Buddhism’s Arrival and Influence in China

June 6, 2017

Siddartha Guatama, an Indian Prince, became the Buddha in the 6th century BC. Recorded history says Buddhism first arrived in China about four hundred years later more than two centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

After the Buddha died, tradition says that Buddhism split into difference sects. Christianity and Islam also split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries after the founders died.

Today Buddhism has about 379-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion.

The Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD about twelve-hundred years after Buddha.

Britannica.com says, “The accounts of Bodhidharma’s life are largely legendary, and historical sources are practically nonexistent. Two very brief contemporary accounts disagree on his age (one claiming that he was 150 years old, the other depicting him as much younger) and nationality (one identifies him as Persian, the other as South Indian). The first biography of Bodhidharma was a brief text written by the Chinese monk Daoxuan (flourished 7th century) about a century after Bodhidharma’s death.”

The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

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Tibet’s Democracy that Never Was and Never Will Be

April 11, 2017

There are many misleading claims about Tibet. To understand what I mean, Google “Tibet’s Democracy in Exile,” but the historical facts support that Tibet has never been a republic and/or a democracy in its entire history.

One example of a misleading media report said, “Being a Tibetan in exile is a loss that manifests in many forms: the loss of homeland and natural rights fall within that.”

What were the natural rights that were lost?

Most Tibetans in exile (about one-percent of the total Tibetan population) gave up their rights and about ninety-nine percent of the population known as serfs that were often treated no better than slaves. The serfs were left behind as the one-percent who owned the land and held the wealth fled.

Before 1950, when Mao’s Red army reoccupied Tibet for China, there had been no democracy or republic in Tibet in its entire history.

The following quotes show us what Tibet was like before 1950.

“Lamaism is the state religion of Tibet and its power in the Hermit Country is tremendous. Religion dominated every phase of life. … For instance, in a family of four sons, at least two, generally three, of them must be Lamas. Property and family prestige also naturally go with the Lamas to the monastery in which they are inmates.

“Keeping the common people or laymen, in ignorance is another means of maintaining the power of the Lamas. Nearly all of the laymen (serfs) are illiterate. Lamas are the only people who are taught to read and write.”  – October 1912 National Geographic Magazine, page 979.

Under theocratic Lamaism, there was no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and no one voted.

Between 1912, when those words appeared in National Geographic, and 1950, Tibet did not change. The only difference was that there was no Chinese governor in Tibet appointed by the Emperor and supported by Chinese troops.

If the majority of Tibetans want to have self-rule, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a separatist movement as long as you know all of the accurate historical facts.

After all, there are at least eight known and active separatist movements in the United States: for instance, the Alaska Independence Party; Hawaiian sovereignty movement; Lakotah Oyate; Puerto Rico Independence Party; League of the South; Texas Secession Movement; Second Vermont Republic, and the Cascadia Independence Movement.

In fact, Tibetans have about the same odds to be free from China as Hawaiians and the Lakota Sioux have of being free of the United States.

It is a historical fact that a reluctant Tibet was ruled over by the Yuan (Mongol), Ming (Han) and Qing (Manchu) Dynasties from 1277 to 1913, when Great Britain convinced Tibet to break from China at the same time the Qing Dynasty was collapsing. Between 1913 and 1950, Tibet was ruled by a Dalai Lama and was an autocratic theocracy, not a democracy. In case you don’t know, a theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god. In Tibet’s case, his holiness the Dalai Lama is often called a “God-King”.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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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.

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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.

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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 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)

_______________

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.

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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