D. 940.
Anything that is precious in the eyes of the Buddhist devotee may be deposited in these structures. One was erected by the emperor for the preservation of the newly-arrived Sanscrit books at the request of Hiuen-tsang, lest they should be injured for want of care. It was 180 feet high, had five stories with grains of she-li (relics) in the centre of each, and contained monuments inscribed with the prefaces written by the emperor and prince royal to Hiuen-tsang's translations.
The great expense of large Buddhist structures sometimes led the more self-confident of the priests to rash resolutions. On one occasion a monk of T‘ien-t‘ai, a large and ancient establishment to the south of Ningpo, professed to the emperor his wish to commit himself to the flames when the erection of a certain temple was completed. His desire was granted, and an officer sent to see that the temple was built and the feat carried into execution. The pile was made and the priest called on to come forward. He excused himself, but in vain. He looked round on the assembled crowd for some one to save him; among priests and people, however, none offered to help the trembling victim of his own folly. The stern voice of the imperial messenger bade him ascend the pile. He still lingered, and was at length seized by the attendants, placed forcibly on the pile and burnt.
The conduct of the emperors towards Buddhism was then, as it has been more recently, very inconsistent. Favour was shown to priests, while occasional edicts were issued intended to check the progress of the system. The emperors gratified their private feelings by gorgeous erections for the practice of idolatry, while they paid a tribute to the Confucian prejudices of the literati by denouncing the religion in public proclamations.
In the reign of Chen-tsung, a favourer of Buddhism, a priest from India is mentioned as translating the "Sutra of Good Fortune," Fo-ki-siang-king, and other works, to the number of more than two hundred chapters.
Jen-tsung, in A.D. 1035, made an effort to preserve the knowledge of Sanscrit literature by appointing fifty youths to study it. A few years earlier, it is said in a notice of Fa-t‘ien-pen, a native of "Magadha" (B1har), in India, that he was assisted in translating the Wu-liang-sheu-king, the "Sutra of Boundless Age," and other works, by a native of China familiar with Sanscrit. These facts have a bearing on the possible existence of Sanscrit manuscripts in China. One old manuscript only has yet been discovered, in South China, in that mode of writing. Occasionally a few specimen characters are introduced in native works where foreign alphabets are treated of. 1 In an account of the Kwo-ts‘ing monastery in the "History of T‘ien-t‘ai-shan" it is said that a single work was saved from a fire there several centuries ago, which was written on the pei-to (patra), or "palm" leaf of India. A visit to T‘ien-t‘ai—a spot abounding in Buddhist antiquities, the earliest, and except P‘u-to, the largest and richest seat of that religion in Eastern China—by myself and two companions led to the discovery that this work is still there, but in the Kau-ming monastery, and that it is written in the Sanscrit character. I had a copy made which was sent to Professor Wilson; but the work of the copyist was found to be too incorrect to admit of its being read. T‘ien-t‘ai is about fifty miles south of Ningpo, and is celebrated for its beautiful scenery. As a monastic establishment it dates from the fourth century, while P‘u-to is no earlier than the tenth. In the province of Che-kiang, where maritime and hill scenery are so luxuriantly combined, the picturesque homes of the Buddhist monks are clustered together more thickly, it would seem, than anywhere else. Like their English contemporaries whose mode of life was in many points so similar, they knew well how to choose spots where the rich landscape spread before their eyes would be some compensation for their banishment from social enjoyments. They were quite as inventive too in peopling the woods and rocks where they selected their place of retirement with supernatural visitors, whose rank or good deeds lent a mysterious sanctity to the place where traces of their presence were observed. And they framed with equal facility marvellous legends to form a ground for erecting temples in honour of the hero thus endowed with an imaginary immortality. The Bodhisattwas and "Arhans" (Lo-han) of Oriental religious fiction, correspond to the saints and martyrs venerated in the West. Those who chose the situations of many of the large Buddhist establishments must have had an eye for the loveliness of nature. The ignorant and unreflecting class of priests now usually met with, whose aim is no higher than to count beads, to chant the classics, and to perform the genuflexions according to rule, must not be taken as examples of the earlier race of Buddhist monks. There was in the flourishing days of Buddhism more devotion to the system, and a much better appreciation of its nature, than at present. It was quite in keeping with a more sincere belief in the religion, to choose beautiful solitudes high among hills for the practice of its rites, and to spare no expense in constructing appropriate edifices in the most magnificent style of Chinese architecture. It is only by supposing sincere attachment to the principles of the system, that cases of self-destruction by fire in imitation of the ancient Hindoo practice can be accounted for. History says that the emperor Jen-tsung, having as a high mark of favour introduced into the standard edition of Buddhist books some works by the priests of T‘ien-t‘ai, one of the monks performed this terrible feat to show his gratitude for the emperor's goodness. Another prevailing motive in uniting the utmost attainable beauty in nature and art, was undoubtedly the desire to produce popular effect, and to provide attractions for the rich and the superstitious when they went on a religious pilgrimage.
Among these spots none in all China is more famous than the island of P‘u-to, to the east of Chusan. It was about A.D. 915 that it was taken possession of by the Buddhists, not many years before the time this narrative has reached. It is dedicated to "Kwan-shï-yin," a name translated from the Sanscrit Avalokiteshwara. P‘u-hien (Samantabhadra), another fictitious Bodhisattwa, is honoured in a similar way at O-mei Shan, in Sï-ch‘wen. At Kieu-hwa, in An-hwei, a little westward of Ch‘ï-cheu fu, Ti-tsang another of the great Bodhisattwas, is honoured with special worship. The fourth and last of these establishments, the great gathering-places of the followers of Julai, is that of "Manjusiri" (Wen-shu p‘u-sa) at Wu-t‘ai in Shan-si, already referred to. The name "P‘u-to" (P‘u-ta) is the same as that known in Indian ancient geography as "Potala" or "Potaraka" (P‘u-ta-lo-kia). Kwan-shï-yin is said in the Hwa-yen-king to have taught the Buddhist doctrines on that island. The original island was situated in the Southern sea of Indian geographers, and P‘u-to is therefore denominated Nan-hai p‘u-to (the P‘u-to of the Southern sea). Through the Sung and Yuen dynasties buildings were added till they grew to their present magnitude. The number of priests from all parts of China who visit this sacred island is immense. 1
The residents, however, are not so numerous as at T‘ien-t‘ai. T‘ien-t‘ai was at this time become famous for the origination of a new school. The works by Chinese authors mentioned above as placed parallel with the translations from Sanscrit, consisted of the productions of this school called Chï-kwan-hio or T‘ien-t‘ai-kiau. The common book of prayers, Ta-pei-ts‘an, has the same origin. The object of this new school was to combine contemplation with image worship. While the regulations for kneeling and chanting by several persons in unison are most complicated and minute, the operators aim to fix their thoughts on certain objects of devotion. This system differs from Bodhidharma's school of pure mental abstraction, by adding to devotional thoughts the helps of the senses. The tawdry gaiety of the idols, the union of many persons under the direction of a time-keeper in kneeling and standing, mute thought and loud recitation, it was believed would have a highly useful influence, when combined with an intense effort after pure religious meditation. The union of these two elements was intended to be a great improvement on the previous methods. The first Buddhist worship had made no express provision for the meditative faculties, and it had in consequence degenerated into the driest of forms. The common ceremonial of the sect at the present time exemplifies it, exhibiting as it does postures devoid of all reverence and lifeless repetitions of foreign words destitute of all emotion. The founder of this new system, Chï-k‘ai, lived at T‘ien-t‘ai in the latter half of the sixth century. It was not till after more than four centuries that the principal writings of the school he established were included among the standard books of Buddhism. The title by which he is known is T‘ien-t‘ai-chï-che. The ceremonial thus introduced still maintains its reputation, and is practised by those who wish to infuse a deeper feeling into the service of the religion than is aimed at by the every-day worshippers of Buddha.
These changing forms of Chinese Buddhism—and there are others that will subsequently be described—are facts not without significance for the religious history of mankind, that most interesting chapter in the chronicle of our race. Human nature, true to itself, will run the same round of varieties in connection with religions most different in their origin, principles, and geographical situation. Christianity has been greatly affected in the form that it has assumed in successive ages by the operation of the natural religious feelings inherent in man, which are the parents of all superstition and are independent of the new spiritual life bestowed by Divine power. This fact, which is clearly exhibited in Church history, renders the historical comparison between Christianity and other religions a possible one. The monastic institute, for example, which began in Buddhism, as its earliest books show, with Shakyamuni the founder of the religion, was in Christianity an innovation originating in the desire felt by many to engage constantly in religious contemplation, without being interrupted by the cares of secular life. In the history of both religions there have been leading minds that have elevated contemplation at the expense of external forms. Others have sought by sensible representations alone to call the religious feelings into action. Minds of a third class have combined the two. But when Buddhism proceeds to the negation of all thought, action, and individual existence, the parallel fails, for though philosophy has intruded frequently and extensively into the battle-field of Christianity, it has never been attempted to construct a new religious life on such a basis of philosophy as this. Philosophical scepticism in the West has been confined to the safer regions of speculation, without being brought, as Buddhism has tried to bring it, to a practical form. 1 Another subdivision of the Buddhist schools into Tsung-men and Kiau-men may be best characterised by using the terms esoteric and exoteric to distinguish them. The first of the former entered China when the patriarch Bodhidharma brought the traditional symbol, called in Chinese cheng-fa-yen-tsung, and the school he established is its highest kind. The magical formulæ cheu (dharani) also belong to esoteric Buddhism. These childish productions are as destitute of meaning in their original Sanscrit as they are in their transferred Chinese form, but all sorts of miracles are believed to be wrought by them. The classics and books of prayers, with the other parts of the literature, belong to exoteric Buddhism, which also embraces all rules for life and worship. For this classification the native terms in use are hien, "open," and mi, "secret."
The despotic nature of the Chinese government has been often shown in its treatment of religions. When persecution has not been resorted to, the right of interference in the internal regulations of Buddhism and Tauism has been often assumed. Thus the Sung emperor, Shen-tsung, ordered many of the "temples" denominated sï to be changed into the "monasteries" called ch‘an-yuen, for the use of the monks who followed the system of Bodhidharma. His successor issued a similar decree. In 1119, Hwei-tsung, advised by Lin Ling-su, commanded the title of Buddha to be changed to one like those of the Tauist genii. He was to be styled Ta-kio-kin-sien, in which kio, to "perceive," is a translation of the word Buddha, and kin, i.e., "golden," represents the substance of which his image is supposed to be formed. The other Indian titles were also ordered to be abandoned. The "priests," instead of being known as seng, were to be called te-shï, "virtuous scholars." The "temples," sï, and "monasteries," yuen, were to receive the designations kung, "palace," and kwan, "monastery," terms in use among the Tauists. This futile attempt to amalgamate the two religions was abandoned the following year.
The two brother philosophers, C‘heng, in the city of Lo-yang, set themselves against the Buddhist burial rites. But an admirer compared them to the rock in the middle of a torrent, which can retard but for a moment the progress of the impetuous stream.
Sï-ma Wen-kung wrote soon after that men need not practise burial rites for deliverance from hell, because neither heaven nor hell are to be expected. The body decays at death, and the spirit flies off, carried away by a puff of wind.—(See Watters.)
At that time, as at the present day, Buddhist priests were invited by rich persons to go through a ritual for the dead. The follower of Confucius engages priests from both the other sects without scruple to offer prayers, in whose efficacy he does not believe, for the souls of deceased relatives. By the Oriental, sincerity and independence in religious belief are without difficulty subordinated to the outward show of respect which is felt to be necessary while it is unreal. When, as death approached, a certain mandarin prohibited the employment of Buddhist priests at his funeral, the incident is commemorated as something remarkable. In justification of himself he quoted the saying of an author, "That if there were no heaven there was no need to seek it; and that if there were, good men would certainly go there. If there were no hell there was no need to fear it; and if there were, bad men would go there."
In the times of Buddhist prosperity persons received from the emperor a written permission to become ho-shang 1 or "monks." When this practice was abandoned, as by Kau-tsung, one of the emperors who reigned at Hang-cheu, A.D. 1143, the higher members of the Buddhist hierarchy undertook to distribute the usual certificates of membership in the order. Thus the aim of the emperor, who had argued that for want of imperial patronage the inmates of the monasteries would be thinned in numbers, until death effected what former emperors had sought to accomplish by persecution, was frustrated. When the neophyte visits the chief monk at some monastery, in order to go through the ceremonies of initiation, an indentation is usually burnt in at the top of his shaven head, and a new one is made at every repetition of the visit. A priest is proud to show these marks of distinction, arranged in a square on his naked cranium, as testifying to the self-denial he has practised in attaining his position.
There are various evidences of the continued influence of Indian Buddhism on that of China at this comparatively late period. The "History of the Sung Dynasty," in its account of India, details the arrival in A.D. 951 of Samanta, a monk, with a large party of companions from Western India, belonging to sixteen families. In 965 a Chinese priest, named Tau-yuen, returned from a journey to the Western countries with relics and Sanscrit copies of Buddhist books written on the "palm-leaf" (pei-to) to the number of forty volumes. He was absent twelve years, and resided in India itself half of that time. He returned by the usual route round the north-west of the great mountain mass denominated Ts’ung-ling. He gave an account of his travels to the emperor on his return, and showed him the Sanscrit books. The next year 157 Chinese priests set out together, with the emperor's permission, to visit India and obtain Buddhist books. They passed through Pu-lu-sha and "Cashmere" (Ka-shi-mi-lo), but nothing is said of their further proceedings. During the latter part of the tenth century Sanscrit manuscripts continued to arrive at court in great numbers. On one occasion the son of a king of Eastern India was a visitor. The reason of his abandoning his native land, continues our authority, was that it is customary for the younger sons of a deceased king to leave their eldest brother at home to succeed their father, and themselves become monks. They travel then to other countries and never return. These extracts from the "Sung History" are continued, because they are not only valuable in themselves, but because also there is some uncertainty as to the time when Buddhism was expelled from India, and they may be of assistance in determining that question. In 982 a priest of Western China returned from India with a letter from a king of that country to the emperor. It was translated by an Indian at the imperial command, and contained congratulations on the favour shown in China to Buddhism, together with geographical details on India and adjacent countries. The next year another Chinese monk returned by sea with Buddhist books from India. On his way he met at San-fo-t‘si, a country bordering on Cambodia to the south-west, an Indian who wished to come to China to translate Buddhist books. He was invited by the emperor to engage in so doing. Other traces occur, not seldom in Chinese history, of the presence of Buddhist Indians in the Birmese peninsula, some of them of the Brahman caste. The rising influence of Brahmanism, and the more modern forms of religious belief in India, drove the followers of Shakya, not only into the northern regions, where they spread their system through Thibet and Tartary, and by which many of them found their way to China, but also into the islands and kingdoms that lay on the other side of the Bay of Bengal. A few years later than the last-mentioned date a Chinese, and with him a foreign Buddhist monk, came from the king of Northern India with a letter to the emperor. A Buddhist priest of the Brahman caste, with Aliyin, a Persian of another religion, are also mentioned as coming to the capital. The former, in the account he gives of his native country, mentions Buddhism as the religion favoured by the king. Some came by sea at this time who could not make themselves understood, but the images and books they brought showed that they were Buddhists. Several other arrivals of Hindoos are recorded, and if the books they are said to have presented to the Chinese emperor are still preserved in the state archives, there can be no lack there of Sanscrit manuscripts of Buddhist works.
Though the great mass of Buddhist literature was already translated, additions not a few were made in the Sung and Yuen dynasties, and the whole number of "chapters" (kiuen) raised from 4271 to 4661.
The account given of Kau-ch‘ang (the Ouighour country north-west of China) says that the calendar there used was the one introduced by the Hindoo Buddhists at the court of the T‘ang dynasty in the early part of the eighth century. More than fifty Buddhist temples had monumental tablets presented by emperors of the same dynasty, and, with the collected sacred books of Buddhism, are also preserved the early Chinese dictionaries 1 made with the assistance of the Hindoos. The reader is left to suppose that the Buddhist classics in the language of China were at that time used in the countries beyond its northwestern frontier, as they still are in Japan, Loo-choo, and Corea.
It is added, "Temples of Manes and Persian 'priests' (senga) are also found there, each following his own ritual. These are such as are called in the Buddhist Sutras 'heretics' (wai-tau)." This must be an allusion to the Manicheans, the fire-worshippers, and probably also to the Nestorians, who, on the Si-an inscription, call themselves by the Buddhist term senga in the sense of "priest."
From the extended sketch given of Japanese intercourse with China in the "Sung History," it appears that the object of the majority of the embassies then and previously was a Buddhist one. Monks were the ambassadors; books of that religion, such as were known in Japan only by name, were asked for; remarkable places, like the Wu-t‘ai mountain in Shan-si, were visited; the doctrines of particular sects, such as that of T‘ien-t‘ai, were studied at the spots where they were principally cultivated; travellers like Hiuen-tsang were regarded with veneration, and the books that he intrusted to them, Sutras, Discipline, and Shastras, guarded with especial care. The impression left on the reader's mind by the narrative alluded to is, that the early and constant embassies from Japan were decidedly Buddhistic in their character. Perhaps this arose simply from the fact of the ambassadors having been monks, while some other cause led to the appointment of persons of that profession to the duty. At least, however, it indicates that the Buddhist priests in Japan possessed for a long period great political influence.
Kublai khan, the first Mongol emperor, was strongly attached to Buddhism. The imperial temples, for sacrificing to the objects of Chinese national worship, were converted to Buddhist uses; while Tauism was persecuted, injunctions were issued to all followers of Buddha to chant the sacred books diligently in all the monasteries. When Kublai was recommended by his courtiers to send an army to subjugate Japan, he refused on the ground that it was a country where the precepts of Buddha were honoured. A monk of that sect was sent as ambassador, but the king refused to follow the custom of his ancestor, by sending the tributary offering that pleases oriental vanity, and marks the submissive obedience of an inferior sovereign to his more powerful neighbour. A hundred thousand soldiers were sent to enforce the claim of supremacy over Japan, and their destruction in a storm while crossing the sea thither is a well-known fact of history.
The early attachment of the Mongols to Buddhism appears in the first notices of them in the annals of the dynasty that they overthrew. While they still possessed only the northern parts of China more than one Buddhist monk was appointed to the office of kwo-shï (national instructor). The first of these was Namo, a native of one of the Western kingdoms. Another was Pa-ho-si-pa or "Baschpa," a "Thibetan" (T‘u-fan), who introduced a new alphabet for the use of the Mongols based on that of his own language. It was issued by authority of Kublai khan, but failed to win its way, perhaps because the characters were less simple than the writing taken from the Syriac, which had already been adopted from the Nestorians.
In the reign of the successor of Kublai the historians complain that three thousand taels of gold were set apart to write Buddhist books in gilt letters, and other expenses for this religion were in the same proportion of extravagance. The "Yuen History" describes the politic aims of Kublai in his preference for Buddhism. Becoming sovereign of a country wild and extensive, and a nation intractable and quarrelsome, he resolved, in order to give his native wilderness a civilised aspect, and soften down the natural roughness of his subjects, to form cities on the Chinese model, to appoint mandarins of various ranks, and put the people under the guidance of a public instructor. A priest of Buddha held this post, and he was only subordinate to the chief lay mandarin. His orders were treated with the same respect as the imperial proclamations. When all the state officers were assembled he alone remained seated on the floor in the corner, and he was received at court with the highest honours that could be paid to a subject.
The remarks of Confucianist historians on such things are naturally bitter. It is not according to precedent to praise Buddhism. To censure it is the fashion of the literati. When they wield the historic brush, they deepen the colouring if superstitious emperors and Buddhist successes have to appear on the canvas. What they record of censure they record as a painful duty, and, as often happens when men have a painful duty to perform, they feel more pleasure in the performance than they like to acknowledge.
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, a census was taken by imperial command of the Buddhist temples and monks in China. Of the former, there were reported 42,318, and of the latter, 213,148. Three years after, at the close of Kublai's reign, when a priest came from "Thibet" (Si-fan) to become kwo-shï (national instructor), the emperor, regretting that he could not converse with him, ordered Kalutanasi, a Mongolian, to learn the Thibetan language from him. This task was accomplished in a year, and, says the narrative, the complete translation of the Buddhist Sutras and Shastras, from "Thibetan" (Si-fan), 1 and Sanscrit into Mongolian, and written in Ouighour characters, was presented to the founder of the Yuen dynasty in the year of his death, A.D. 1294. He ordered it to be cut on blocks, and distributed among the kings and great chiefs of his nation. The notices of Buddhism that occur in the reigns of the successive Mongol emperors are extremely numerous, but they belong perhaps more to Mongolian and Thibetan Buddhism than to that of China, and it will be only necessary, therefore, to take a brief review of them. The recitation of the classics was frequently practised in the Thibetan language in the monasteries of the capital at the emperor's command. In 1324 a second record occurs of the translation into Mongolian of the Buddhist books. It merely says that the translation from the Si-fan (Thibetan) language was then made in the "Ouighour" (Wei-ngu-rï) writing. Those who received the highest religious title, that of kwo-shï or ti-shï, "imperial instructor," were foreigners. One of these, Pi-lan-na-shi-li, of the Kan-mu-lu kingdom, learned in his youth the Ouighour and "Sanscrit" (Si-t‘ien, "Western heaven") writing. In 1312 he was ordered by the emperor to translate Buddhist books. From Chinese he translated the Leng-yen-king, a Sutra regarded by the Chinese literati as the best of all the Buddhist books. From Sanscrit he translated four Sutras, and others from Thibetan, in all a thousand "chapters" (kiuen). He was put to death for suspected treason, concerted with the son of the king of the An-si country on the eastern border of Persia. The Mongol emperors continued faithful to their adopted creed during the short continuance of their power in China. It was, as it has continued to be, one of their national institutions. The people accepted the religion that their chiefs appointed for them. While among the Chinese people, Buddhism has frequently had to struggle against direct and indirect hostility from the literary class and the government of the country, the Mongolians have beheld without envy the priests of this religion raised to the highest offices of state, and retaining unquestioned their position as the most influential body in the community.
The immoral pictorial representations introduced in the worship of Shiva were imitated by the Thibetan Buddhists. When brought to one of the Mongolian emperors by a Thibetan priest, he is said to have received them with approbation. The Chinese people were indignant when they heard that such representations were permitted to demoralise the inmates of the imperial palace. At present, although some authors have asserted the contrary, there appear to be no traces of any such practice in Chinese Buddhism, but they are found in the lama temples in Peking.
Curiosity to visit the first home of their religion had not yet entirely forsaken the Chinese Buddhists. Early in this period a Chinese priest named Tau-wu was excited by reading the accounts of Fa-hien and the early Buddhist travellers to try his fortune in a similar undertaking. He passed the Sandy desert, and through the kingdoms of Kui-tsi and Sha-la to Kipin (Cophen). He there learned the original language of the Buddhist books, obtained a Sutra on the admission of Kwan-shi-yin to the Buddhist life, and turning westward proceeded through the country of the Getæ and so into India. He returned by sea to Canton. This, however, is the last record of the kind.
There was no reaction against Buddhism for some time after the overthrow of the Yuen dynasty. Monks of that religion from the countries west of China were still welcomed at court, and decrees were promulgated applauding the beneficial tendencies of the system. When a mandarin ventured to reprove the third Ming emperor on this account, he was silenced by the inquiry, Did he wish to imitate Han Wen-kung? In A.D. 1426 the next occupier of the throne ordered examinations to be instituted for those who wished to become monks. At this time, as had sometimes happened before, the attention of the government was called to the increasing property in land of the monasteries. In 1450 it was forbidden to any monastic establishment to have more than 60 meu (6000 feet square) of land. What was in excess of this was given to the poor to cultivate, they paying taxes to the emperor. Similar acts of interference with the property of the monasteries are recorded in the preceding dynasty. In the sixteenth century, in the time of Kia-tsing, some attempts to revive persecution were made by Confucian memorialists, but all they succeeded in effecting was the destruction of the Buddhist chapel belonging to the palace. High titles were still granted to certain priests who stated that they came from the West. They were called shang-shï, "superior teacher," instead of ti-shï, "imperial teacher," the title given in the Yuen dynasty.
In the latter years of the Ming dynasty, new enemies to Buddhism arrived in China. The Roman Catholic missionaries followed the Mohammedans in protesting against idolatry. The banner of hostility could be raised by Christians with more reason against this religion than against the national one, of which the worship of images forms no part. Matteo Ricci had a controversy with a noted Buddhist priest residing at Hang-cheu. It was with a show of reason pressed upon the Buddhists that if their theory of transmigration were true, it would be wrong to enter into wedlock for fear of marrying one's own father or mother. The Buddhists suggested in reply, that divination would reveal if such were the fact. Sü Kwang-k‘i, Ricci's most illustrious convert, wrote a short tract against Buddhism, in which a few of its principal doctrines are discussed and condemned in a popular style. It is concluded by a chapter against ancestral worship. The work is called P‘i-shih-shï-chu-wang, "The Errors of the Buddhists Exposed."
Of the Manchu emperors, Shun-chï was a friend to Buddhism, and wrote prefaces to some works of the followers of Bodhidharma, but his son K‘ang-hi felt in his later life great repugnance to all religions except the Confucian. His sentiments are recorded in the "Sacred Edict," or Imperial book of moral instructions for the common people.
By insertion in the "Sacred Edict" these opinions have been widely spread, and are extensively approved of to the present time. The author cites the judgment pronounced by Chu Hi, the philosopher and critic of the Sung dynasty, saying that the Buddhists care nothing for heaven or earth, or anything that goes on around them, but attend exclusively each to his single mind. They are then condemned for fabricating groundless tales of future happiness and misery. They are charged with doing this only for gain, and encouraging for the same object the large gatherings of the country population at the temples; ostensibly to burn incense, but really to practise the worst forms of mischief.
Policy has led the Manchu emperors to adopt a very different tone in Mongolia and Thibet. The lamas of those countries are received at Peking with the utmost respect, and care has always been taken to avoid exciting a religious animosity that would be fraught with danger.
At the present time in the parts of China open to foreign observation, each country village has its annual festival, at which thousands assemble from distances of many miles to witness processions of the images, and join in the idolatrous ceremonies to which the day is consecrated. It is the same to the people whether it be a Buddhist or Tauist temple, where the concourse takes place. Their worship and offerings are presented with equal willingness in either, and whatever story is told of the power of any idol they are ready to believe.
The feeling of the educated is different from this. Despising the popular development of Buddhism, as consisting of image worship and procuring for money the protection of powerful unseen beings, they read with interest those of the Buddhist books that have in them a vein of metaphysical thought presented in elegant language. They study Buddhism for the profundity of its ideas, while they continue to adhere to Confucius, as their own chosen teacher in morals and religion. In the wide literature of this system there is room for readers of very various predilections. There are several works of which metaphysical discussion is the prominent feature, and they are read with pleasure by the intelligent, to whom a further attraction is the excellent native style adopted by the scholars who assisted in the translation. Such, for example, are the Kin-kang-king and the Leng-yen-king.
There are, however, not a few sincere Buddhists, chiefly in the middle class of society, who believe that there is a great merit and efficiency in the recitation of the sacred books. They have a higher aim than those who practise the mere burning of incense to secure particular forms of happiness. They engage in the reading of these books or enter on the life of a hermit or monk, hoping to quiet the passions and train the heart to virtue.
Hermits are not uncommonly met with in the vicinity of large Buddhist establishments. They occupy hill-side caves, or a closed apartment, which for a certain term of years they never leave. Their hair is allowed to grow unshorn. Their food is brought them by the monks of a neighbouring monastery. They employ their time in reciting the sacred books, meditation on Buddhist doctrine, care of their cell, and replenishing the incense urn placed before the image of Shakyamuni.
The preceding pages may be regarded as a sketch of the external history of Chinese Buddhism. A notice of the successive schools into which this religion has subdivided itself will now be presented to the reader.
NOTE ON INDIAN SCIENCE AND ART.
The Hindoos borrowed copiously from Babylon and other western countries. If in the eighth and ninth centuries they used what we call the Indian arithmetical notation in giving mathematical instruction to the Chinese, it was because they had already learned it from Babylonian teachers. The decipherment of mathematical inscriptions from Mesopotamia shows that long before the age of David and Solomon this notation was in common use there. So in art the Hindoos copied the Greeks. After Alexander's invasion of India the Hindoos became sculptors. They carved Buddhist friezes by the help of Greek suggestion. Vincent A. Smith says in the volume for 1889 of the Journal of the Bengal Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, that the Hindoos followed Greek prototypes when planning buildings, images, and pillars. This is the reason that the metempsychosis appears somewhat late in Indian literature. It too was of foreign origin.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Discourses of the Ancient Nuns, Bhikkhuni-Samyutta
- The Staus of Buddhist Women in Buddha's Time
- A History of Chinese Buddhism
- The Rock Edicts of King Asoka
- A Record of Fa-hien's Travels to India and Ceylon - Part 1
- A Record of Fa-hien's Travels to India and Ceylon - Part 2
- Chinese Buddhism
- The Jataka Tales
- Maha kassapa, Father of the Buddhist Sangha
- Life and History of Maha Moggallana
- The Mahayana Buddhism - History and Metaphysics
- Readings from the edicts of king Asoka
- Theravada Buddhism Chronology
- The Early Life Of The Buddha
- History Of The Four Buddhist Councils
- History Of Buddhism, Early Period
- History of Buddhism: The Mauryan Period
- History Of Buddhism, The Post Mauryan Period, Reasons For Decline
- Chinese Buddhism
- Mahayana Buddhism
- Schools of Buddhism
- Theravada Buddhism
- Hinduwebsite - the History Section
- The History of Jainism
- Maha-satipatthana Sutta - A Sutra on Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation
- A Short History of Buddhism In Myanmar or Burma
- Life of Sariputta, A Disciple of The Buddha
- The Gospel of the Buddha
- Buddha, Truth and Brotherhood; An Epitome of Many Buddhist Scriptures
88:1 He had the dream in A.D. 61. Eighteen men were sent. They went to the country of the Getæ, bordering on India, and there they met the two Brahmans. They came riding on white horses, with pictures, images, and books; and arrived in A.D. 67. On the thirtieth day of the twelfth month they saw the emperor.
88:2 Ta-hia, in old Chinese Dai-he. It was 207 years earlier that the Dale and Getæ were defeated in battle by Alexander. Dahistan borders on the Caspian, forming the south-east coast of that sea.
89:1 He foretold future events by interpreting the sound of pagoda bells as they were blown by the wind. On one occasion he placed water in an empty flower-pot, and burned incense, when a blue lotus sprang into view in full bloom.
89:2 The syllables Sang-mun are also employed. Shramana means the "quieting of the passions." Sih-sin, "to put the mind at rest," is the Chinese translation of it.
90:1 See the Ts’in history.
91:1 Foĕ kouĕ ki, translated by Remusat; from the preface to which, some of the facts given above are taken. The original work, Fo-kwo-ki, is contained in the collection denominated Shwo-fu, a Ts’ung-shu (selection of extracts and hooks old and new) of the reign of Shun-chï. Also in the Han-wei-ts’ung-shu.
92:1 The common Indian name of "China," written in Chinese Chen-tan, is here employed. Another orthography found in Buddhist books is Chi-na. It is clear from the use of these characters, that the Indians who translated into Chinese at that early period, did not regard the word "China" as the name of a dynasty, but as the proper name of the country to p. 93 which it was applied. This leaves in great uncertainty the usual derivation of the term "China" from the Dzin dynasty, B.C. 250, or that of Ts’in, A.D. 300. The occurrence of the word as the name of a nation in the "Laws of Manu," supposed to date from some time between B.C. 1000 and B.C. 500, with the use of the term "Sinim" in the "Prophecies of Isaiah," indicate a greater antiquity than either of these dynasties extends to. Some have supposed that the powerful feudatory kingdom, Dzin, that afterwards grew into the dynasty of that name, may have originated the appellation by which the whole country subject to the Cheu emperors was known to the Hindoos. Dzin occupied the north-western tract now called Shen-si and Kan-su. It was that part of China that would be first reached by traders coming from Kashgar, Samarcand, and Persia. Chen-tan, the other Hindoo name of "China" used in the Buddhist books, may be the Thinæ of Ptolemy. When the first Buddhists reached China, the character used for writing the first of these two syllables would be called Tin, and soon afterwards Chin. In Julien's Méthode, &c., its Sanscrit equivalent is Chin. This would be somewhat late. Would it not be better, having traced the term to India, to make that country responsible for its etymology?
93:1 At that time the territory of Yang-cheu embraced Kiang-nan, with parts of Ho-nan and Kiang-si. Jambu, the southern continent, is one of the four Indian divisions of the world. India is in its centre.
94:1 Shï-tsï-kwo, the "Lion kingdom," translated from the Sanscrit name Sinhala, whence "Singhalese."
97:1 When the Buddhist has become sufficiently enlightened, an ideal picture of Buddhistic doctrine presents itself to his mind. It is called Fa-shen or Fa-siang. Elsewhere, as in the "Diamond Sutra," it is spoken of as a state that can be arrived at, but here it seems rather to mean an object of mental vision.
98:1 Kiew-ta’euen-chï-hia, a common phrase for "death."
102:1 Pi-kwan "p’o-lo-men" (in old Chinese, Ba-la-men).
106:1 The Northern Wei History gives the date of Shakyamuni's birth, B.C. 688, which is much nearer than the common date, to the time required by the evidence.
107:1 Of the interest felt by Sanscrit scholars in this subject, the letter of Professor Wilson, formerly Sanscrit Professor at Oxford, to Sir John Bowring is evidence. He invited the attention of the "China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society" to the translations made by Hiuen-tsang in the T’ang dynasty, and the Sanscrit original works brought by that traveller to his native land.
Of the Chinese translations I collected more than fifty while residing at Shanghai, for the library of the India House. Recently Rev. S. Beal has published an interesting account of these translations in the Transactions of the Oriental Congress, held in London, 1374.
108:1 In A.D. 226. This Roman was named Dzinlon. After describing his country to the Chinese prince, he was sent back honourably. His name looks in its Chinese form as if it were translated. See the "Liang History"—India.
108:2 In Sanscrit, Saddharma Pundarika Sutra.
110:1 Ch‘ang-a-han king.
111:1 Mr. Watters, citing the "Mirror of History," Tung-kien, chap. cccxvi., says, "Every household almost had been converted, and the number of those who had taken the vows was so great that the labours of the field were frequently neglected for lack of workmen."
112:1 See my Introduction to the Study of the Chinese characters.
114:1 Remusat supposed that this alphabet was borrowed by the Coreans from the Nü-chih and Kie-tan, who had invented a writing of their own, and ruled in Corea in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; but such an hypothesis p. 115 is incompatible with the fact that the Corean letters are more like the Thibetan and Sanscrit letters.
115:1 The lu-tau here alluded to are the modes of existence into which, in the revolutions of the metempsychosis, all will be born who have not been saved by the teaching of Buddha. They are:—(1.) T’ien, the Devas of the Hindoos (Lat. deus); (2.) Man; (3.) Asura and Mara, superior classes of demons. Both these words are transferred. The former is transliterated by characters now read sieu-lo (in old Chinese, su-la), the latter by mo (ma), a character invented for the occasion by Liang Wu-ti, and which has passed into familiar colloquial in some dialects as mo-kwei, in the sense of "demon." (4.) "Hell," the prison of the lost, ti-yu; (5.) Ngo-kwei, wandering "hungry spirits;" (6.) Animals.
The use of T‘ien, "Heaven," in a personal sense, as the translation of the Sanscrit Deva, whether in the singular or plural, is, perhaps, more common in Buddhist works than its use in a local sense. In explaining this new meaning of the word, Deva is transcribed as (De-ba) T‘i-p‘o.
116:1 It was about this time that the contests between Chosroes king of Persia, and the Turks on one side, and the Byzantine emperor on the other, occurred. The same events that have been described by Gibbon's luxuriant pen are found in a form more laconic and curtailed in the "History of the T‘ang Dynasty." It might well be so, when Chinese travellers passed the eastern borders of Persia on their way to India, and when the imperial occupants of the throne of Constantinople sent embassies frequently to China. There are two records of these embassies preserved, the interest of which will be a sufficient excuse for a short digression. In A.D. 643, says the history, Pa-ta-lik, the king of the Fulim country, sent an embassy with presents of red glass. That this king was a Byzantine emperor is shown by the narrative of events in Persia just preceding it in p. 117 the history. It says, "At the close of the Sui dynasty (ended A.D. 657), the "khan" (k’a-han) of the Western "Turks" (Tu-kiue) attacked "Persia" (Pa-si), and killed the king K’u-sa-ha (Chosroes I., or Nushirvan). His son Shi-li (Hormouz) succeeded him. After his death the daughter of K’u-sa-ha was made queen, but was killed by the Turks. Shi-li's son Jen-ki (Chosroes II.) fled to Fulim. (Gibbon says he took refuge with the Romans.) The people of the country brought him back and made him king. He was assassinated by I-t’a-chi, and succeeded by his brother's son I-dzi-zi (Yezdegerd)." This prince sent an embassy to China, A.D. 638. For misconduct he was driven away by his nobles, and fled to the T’u-ha-la, a tribe in Afghanistan. On his way he was put to death by the Arabs (Ta-shih). Pi-lu-si the son of I-dzi-zi appealed to the court at Ch’ang-an for aid against the irresistible Arabians, but in vain. These last details have been introduced by Gibbon into his narrative from De Guignes. It may be inferred, then, that the king Pa-ta-lik was the Byzantine emperor "Constans II." In the year 1081 there was also an embassy to China from the king of Fulim, who is called Mih-li-i-ling kai-sa. This Kaisar or "Cæsar" should be either Nicephorus Bataniares, who died this year, or his successor, Alexius Comnenus. In Kin-shï-t‘u-shu-pu, a Chinese work on coins and other antiquities, there is a rude representation of a gold coin of this prince.
The word Fulim is evidently the same as the Thibetan Philing and the Indian Feringi, which, as Hodgson observes, must be variations of the word "Frank," commonly applied to all Europeans in Western Asia. Modern Chinese authors suppose Judæa to be Fulim, but the old passages in the Syrian inscription and elsewhere, in which the country is described as to its natural features, whether under this name or that of Ta-ts’in, read much more intelligibly if the Roman empire be understood.
119:1 This work has been recently reprinted, in the collection entitled Sheu-shan-ko-ts‘ung-shu, at Sung-kiang, near Shanghai.
120:1 Vide Professor Wilson's letter published by the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, at Hongkong.
The changes in orthography adopted by Hiuen-tsang, may be made use of to show, that it was from Sanscrit and not Pali originals, that the Chinese Buddhist hooks were translated. He spells tope or "pagoda," su-t‘u-pa. In Pali the word is t‘upa, and in Sanscrit st‘upa. Before Hiuen-tsang's time, the initial s was not expressed, probably for brevity, or through the influence of a local Indian dialect. Other examples might also be adduced. There is another use that may be made of these orthographical changes. As compared with preceding transcriptions, they are an index to the alterations that were taking place in the Chinese language itself. For convenience the age of Buddhist translations may be divided into three periods: (1.) A.D. 66, when Buddhism entered China, and the "Sutra of Forty-two Sections" was translated; (2.) A.D. 405, the age of Kumarajiva; (3.) A. D. 646, the age of Hiuen-tsang. The Sanscrit syllable man had been written with the character for "literature," p. 121 wen. Hiuen-tsang adopted a character now as then heard, man. He changed the name of the Ganges from Heng, "Constant," to Ch‘ing-ch‘ia (Gang-ga). Comparison with existing dialects shows, that the Sanscrit pronunciation may be assigned without hesitation to the characters chosen, as nearly the sound that then belonged to them in Northern China, and one example is an index to a multitude of other words, passing through the same change at the same time. The three periods here given will help to supply the chronology of these changes, extending through almost all the sounds in the language. Thus, with other aid, the age of the Mandarin language may be fixed with comparative certainty.
123:1 A translation of a work by the same author, on the prophetic character of dreams, is also alluded to.
124:1 Shanghai Almanac for 5853—"Jottings on the Science of the Chinese."
125:1 Chief representative of the Tantra school in China, and author of the festival for hungry ghosts. He is also called Amogha Vajra, and his school is that called the Yogachara.(Eitel.)
127:1 Liang Wu-ti was eighty-six years of age when he died. His adopted son, whom he had appointed to succeed him, withheld the supplies of food that the aged emperor needed, and he died in consequence.
127:2 Watters, in Chinese Recorder, 1869, July, p. 40. The proverb T‘ang Fo, "Buddha of the T‘ang," means to be as devoted to Buddhism as was the T‘ang dynasty.
129:1 The other two orders of Buddhist monks are (r.) Lü-shï, or "Disciplinists," who go barefoot and follow rigidly the rules enjoined in the early ages of Buddhism, for the observance of all who entered on the ascetic life; (2.) Fa-shï, or those who perform the common duties of priests, engage in popular teaching, and study the literature of their religion. The word Ch‘an (in old Chinese, jan and dan), originally signifying "resign," had not the meaning to "contemplate" (now its commonest sense), before the Buddhists adopted it to represent the Sanscrit term Dhyana. The word in Chinese books is spelt in full jan-na, and is explained, "to reform one's self by contemplation or quiet thought." Perhaps an Eastern extension of the Jaina, or some lost sect, still existing in India, took place thus early. The marked difference between the Buddhism of Bodhidharma, and that already existing in China, requires some such supposition. These three orders still exist. The common priests met with in temples are not considered to deserve either denomination, but on the supposition that they fulfil their duties, they are Fa-shï. Distinguished priests are called Ch‘an-shï. The emperors till very recently have always been accustomed to give names to distinguished priests. The early translators were honoured with the title San-tsang fa-shï. In common cases the title Ch‘an-shï is all that is appended to the new name given by the imperial favour to those who, from their learning and character, are supposed to deserve it.
132:1 The Yoga or Yogachara school was founded by Asengha, and its system taught in China by Pu-k‘ung (Amogha). It combined Brahmanism, Shivaism, and the doctrine of Dhyana Buddhas (derived from Nepaul), with the Mahayana philosophy.
132:2 See the work called Ts‘ien-sheu ts‘ien-yen kwan-shï-yin p‘u-sa to-pei-sin to-to-ni, "The magical formula of the Bodhisattwa Kwan-shï-yin, who has a thousand hands and eyes and a merciful heart." "Da-la-ni" (To-to-ni) is in Sanscrit Dharani, "a charm." See also the very popular work called Yü-k‘ia-yen-k‘eu, universally used by the priests as a mass-book for the benefit of the hungry dead, who come, in consequence of the priest's incantations, from hell, with "flaming mouths" (yen-k‘eu) to receive "sweet dew" (kan-lu) and go back relieved.
132:3 These notices of foreign Buddhists are taken from the Supplement to the well-known cyclopædia Wen-hien-t‘ung-k‘au.
135:1 Watters, p. 42.
137:1 Sanscrit characters are also contained in such works as Yü-k‘ia-yen-k‘eu, which may be seen in any monastery. In Peking, Sanscrit sentences, chiefly charms, are seen written under the eaves of the roofs of temples. Some manuscripts have been brought to foreign residents for sale. They are written in a later Devanagari with the top line, from left to right, distinct in form. There are also Sanscrit inscriptions on "octagonal stones"(shï-chwang). The Devanagari is of an older style without the top line. They date from the Kin dynasty.
139:1 The Thibetan inscriptions at P‘uto, which have frequently attracted the notice of foreign visitors, probably owe their origin to some far-travelled devotee from that country. Kwan-shï-yin is the national protector of the Thibetans, and, as Huc informs us, monuments with the words Om-mani-padme-hum, a sentence which occurs on the P‘u-to stones, are everywhere seen there.
141:1 The attempt of Comte and his half-dozen followers to construct a religion on a basis of philosophy has been conspicuous only by its failure.
143:1 The word ho-shang, as the Chinese Life of Buddha informs us, is transferred from the language of "Udin" (Yu-tian) or "Khoten," south-east of Kashgar, and was originally translated from the Sanscrit Upâsaka. Ho-shang is now the universal term for the Buddhist monks. They themselves also use ch‘u-kia-jen, a Chinese term convertible with it. It means "men who have left the family." Upadhyâya is a Sanscrit term for "a self-taught teacher," and Hwa-shie is a vernacular term in Kashgar and Kustana, and has become ho-shang in Chinese.—(Eitel.)
146:1 T‘ang-yün, Yü-p‘ien, &c.
149:1 See the "Supplement to Wen-hien-t‘ung-k‘au."
Source: Reproduced from Chinese Buddhism, by Joseph Edkins, 1893.
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