The Complex History of Buddhism

November 1, 2016

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, lived in the 5th or 6th Century B.C. He was born in Nepal and his father was the king of the Sakya people.  After he attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, Buddha preached the Dharma in an effort to help others reach enlightenment too.

Unlike the other major religions, Buddhism does not have a god like the Christian, Jewish or Islamic God.  Buddha is not a deity or supreme being. The Buddha believed that religious ideas and especially the god concept have their origin in fear.

Several centuries later during the Han Dynasty in the first century B.C., trade with Central Asia introduced Buddhism to China.  Over the centuries, interest in Buddhism grew.  However, due to Confucianism and Taoism, the Chinese adapted Buddhist scripture to fit the Chinese culture creating the Mahayana sect that spread to Korea and Japan.

Like most major religions, there are subdivisions within Buddhism but most may be classified into three. This is why Southeast Asian Buddhists differ from the Chinese.  The Theravada form of Buddhism is found in Southeast Asia in countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates other beliefs, and there are four principal schools or types of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Buddhism in China reached its high point during the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907. However, in 845 AD, the Tang emperor suppressed Buddhism and destroyed thousands of monasteries, temples and shrines.

Soon after Mao and the Communists won China’s Civil War with the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, Buddhism flourished for a time but was repressed during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – ‘76) along with all other religions. Many monasteries and Buddhist texts were destroyed. After Mao died in 1976, many of the major monasteries were rebuilt under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.

In 2012, the Pew Research Center reported there were about 488 million Buddhists worldwide, and about 244 million, half, are in China.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Trading Tea for Tibetan Horses

October 26, 2016

Many have heard of or read about the Silk Road between China and Europe, but I think few have heard of the ancient Tea Horse Road (also known as the Tea-Horse Trade Route), which I first read about in the May 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine (NGM).

Legend says that tea from China arrived in Tibet as early as the Tang Dynasty (618- 906 A.D.). After that, the Chinese traded tea for horses, as many as 25,000 horses annually.

Zhang Yun writes, at The Wandering.com, “Horses obtained from the tea-horse trade between the Song Dynasty and Tibetans could be classified into two kinds: one were good horses from Gansu and Qinghai and Tibet’s Nagqu by way of the tea-horse trade, which could serve as warhorses; the other was horses given as tribute, most of which came by the Sichuan-Tibet Route or from various areas in the southwest. Most of these, however, could only be used as farm horses …”

But that isn’t what struck me the most about the NGM piece. It’s the example that demonstrated why most if not all Chinese peasants loved and possibly worshiped Mao Tse-Tung.

For more than a thousand years, men fed their families by carrying hundreds of pounds of tea on their backs across the rugged mountains into Lhasa. Some froze and died in blizzards. Others fell to their deaths from the narrow switchbacks that climbed to the clouds.

This all ended in 1949 when Mao had a road built to Tibet and farmland was redistributed from the wealthy to the poor. During China’s long Civil War, Mao promised land reforms to the landless peasants who were no better than slaves for the few who owned most of the land and wealth.

“It was the happiest day of my life,” said Luo Yong Fu, a 92-year-old dressed in a black beret and a blue Mao jacket, whom the author of the National Geographic piece met in the village of Changheba.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Over a thousand years of Buddhist History Hidden at Dunhuang

August 3, 2016

The first time I heard about Dunhuang in China’s Gobi desert, I was attending a seminar conducted by Dr. Vincent Yip. Dr. Yip is an accomplished photojournalist who taught a Silk Road course at Stanford in addition to his courses about Marketing to more than 1.3 Billion Customers in China and Asia.

The June 2010 issue of National Geographic had a piece about the history of the Mogao caves near Dunhuang, a Silk Road oasis in northwestern China.

The Buddhist art found in almost 800 hand carved caves are considered among the world’s finest. There is nearly a half-million square feet of wall space decorated with these murals and more than 2,000 sculptures.


Between the fourth and 14th centuries AD—over a thousand years of history was documented on scrolls, sculptures and wall paintings revealing a multicultural world more vibrant than anyone imagined.

Contrary to popular belief and the Dalai Lama’s soft-spoken words of peace, Buddhism, like all large religious movements, has had a bloody and violent history depicted in the picture on page 145 of the National Geographic that shows an eighth-century heavenly armored guard with bulging eyes trampling a foreign demon.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on June 22 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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Three Journeys to the West from China

December 30, 2014

No, this post is not about immigrants, tourists or Chinese armies invading America, because Chinese troops would have to swim the Pacific Ocean since China’s navy isn’t large enough to move a military force of that size.

For instance, China has one 26-year-old used, conventional aircraft carrier with 54 aircraft. The U.S. has twenty with three under construction with almost 100 aircraft on one carrier.

But this post is about China’s classic novel, “Journey to the West”, also known “The Monkey King”.

There are four novels that are considered Chinese classics—Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of Red Chamber, Journey to the West and The Outlaws of the Marsh (some of these classics have been released with other titles), and there are three Chinese books titled “Journey to the West”.

One Journey to the West is nonfiction about K’iu Ch’ang Ch’un, who visited Genghis Khan in Persia between 1221 and 1224.

The second Journey to the West is another nonfiction account about Hsuan-Tsang (Xuanzang,  602  – 664 AD), a Buddhist monk who traveled to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures.

The third Journey to the West is the fictional romance that introduces the Monkey King and his friend the Pig. This Journey to the West is a classic Chinese mythological novel. It was written during the Ming Dynasty based on traditional folktales. Consisting of 100 chapters, this fantasy relates the adventures of a Tang Dynasty (618-907) priest Sanzang and his three disciples, Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand, as they travel west in search of Buddhist Sutra.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Buddhism’s arrival to China and its many faces

August 13, 2014

During the Han Dynasty in the first century B.C., trade with Central Asia introduced Buddhism to China.  Over the centuries, interest in Buddhism grew.  However, due to Confucianism and Taoism, the Chinese adapted Buddhist scripture to fit the Chinese culture creating the Mahayana sect, which spread to Korea and Japan.

Like most major religions, there are subdivisions within Buddhism but most may be classified into three. This is why Southeast Asian Buddhists differ from the Chinese.  The Theravada form of Buddhism is found in Southeast Asia in countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates other beliefs, and there are four principal schools or types of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Buddhism in China reached its high point during the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907. However, in 845 AD, the Tang emperor suppressed Buddhism and destroyed thousands of monasteries, temples and shrines.

Soon after Mao and the Communists won China, Buddhism flourished for a time but was repressed during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – ‘76) along with all other religions. Many monasteries and Buddhist texts were destroyed. After Mao, many of the major monasteries were rebuilt under Deng Xiaoping.

Today, Buddhists represent the largest religious group in China between 100 to 200 million. (PEW Forum)

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part 2/2

May 14, 2013

The video’s narrator, Jean Delumeau (born 1923) is a professor of history at the College of France in Paris and is widely regarded as one of the leading historians of Christianity. Sin and Fear, one of his books, is a monument of flawless scholarship, says Wendy Doniger for the New York Times

Delumeau says that Taoism was a philosophy and a religion, which offered salvation for the individual and responded to the need for the immortality of its followers.

Confucianism, however, was somewhat abstract and didn’t offer a reward of immortality since ancient China did not have a concept of a spiritual soul that survives a physical death.

Taoism believed that the physical body only contains the personality. There were rules for food, hygiene, breathing techniques and different forms of gymnastics, which were designed to suppress the causes of death and allow each follower to create an immortal body to replace the mortal one.

After the mortal body died, the immortal body went elsewhere to live.

In ancient China, the pathway of sanctity preached by Taoism evolved in Chinese Yoga and was recognized some 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the second century AD, Taoism became a true church venerating immortals as saints.

About 200 AD, a Taoist scholar taught that virtue, avoidance of sin, confessions of sins and good works were the most important aspects and took precedence over diet and hygiene.

One major difference from religions in the West is that Taoism does not have leaders on a national scale—like the Catholic Pope—and is more like a federation of linked communities.

In 110 BC, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty made Confucianism the state religion to strengthen and centralize his power.

Nevertheless, Taoism continued to be practiced as a parallel popular religion.

Religious Tolerance.org says there are about 225 million followers but the exact number is impossible to estimate since many Taoists also identify with other regions such as Buddhism and Confucianism.

Return to A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part 1

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part1/2

May 13, 2013

Jean Delumeau, that narrator of the video, is an honorary professor of the College de France. He says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth, which serve to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Continued on May 14, 2013 in  A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part 2

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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