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2004 DBQ. Buddhism in China. Analyze the responses to the spread of Buddhism in China. The Question.

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2004 dbq

2004 DBQ

Buddhism in China


Buddhism, founded in India in sixth century BCE was brought to China by the first century CE, gradually winning converts falling the collapse of the Han dynasty in 220C. Buddhist influence continued to expand for several centuries. Between 200 CE and 570 CE, China experienced a period of political instability and disunity. After 570 CE, the imperial structure was restored.

Historical Background

what does this document reveal about the response to spread of buddhism in china
What does this document reveal about the response to spread of Buddhism in China?

Evidence Extraction: The Focus Question

  • Document #1 The Four Noble Truths (5th Century BCE)
    • Basic doctrine of Buddhism
    • Equality of suffering
    • No direct response

Document #2 Zhi Dun, a Chinese scholar (350 CE)

    • Buddhism offers hope in times of crisis(nirvana)
    • favorable response
    • POV-based on fear of Asian Steppe Nomads; faced with political uncertainty and chaos Buddhism will find appeal even amongst Chinese aristocrats and high officials

Document #3 Anonymous Chinese scholar (500 CE)

    • Responds in Confucian dialogue to the non-Chinesee-ness of Buddhism
    • Favorable Response
    • Ability to co-exist with traditional philosophies
    • POV-a scholar knows both Confucianism/Buddhism might be able to see bridge; towards the end of political instability

Document #4 Han Yu, leading Confucian scholar and official at the Tang Imperial court (819 CE)

  • Buddhism is a foreign faith that is destructive
  • Strong negative response
  • POV-Confucian scholar would be suspicious of outside ideas; naturally inclined to favor Confucianism over outside ideas, particularly in a time of stability

Document #5 ZongMi (9th Century CE)

    • Buddha was one of the great sages offering a way for an orderly society
    • Favorable Response
    • Ability to co-exist with traditional philosophies
    • POV-A leading Buddhist scholar would find favor; some Tang rulers (Empress Wu) patronized Buddhism; trying to show conciliatory nature to appeal to imperial household and educated scholars as the backlash against Buddhism grows stronger and many reject it as a foreign idea

Tang Emperor Wu, Edict on Buddhism (845 CE)

    • Buddhism is foreign and monks and nuns are destructive
    • Response is highly negative-
    • POV-reassert traditional Confucian ideas; threat of Buddhist monks, backlash against Empress Wu (misogyny)
  • There seems to be a change in attitude over time…
    • This is not always the case, however it is worth noting
    • Consider the larger context of the conversation
potential groups
Potential Groups
  • Negative 4, 6
  • Scholars 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Blend of Buddhism with Chinese ethnic belief systems 3,5
  • Buddhism as barbaric, foreign faith 4, 6
  • Path to nirvana 1, 2, 3
  • Hope to during a time of chaos (avoid sensual pleasures/luxuries)2, 3
  • Role of monks 3, 4, 6 (4,6) as sub-group
thesis paragraph
Thesis Paragraph
  • During the crisis of late antiquity, imperial order broke down throughout the Classical World and many turned to religion for solace and hope. While early Christians were persecuted during the last vestiges of the Roman Imperial era, many continued to look to this new faith for hope and inspiration. Similarly, many Chinese peasants, and sometimes even aristocrats, turned to Buddhism. While Buddhism initially offered hope and a path to nirvana in the face of political crisis, eventually traditional Confucian officials were able to reassert their control during the Sui era. Buddhist monks were then viewed as a powerful threat and eventually, under the guiding influence of Confucian thought, Tang officials distanced themselves from the foreign faith in favor of their own traditional beliefs.
paragraph one a group
Paragraph One: A group
  • While some believed that Buddhism alone offered a path to salvation, others held to the notion that Buddhism could co-exist with other, pre-existing belief systems.
documents as evidence
Documents as Evidence
  • While some believed that Buddhism alone offered a path to salvation, others held to the notion that Buddhism could co-exist with other, pre-existing belief systems. An anonymous Chinese scholar offered a traditional Confucian style dialogue in “The Disposition of Error” (Doc 3). He suggests that while the great sages and Confucian didn’t necessarily mention Buddha, that doesn’t suggest that he should be viewed with great suspicion. He points out that Buddhist monks, while not having families and wives, still fulfill their filial obligations by pursuing goodness and wisdom. This reference to a key Confucian value and Buddhist monks reveals his belief in the ability of belief systems to effectively coincide.
bias pov a paragraph on monks
Bias/POV: A paragraph on monks

Tang Emperor Wu speaks of Buddhist monks as dangerous because they “severe man and wife with its monastic decrees.” It should be noted that the great wealth of Buddhist monasteries might have been a viable threat to the financial strength of the empire, thus influencing Emperor Wu’s position. Furthermore, any allegiance to religion might supersede people’s allegiance to a government authority , and thus would negatively shade Wu’s perspective on Buddhism.

additional document
Additional Document
  • It would be interesting to hear directly from a Chinese peasant. This view would clarify if their Buddhist values undermined their loyalty to the state in any manner or perhaps it would confirm the notion that Buddhism could comfortably exist side-by-side with a Confucian state.