- An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art
About [Location: HOME > History > Song > Religion]

Chinese History - Song Period Religion

Periods of Chinese History
Buddhism - Daoism - Syncretism of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism - Foreign religions

There were many reasons for the decline of Buddhism (Fojiao 佛教) after the Tang period 唐. The most apparent factor destroying the eminent position of Buddhism in Chinese society, economy and politics were the several persecutions of Buddhism and other religions during the 8th and 9th centuries. It was in first place economical reasons for these persecutions - monasteries were tax-free units, and monks were not obliged to pay taxes or labour corvée. The more people were "hiding" inside the ranks of the clergy, the less people were tax-liable and could be mobilized for official works or military service. The Song Dynasty government developed a regular tool to increase state revenues by selling tax-exemption certificates (dudie 度牒) to ordained monks by which they could prove that they were exempted from tax and labour services. But as soon as buying such a certificate was enough for being tax-exempted there was no further duty for a monk to exert the life of a monk as he was expected to do. People wealthy enough to buy a monk certificate could enter any monastery. This practice lowered the quality of the monasterial community (Sanskr. sangha, Chin. seng 僧) and discredited moral integrity and the reputation of Buddhist sanghas, even the highest dignitaries by selling their titles (shihao 師號) and their privilege to wear the purple robe of a patriarch (ziyi 紫衣). During the Southern Song, the sales of monk certificates were abolished, and a poll tax (dingfu 丁賦) imposed upon clergymen was introduced.

The rise of Neo-Confucianism (often equalized with the School of Principles, lixue 理學 which is actually only one branch of Neoconfucian theoreticians) with its interest in metaphysical discussions became a far more attractive ideology for the scholar-officials of the Song period than the purely religious Buddhism. Neo-Confucian theoreticians incorporated Buddhist problems into the framework of traditional Chinese, especially Confucian, thinking, and made it obsolete for the scholars to be a true Buddhist believe - the study of Buddhism and the adaption of some of its ideas was sufficient, and Neo-Confucians produced their counter-theories against Buddhist doctrines, like the emptiness (Sanskr. śūnyatā, Chin. kong 空) of the phenomenal world as opposed to the Neo-Confucian ether-essence qi 氣 that is incorporated in every substantial and non-substantial phenomenon through an immmanent principle of "order" li 理. The emergence of Neo-Confucian ideas experienced an intensive support by government with the introduction of the state examinations that required the studies of the Confucian Classics (Five Classics and Four Books Wujing Sishu 五經四書) and totally neglected Buddhis sutras.

While some Tang period monks undertook long journeys to go to India and to bring back sutras and other Buddhist writings in the Sanskrit original to translate them into Chinese when back, the occupation of the gateway to the west by the Uighurs and the Tangut empire of Western Xia (Xixia 西夏) as well as the decline of Buddhism in its home country in India also contributed to the stagnation of Buddhism in China. Here, the old traditional schools or sects (Tiantai 天台宗, Huayan 花嚴宗, Consciousness-Only-School [Weishizong 唯認宗], Vinaya School [Lüzong 律宗]) were gradually replaced by new sects that became much more popular and are often equalized with Buddhism itself: The Chan Sect (Chanzong 禪宗; in the West better known with its Japanese name Zen, Zenshū 禅宗) and the Pure Land Sect (Jingtuzong 淨土宗). Both sects disregarded the study of sutras and the observation of monastic rules (Sanskr. vinaya, Chin. 律) and emphasized instead intuition, simple faith and the mechanical recitation of formulas. Such simple types of beliefs were very attractive for the broad masses but they did not lead to a productive development of religious scholarship. Nonetheless these two sects were a very handsome tools for the Song period emperors who wanted to control the Buddhist communities and who founded many Chan monasteries throughout the country and bestowed the highest titles of Buddhist clergy through imperial order (hence called monk-officials sengguan 僧官). It was easier to cope with one single sect and its representatives than with many different concurring streamings. Taxation of monasteries became more and more the regular case during the Song period. Persecutions of Buddhism did never occur after the Tang period, and the only attempt to attack Buddhism by Emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 was rather an experiment to dao-ise Buddhism by changing terms and titles.
State sponsoring of Buddhism began early in Song, when Emperor Taizu 宋太祖 dispatched an envoy of monks to India (Tianzhu 天竺), had printed the Buddhist canon in Chengdu 成都/Sichuan, contemporary center of printing technology and had insiced Buddhist writings - including imperial prefaces - into stone slabs. Emperor Taizong 宋太宗 had erected several large pagodas in the largest cities of the empire. The most important editions of the Buddhist Tripitaka during Song were the Kaibao Tripitaka 開寶藏 from 983, Chongning Tripitaka 崇寧藏 from 1103 and the Pilu Tripitaka 毗盧藏 from 1151, the first printed in Chengdu, the others in Fuzhou 福州/Fujian.

The Chan Sect

Chan Sect monasteries and temples were points of attraction, they were centers of social life within the large cities of the Song empire. Bustling with life and acting as economic units (storehouses, shops, mills, guesthouses etc.), they totally contradicted the original intention of Chan Buddhism that was introvertive and retrogressive, avoiding the large cities. Although Chan monks disregarded the study of sutras they collected many intellectual discussions made among the monks by which they attemped to gain sudden elightening (Chin. wu 悟, Jap. satori; Sanskr. bodhi). The senior monk asked the adept a problem (called "legal case" gong'an 公案, Jap. kōan) he had to resolve or at least to answer in his own way, often in an unexpected or unconventional way. The most important types of these "enlightenment riddle" collections are yulu 語錄 "recorded sayings" and denglu 燈錄 "lamp records", two very important writings are Biyanlu 碧巖錄 "Records of the Jadegreen Cliff" and Wumenguan 無門關 "Gateless Passage". The name of the Chan Sect is derived from the Sanskrit word for meditation (dhyāna) which is corrupted to chan in Chinese pronunciation. Meditation was thus another important tool for attaining enlightenment or event the buddhaship.
The Song period Chan sect can be divided into seven different schools and five houses (wujia qizong 五家七宗) that each emphasize different methods to attain buddhaship. To the most important schools belongs the Gui-Yang School 溈仰宗, founded by two different monks during late Tang. Gui-Yang teaching stresses the mystery of the dharma (fa 法 "teachings" of the Buddha) that can not be expressed by words, particularly because every being stores in it the nature of the Buddha. The Fayan School 法眼宗 was represented by the monk Yanshou 延壽 who wrote the treatise Zongjinglu 宗鏡錄 "The Mirror of Schools/the Patriarch" that tried to exchange thoughts and theories with the Tiantai School in a movement for the reapproach of Chan and traditional schools (Chan jiao he yi 禪教合一). A similar attitude can be observed with Qisong 契嵩 (wrote Fujiaopian 輔教篇 "Assisting the teaching/religion") from the Yunmen School 雲門宗, one of the most important persons working for the harmonization of China's philosophies and religions. The most important Chan school even outside China was the Linji School 臨濟宗 that institutionalized the intuitive teaching of the Chan sect, a process that can be observed in the vast treasure of Chan writings that were published by Linji monks who collected the enlightenment riddles (gong'an, jifeng 機鋒), created exemplary answers (daiyu 代語) or alternative answers (bieyu 別語), interpreted examples of the first decades of Chan activities (songgu 頌古, niangu 拈古). Analyzing (jijie 擊節) and rearranging the Chan teachings in a critical literary style (pingchang 評唱), they published annotated collections of Chan teachings, like Biyanlu, Jijielu 擊節錄 "Record of Ingressive Analysis", or Wudeng huiyuan 五燈會元 "Assembling the Origins from the Five Lamps". Less important for the history of religions was the Cao-Dong School 曹洞宗 and the two minor groups of the Huanglong School 黃龍派 and the Yangqi School 楊岐派.

The Pure Land Sect and the Amitabha Buddha

The Pure Land Sect belongs to the oldest Mahayana Schools in China. The most important deity of this sect is the transcendent Amitābha Buddha (Chin. Amituofo 阿彌陀佛, Jap. Amida Butsu 阿弥陀佛; also called Amitāyus), the Buddha reigning the pure land "paradise" in the west (Sanskr. Sukhāvatī). The believer is simply required to recitate mechanically the name of the Amitābha (an activity called nian fo 念佛 "reciting the Buddha"), like a mantra verse. Repeating often enough, salvation for oneself of a deceased person can be expected. Jingtu Sect and Chan Sect patriarchs (fashi 法師) tried to approach each other and to establish a more harmonious relationship to each other than schools of previous school had exerted. The Pure Land Sect is today the most important Buddhist school, a position that it had acheived through the simplification of Buddhist practice from that of a clerical religion to a popular religion. Redemption was seen now in the entry into the Western Paradise after death, rather than attempting into nirvana after a sophisticated and pretentious process of enlightenment. The most important Song period representatives of this "mind-only" religion (weixin 唯心, the Buddha-nature is implicitly buried in everyone, and salvation will thus be come upon everyone - a deceased person becomes automatically a Buddha, or hotoke in Japanese) were the monks Shengchang 省常 and Zongze 宗賾.

The Bodhisattva Guanyin

A second deity being highly venerated since the Song period was the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, companion of the Amitābha and a deity that - although having attained buddhaship - refrains from entering the nirvāna for his compassion (Sanskr. karuņā) for other beings that he wants to support during their search for salvation. Originally a male, the Avalokiteśvara transforms into a female being from the 10th century on and was in his Chinese shape called Guanyin 觀音 (Jap. Kannon 観音; short for Guanshiyin 觀世音 or Guanzizai 觀自在) "Observing the Sounds of the World". Basic sutra for the belief in the Avalokiteśvara is the Lotus Sutra (Miaofa lianhua jing 妙法蓮花經; Sankr. Saddharmapundarīka-sūtra). The most popular form of Guanyin is the White-Robed Guanyin (Baiyi Guanyin 白衣觀音), mother deity and patron saint for everyone in danger and distress, thus a kind of Buddhist Mother Mary.

The Tiantai Sect

The Tiantai Sect 天台宗 experienced new impulses by the monks Zhili 知禮, Zunshi 遵式 and Wu'en 悟恩. In his book Fahuaqian 法華懺 "Confessions of the Flower of the Dharma" Zhili explains the one-ness of mind (xin 心), shape (se 色) and the Buddha (Fo 佛), 一念三千, 圓融三諦,一乘圓教. Zunshi, talking about the nature of the dharmas (fa 法), the appearances of all sentient beings, declared that nature (xing 性) and the mind are one and the same.

The Laughing Buddha

A very Chinese transforming of the Maitreya Buddha (Milefo 彌勒佛), Buddha of the future, was the Laughing Buddha (Hafo 哈佛), also called "Bigbelly Buddha" or "Potbelly Buddha". The Maitreya was a common deity of the early Tang sculptures but was replaced from the 7th century on by the Amitābha Buddha and the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Only in the 10th century the Maitreya again became the focus of Buddhist veneration. The Milefo with his hempen bag is a mere representation of Chinese life ideals: the big belly symbolizes wealth and prosperity, his reclining pose shows spiritual contentment and relaxation, and the many children surrounding him reflect the wish for a great family. He can thus be almost identified as member of a group of popular deities that are invocated when looking for health, long life, prosperity and many descendants.

Popular Buddhist Sects

The White Cloud Sect (Baiyunzong 白雲宗) was a popular type of Buddhism that became prevalent during Song and still survives today. Reciting the name of the Buddha, renouncing meat (chisu 吃素) and studying are three factors that can bring salvation. The founder, Qingjue 清覺, has written the encyclopaedia Chuxueji 初學記 "First Step of Learning" and the collection Zhengxingji 正行集 "On the Right Conduct", two kinds of literature that rather fit into the pattern of scholarly Confucian writings and thereby show the integration of the two doctrines of Buddhism and Confucianism.
A second popular sect was the White Lotus Sect (Bailianzong 白蓮宗 or Bailianjiao 白蓮教), founded by Mao Ziyuan 茅子元, that was very popular in the region of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The simply form of religious performance without monastic life and intensive rituals or practices was so attractive that the White Lotus Sect received so many members that it became an important political factor during peasant unrests of the Southern Song and especially at the end of the Yuan Dynasty 元.

Song period Daoism (Daojiao 道教) experienced a highlight of activites and at the same time underwent substantial changes in topics and methods. As a popular religion it became more and more widespread and accepted by the imperial court as important factor in social life and the people's mentality.

State-sponsored Daoism

Daoism was supported by many Song emperors, but especially during the reign of Song Zhenzong 宋真宗 and Huizong 宋徽宗, the latter being known as patron of fine arts. Emperor Taizong 宋太宗 who succeeded his older brother to the throne, had a Daoist priest fabricated a Heavenly commandment in order to justify his reign where his nephew was supposed to be emperor. During his reign, Taizong had often contact with high Daoist masters like Chen Tuan 陳摶, and had commented and printed his vast collection of Daoist writings. He saw himself as a successor of the founding emperor, a position in which he had to govern with pureness (qingjing 清淨) and non-acting (wuwei 無爲) like once the emperors Han Wendi 漢文帝 and Jingdi 漢景帝. Emperor Zhenzong had made "Celestial books" (tianshu 天書) that reconfirmed the Heavenly Mandate of the Song Dynasty. He went to Mt. Tai 泰山 (near Tai'an 泰安/Shandong) and performed the old traditional fengshan offerings (fengshan dadian 封禪大典) to Heaven and Earth. These offerings were mentally important for the Song empire after the shameful treaty of Chanyuan 澶淵之盟 where the Song conceded an annual tribute to the Liao empire 遼. Emperor Zhenzong even bestowed his ancestor Zhao Xuanlang 趙玄朗 the title of a Daoist deity (Baosheng tianzun 保生天尊 "Heavenly Venerated Preserver of Life") and spent enormous sums for different Daoist schools, granting their patriarchs high honorary titles. Emperor Huizong, under the influence of his ministers Cai Jing 蔡京 and Tong Guan 童貫 was more interested in the teachings of his Daoist masters like Wang Laozhi 王老志 and Lin Lingsu 林靈素 than in the daily business of government. Huizong was identified with the God of Long Life (Changshengdi 長生帝) of the Jade-Pure Heaven (Yuqingtian 玉清天) and saw himself as an incarnation of this deity, and everybody in his household was given a corresponding title of the Daoist pantheon (compare the Buddha incarnation of Northern Wei 北魏 and Tang emperors). The apogee of state-sponsored Daoism was the prohibition of Buddhism in 1119 when the Buddha was degraded to a Daoist immortal (xianren 仙人). Fortunately for Buddhism, this prohibition was only superficially and did not result in the assassination of monks or in iconoclastic outrages. Historians see Huizong's deepgoing veneration of the passive Daoist religion as one factor for the downfall of Northern Song – and the numerous registers (fulu 符簶) and incantations (qirang 祈禳) did not prove to be an effective weapon against the intruding Jurchens 女真. For this reason, the Talisman and Register Schools (Fulupai 符簶派) of Daoism lost their significance within the state-sponsered religions. During the Southern Song period, Daoism did not again obtain such a prominent position in the state religions like before. The only emperor paying more attention to Daoism was Lizong 宋理宗 who promoted the publication of the Daoist writing Ganyingpian 感應篇 "On Influential Correspondance" where the effects of good and evil deeds are explained.

Changes in Talisman and Register Daoism

As a popular religion, Talisman and Register Daoism is still very welcomed until today, especially in its function as healing method or through incantations and charms evoking luck and dispelling misfortune and calamities. But the Talisman and Register schools underwent changes, and new schools emerged: the Divine Heaven School (Shenxiao 神霄派), founded by Wang Wenqing 王文卿; the Pristine Subtlety Sect (Qingwei 清微派), founded by Zu Zhu 祖舒 already during the Tang period; and the Pure Brightness Tradition (Jingming 淨明派), founded by He Shoucheng 何守澄 and venerating Xu Xun 許遜 of the Tang period as first patriarch. All combined talismans and registers with practice of Inner Alchemy (neidan 內丹), the Jingming School even advocates moral behaviour (loyalty, filial piety – Confucian values) as expression of a purified mind. The old traditional schools of the Orthodox Oneness (Zhengyi 正一), the Highest Purity (Shangqing 上清) and the Numinous Treasure (Lingbao 靈寶) likewise combined the theories and philosophies of other Daoist and even Buddhist Sects and opened new fields of thought. Zhengyi patriarch Zhang Jixian 張繼先 incorporated the Chan Buddhist theory of the mind (xin 心) the the rest (xiuxie 休歇) of desires into the Daoist practice of freeing oneself from outside impressions to obtain quiety and emptiness (xujing 虛靜) and the true nature (zhenxing 真性). He also studied the techniques of Inner Alchemy Daoism that had been neglected by most Daoists until then. Practices to refine the qi (氣, by Daoists written 炁) of the Former Heaven (xiantian 先天; i.e. natural endowments from a status before birth) within the body would be helpful to influence the spirits of weather, especially that of rain and thunder. The employment of the five thunder methods (wuleifa 五雷法) would help to evoke rain or good weather (qiu yu qi qing 求雨祈晴) and to avoid natural desasters (jiu zai 救災). Xiao Yingsou 肖應叟, master of the Shangqing School, adopted Inner Alchemy thought to explain the potential of becoming an immortal. Du Daojian 杜道堅 wrote an exegesis of the Laozi 老子 by making use of Neo-Confucian numeral speculations (xiangshu 象數) of the Former Heaven. The Donghua Sect 東華派 ("Eastern Flower"), a branch of the Lingbao Sect and founded by Ning Quanzhen 寧全真, exerted important Daoist ritual offerings (zhaijiao 齋醮) at the court of Emperor Song Gaozong 宋高宗. Master Lin Lingzhen 林靈真 made intensive use of Inner Alchemy methods and declared these rites ase base for the talisman and register practice.

The Rise of Inner Alchemy Daoism

Song period Daoism experienced a shift from Outer Alchemy (waidan 外丹) to Inner Alchemy (neidan or neilian 内煉), a change that was supported by the theories of Chen Tuan and Zhang Boduan 張伯端. While Tang period Daoists were rather inclined to undergo practical experiments with minerals, herbs and other materia medica, in order to promote health and to obtain longevity or even immortality, Song Daoists had a closer look to other ideologies and religions and interpreted the traditional Daoist alchemy writing Zhouyi cantongqi 周易參同契 "Unification of the Three According to the Book of Changes" (by Wei Boyang 魏伯陽), considering even Buddhist theories of the mind (xin 心) and nature (xing 性) and the Neo-Confucian teachings of moral obligations (gangchang 綱常). The old Daoist theories of becoming immortal by eating gold – mixed with cinnabar, a very unhealthy quicksilver compound - were long outdated. Instead, breathing techniques (tuna 吐納), especially "embryonic breathing" (taixi 胎息) attracted the attention of Daoist practitioners and became the prevalent method for preserving health (fuqi yangsheng 服氣養生 "nourishing life by eating air/qi"). The first Daoist master cherishing breathing techniques was Su Yuanlang 蘇元朗 in the 6th century. It was especially the semi-legendary masters Zhongli Quan 鍾離權 and Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 that promoted the "Inner Alchemy".
Inner Alchemy replaces the utensils of Outer Alchemy with the parts of the human body: body as alchemical cauldron (dinglu 鼎爐), bolidy essences (jing 精) as medical herbs, the fire of spirit (shenhuo 神火) as fuel, with a "holy embryo" (shengtai 聖胎) as amalgam (jindan 金丹) of the alchemical process.
Chen Tuan (d. 989) was a Daoist master at the court of Emperor Song Taizong and one of the most important Daoist theoreticians. He wrote the book Wujitu 無極圖 "Image of the Non-Extreme", a Daoist interpretation of the Book of Changes. This image can be interpreted as a process within the human body as well as a process in the universe because the human body is seen as a microcosm that mirrors the universe. The necessary qi is being produced in the "black hen gate" (xuanpin zhi men 玄牝之門; also called "gate of life", mingmen 命門, a hypothetical point between the kidneys), is then refined as various liquids of the body, to enter and to circulate in the five organs (wuguan 五官, literally "five ministers") that correspond to one of the five cyclical phases (wuxing 五行). After this process, qi is again refined by interchanging male and female characters (represented by the hexagrams kan 坎 and li 離) to a "holy embryo" to finally dissolve in nothing (the non-extreme). This qi medicine is thus created out of nothing and finally dissolves into nothing. The Neo-Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi 周頓頤 took this idea to create his basic Taijitu 太極圖 "Image of the Highest Extreme."
Far more literary (in the shape of poems) and exactly in its descriptions is Zhang Boduan's Wuzhenpian 悟真篇 "On Realizing Perfection". Zhang explains that Daoism is a doctrine that is able to lead together China's three philosophical systems. For him, Buddhism and Confucianism neglected body and life, while traditional Daoism payed not enough attention to mind and nature. He stresses, that the body is the basis for human existence and is therefore the most important objects to care for. Only with a well-preserved health man is able to care for his spiritual nature. The teachings of Zhang Boduan were passed down to disciples who should eventually found the Southern School of the Alchemy Daoism (Jindandao nanzong 金丹道南宗), the first five "patriarchs" being Zhang Boduan, Shi Tai 石泰, Xue Daoguang 薛道光, Chen Nan 陳楠 and Bai Yuchan 白玉蟾, all members of the Qingxiu Group 清修派 (Pristine Practice), while Liu Yongnian 劉永年 and the Shuangxiu Group 雙修派 (Couple Practice) investigated and interpretated breathing techniques for men and women that had to perform life preserving techniques together (hence called shuang 雙 "both").
In his book Daoshu 道樞 "Pivot of the Dao" Zeng Zao 曾慥 explained that via Inner Alchemy it would be possible for everyone to become an immortal, and not only for Outer Alchemy masters rich enough to buy a furnace, gold and cinnabar.

The Daoist Canon and the Encylopedia Yunji qiqian

Daoist writings have already been collected and classified by Lu Xiujing 陸修靜 during the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties 南北朝. Under the impression of the Buddhist Tripitaka publications, the Daoist canon (Daozang 道藏) was edited five times during the Song period. Unfortunately all of these editions are lost.
Another very important writing of Song Daoism is Zhang Junfang's 張君房 (d. 1007) Daoist encyclopaedia Yunji qiqian 雲笈七籤 "Seven slips of the cloudy satchel".


Since the Tang period Inner Asian merchants visited China again and again and brought with them their impulsive religion. Merchants stayed in the capital and trade cities along the southern coast (Guangzhou 廣州/Guangdong, Quanzhou 泉州/Fujian), and the Western Asian (by the Chinese called Dashi 大食) monotheistic religion of Islam (Chin. Yisilanjiao 伊斯蘭教) even spread to China. In the 13th century the first mosque (qingzhensi 清真寺) was built in Guangzhou, one of the oldest still extant mosques of China can be found in Quanzhou. Muslim (Chin. musilin 穆斯林) merchants - like other foreign merchants too - lived in foreigner quarters (fanfang 蕃坊 or 番坊). But for a long time Islam was only the religion of foreigners, its simplistic prayer rituals but complicated regulations concerning food seemed not to be attractive for Chinese. Only in the course of time, when Arab or Muslim merchants (Muslims were later called Huihui 回回, in modern terms "Hui Minority" 回族) stayed longer in the harbour cities, they became accustomed to Chinese culture and sometimes contributed to the welfare of their new home cities as rich inhabitants. It was only far in the west where Islam could gain a stronger foothold among the mainly Turkish or Uighur population.


The Jewish diaspora had also members in China. Jews (Youtairen 猶太人) were quite numerous (about 2,500 families) in Kaifeng 開封/Henan, capital of the Northern Song and the Jin empires, where they were engaged in trade and merchant business. Judaism (<>Yicileyejiao 一賜樂業教 [from "Israel"], modern term: Youtaijiao 猶太教) was often not distinguished from Islam by the Chinese, but Judaism was (and is) an exclusive religion, and so it was always a foreign religion in China. Unlike in Europe, Judaism in China lacked the antagonism to Christianity and was thus respected as one religion of many. Jews in China gradually accustomed to Chinese culture, and most traces of Jewish communities had vanished until the 19th century.


Manicheism (Monijiao 摩尼教, Mojiao 魔教, Mingjiao 明教) with its ethics of respect and mutual help, its stress of austerity and simplicity of lifestyle, but also because of its quite simple rituals became a popular religion especially in the southeastern regions. Many features of Manicheism soon became indistinguishable from Buddhist beliefs and ethics, and especially the popular Buddhist White Cloud 白雲宗 and White Lotus Sects 白蓮宗 incorporated Manicheism as just a special form of popular Buddhism that had common features like renouncing meat and eating only vegetables.


During the anti-Buddhist presecution of the 9th century, Zoroastrianism (Xianjiao 祆教) was also a target of the state-ordered purge of clericals and was never able to recover from this blow. There was still a Zoroastrian monastery near the capital of Kaifeng and some in other cities, but after the 12th century this Persian religion had died out in China.

"Three doctrines/religions unite in one" (sanjiao heyi 三教合一), or at least "Confucianism and Buddhism join together" (Ru Fo heliu 儒佛合流)
From the side of Buddhism, it was especially the monks Qisong and Zhiyuan 智園 that tried to explain the relationship of Confucianism and Buddhism for the life. While they explained Confucianism as a teaching to educate the self (xiu shen 修身), Buddhism was seen as a tool for the education of the mind (xiu xin 修心). Both teachings were thought was complementary, and the loss of one of them would inevitably lead to a defect in a person's state. The two monks transposed Buddhist termini into the Confucian vocabulary and equalized the five abandonments (wujie 五戒) of Buddhism with the five virtues (wuchang 五常) of Confucianism, filial piety (xiao 孝), a central concept of Confucianism, being the begin of the five renouncements. The Buddhist mind (xin 心) was for them the expression of humanity (ren 仁) and adequate moral behaviour (yi 義), core concepts of Confucius. The Buddha himself was nothing else than the extreme polar (ji 極), the Dao represents the inherent principle of the universal order in Neo-Confucianism.

2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

Map and Geography

Event History

Emperors and Rulers

Government and Administration

Literature and Philosophy


Technology and Inventions