Buddhism
Introduction

The practice of Buddhism in China has existed since the first century C.E. and is now practiced in many ways throughout the country. However, it is important to note that although differences can be found between the four prevailing Buddhist sects: Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism, these differences vary primarily in regional practice, and those variances do not profoundly change the overall philosophy of Buddhism. Apart from the four major Buddhist sects are other various schools, and in China, the schools that are most widely practiced are the Pure Land and Ch’an schools. Currently there are thought to be around 1 billion Buddhist practitioners in China, making it the country with the most Buddhist practitioners in the world, and the influence of Buddhist teachings on Chinese thought is abound. Buddhist practice and teachings are spreading throughout China through the reconstruction of additional Buddhist temples in rural China. The areas in which the construction is chosen to occur do not always desire new temples but acquiesce for the reason that new temples are often associated with an influx of money into the impoverished areas. Buddhism, although considered a religion, is also referred to as a philosophy or a way of life. In fact, the word “Buddhist” did not exist until Western cultures imported the concept of religion. Non-Western cultures, not traditionally using the concept of religion, have continued to not consistently characterize all belief systems as such; Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Confucianism are therefore Western concepts. Buddhism, because it was initially thought of as a “teaching,” rather than a religion, informs its followers’ lives in many ways (Kapnis 5). According to Thomas Borchert, in “Worry for the Dai Nation: Sipsongpanna, Chinese Modernity, and the Problems of Buddhist Modernism,” forms of state power within China have had an impact on the modern forms of Buddhism practiced, and this impact should be noted as such, rather than be understood as a reaction to modernity. Therefore, to fully understand how religion operates in China, one should first note how the national and local governments influence the practices.

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