From last issue: Buddhism of the Three Kingdoms period
Buddhism during the Era of Division Between North and South:
Most of the emperors of the Song, Qi, Liang, and Chen Dynasties during the Era of Division between the North and South were of the Buddhist faith. Emperor Wu of Liang was a fervent Buddhist who called himself the slave of the Triple Jewel. He renounced his throne for the monastic life four times, and each time
he was ransomed with funds paid by the national treasury. He built great numbers of monasteries, spoke the Dharma personally, and sponsored lavish vegetarian feasts. In the Liang Dynasty, there were 2,946 temples and a total of 82,700 monks and nuns. In Jian Kang (present-day Nanjing of Jiangsu Province) alone, there were over 700 large monasteries; and monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists numbered in the tens of thousands. Although Emperor Tai Wu of the Northern Wei Dynasty prohibited Buddhism, in general, most emperors supported Buddhism. In the Northern Wei Dynasty, Emperor Wen Cheng excavated the famous Yun Gang rock cave. After Emperor Xiao Wen moved the capital to Loyang, he commenced the chiseling of the rock cave called Dragon Door to commemorate his mother. Near the end of the Northern Wei, a total of 415 Sutras were published in 1919 rolls. There were around 30,000 monasteries and over two million Sangha members in the country. In the Northern Qi Dynasty, the Sangha official had over four million monks and nuns and over 40,000 monasteries under his jurisdiction. During the Era of Division between the North and South, a great number of foreign Sangha members came to China to propagate the Dharma. The most well-known among them were: Dharma Masters Gunavarman, Gunabhadra, Paramartha, Bodhiruchi, and Ratnamati. A group of Chinese Buddhists also went to India to study Buddhism. The famous ones were: Fa Xian, Zhi Fu, Song Yun, Hui Sheng, and so on. They visited northern India and brought back with them a great quantity of Buddhist Sutras.
Dharma Master Fa Xian (A.D. 337-422) was a monk from the Eastern Jin Dynasty. His lay surname was Gong, and he was a native of Wu Yang of Pin Yang County (present-day Xiangqiu of Shanxi province). His parents sent him to the monastery to leave the home-life at the age of three, and he was fully ordained at the age of twenty. In the third year of the Long An reign in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (A.D. 399), at sixty-five, Master Fa Xian set out on a long journey to the west. He and four fellow cultivators, Dharma Masters Hui Jing, Dao Zheng, Hui Sheng, and Hui Ying, passed through the He Xi Corridor, exited at the Jade Gate Pass, climbed over the Belaturgh Ridge, and crossed the border of northern India. Then they headed south and crossed the Indus River, passing through the kingdom of Udyana and arriving at Fuluosha (Baishawa). At this time, Master Hui Sheng froze to death and the others returned to China, while Master Fa Xian remained in the kingdom of Mali (Calcutta) and continued studying, copying out Sutras, and painting Buddha images. In the fifth year of the Yi Xi reign, Master Fa Xian crossed a strait and went to Simhala (now Sri Lanka). In two years, he obtained the Sanskrit versions of The Shramanera Vinaya, The Miscellaneous Treasury Sutra, and so on. Dharma Master Fa Xian cultivated and studied in Lion country for two years, staying mostly in Wu Wei Shan Monastery. Being a sincere Buddhist, Master Fa Xian naturally wanted to pay respects to traces left by Shakyamuni Buddha. Then he traveled a long distance and came to the neighborhood of Gem City, where he stayed in a cave for some time. To commemorate this lofty foreign monk, people in the neighborhood named the mountain "Fa Xian Mountain," the cave "Fa Xian Cave," the village at the foot of mountain "Fa Xian Village," the temple in the village "Fa Xian Temple." Today, the name "Fa Xian" is still a household name in Sri Lanka.
Buddhism during the Sui and Tang Dynasties: The development of Buddhism, whether philosophically or economically, during the Wei and Jin Dynasties in the Era of Division between the North and South, laid the foundation for the formation of characteristically Chinese Buddhist sects in the Sui and Tang Dynasties. After Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty united the dynasties of the Era of Division between the North and South, he gave orders to build a monastery at each of the five famous mountains, to refurbish the Buddha images damaged during Northern Zhou period when Buddhism was banned, and to establish the national monastery, Da Xing Shan (Great Prosperity and Goodness) Monastery, to carry out Buddhist policies in the capital, Da Xing City (southeast of Changan). During the Ren Shou reign (A.D. 601-604), Emperor Wen built 111 stupas throughout the country, widely established facilities for translation, and sought renowned translators and eminent monks to translate and expound the Buddhist Sutras. Following Emperor Wen's policy of protecting Buddhism, Emperor Yang established the well-known Wisdom Sun Way-place as the base for propagating Buddhism. The work of Sutra translation was continued, and Buddhism thus flourished. During the Ren Shou reign, there were 3792 monasteries and 230,000 Sangha members; 46 collections of Sutras were written, consisting of 1,326,616 rolls; 3,583 old Sutras were repaired; 16,580 large and small stone Buddha images were built, 1,508,940 old images were repaired.
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