From last issue:Vinaya Master Jianzhen
Buddhism during the Two Song Dynasties
uring the Sui and Tang dynasties Buddhism flourished and many Mahayana sects were established, most importantly: the Tiantai Sect established by Dharma Master Zhi Yi, the Three Theory (Madhyamika) Sect by Dharma Master Ji Zang, the Dharma Mark Sect by Dharma Masters Hsuan Tsang and Kui Ji, and the Vinaya sects of Nanshan, Xiangbu, and Dongta by Dharma Masters Dao Hsuan, Qing Li, and Huai Jing, respectively. After the mid-Tang Dynasty, following Dharma Master Tan Luan of Northern Wei, five Chan sects emerged, namely the Linji, Caodong, Yunmen, Fayan, and Weiyang sects. The Avatamsaka Sect established by Dharma Master Fa Zang was based upon the Secret School founded by the Indian Dharma Masters Subhakarasimha, Vajra Wisdom, Amoghavajra, and Huigwo. After these sects were formed, the development of foreign trade in the Sui and Tang dynasties helped to spread Buddhism abroad. In the early Song dynasty, the imperial court adopted a policy of protecting Buddhism. In the first year of the Jianlong reign (a.d. 960), the imperial court allowed over 8,000 people to leave the home-life, dispatched Dharma Master Xingqin and one hundred and fifty-six others on a journey to India to seek the Dharma, and commissioned Chang Chongxin to carve the Buddhist Canon in Yizhou (Chengdu).
In the first year of the Taiping Xingguo reign (a.d. 976), there were 170,000 monks and nuns. A translation institute was established over five years’ time, resuming after 170 years the work of translating the Buddhist Sutras, which had been halted since the sixth year of the Yuanhe reign (a.d. 811) in the Tang dynasty. Meanwhile, a continuous stream of monks from the western regions and ancient India came to China, bringing with them the Buddhist Sutras. Over eighty such monks had come to China by the Jingduo reign (a.d. 1034–1037). Although the Sutra translation work surpassed that of the Tang dynasty in scale, its achievements were not as great as those of the Tang dynasty. Among the various sects, the Chan sects, especially Linji and Yunmen sects, were most popular, followed by the Tiantai, Huayan, Vinaya, and Pure Land sects. Since the sects worked together and promoted the combined cultivation of “Teaching (represented by Tiantai and Huayan) and Chan” and “Pure Land and Chan,” such practices as Huayan Chan and Buddha-recitation Chan were the fashion of the time. The Tiantai sect was divided into two schools, Shanjia and Shanwai. They flourished especially among the populace because they formed Buddha recitation groups and thus had great influence. During the fifth year of the Tianxi reign (a.d. 1021), the Buddhism of the Northern Song dynasty reached the peak of its development with 460,000 Sangha members and 40,000 monasteries. During the rule of Emperor Hui (a.d. 1141–1143), the imperial court believed in Taoism and decreed that Buddhism and Taoism be combined and Buddhist monasteries be converted into Taoist temples. Buddhism thus suffered a great setback. The Southern Song dynasty was stable and concentrated in south China, in the region south of the Yangtze River. Although Buddhism still prospered to a certain extent, the government limitations imposed upon its development led to the gradual decline of the various sects, with the exception of the Chan and Pure Land sects.
As for the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, the ruler of the Yuan dynasty revered Tibetan Buddhism. The Chan, Vinaya, and other sects continued to develop and spread; there were monasteries everywhere, and Sangha members were also very numerous. In the twenty-eighth year of Emperor Shizu in the Yuan dynasty (a.d. 1291), there were 42,318 monasteries and 213,000 monks and nuns in the country. There was a tight-knit Sangha administrative system instituted at both the central and local levels of government. Under its enhanced supervision, The Teaching and Cultivation of Master Bai Zhang’s Rules of Purity was issued and the famous Puning (Universal Peace) Monastery edition of the Buddhist Canon was carved.
After the Wanli reign of the Ming dynasty, the four eminent Dharma Masters Zhu Hong, Zhen Ke, De Qing, and Zhi Xu took another step forward in the development of Buddhism. Internally, they combined the doctrines of the Chan, Teaching, Vinaya, and other sects. Externally, they fused the styles of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. This development was profoundly welcomed by scholars and believed by the populace, and it further enhanced the Chinese features of Buddhism.
When the Qing dynasty came to power, the emperor revered Tibetan Buddhism and adopted a restrictive policy toward the Buddhism of central China. During Emperor Kangxi’s reign, the prohibition was slightly relaxed, and the lofty monks who had secluded themselves in the mountains during the late Ming Dynasty were invited back to the capital. Buddhism, which had been weak and declining, showed signs of revitalization. Although Emperor Yongzheng favored Tibetan Buddhism, he also advocated that despite their differences, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism were fundamentally the same and should co-exist without conflict; he also advocated the merging of the various sects and schools of Buddhism. He wrote The Book of Picking out the Demons and Recognizing the Differences, in which he encouraged adherents of all sects to recite the Buddha’s name. He has exerted an important influence on contemporary Buddhism. During the rule of Emperor Qianlong, the Qianlong Buddhist Canon was published and the Complete Collection of Mantras from the Buddhism of central China, Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet was complied. These works served to propel Buddhism forward. Since the final years of the Qing Dynasty, motivated by the study of Buddhism taking place in Japan and Western Europe, such people as Yang Wenhui and Ouyang Jingwu have established a place for engraving Sutras, thus beginning a new era for the study of Buddhism. Contemporary Chinese philosophers such as Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Tan Sitong, and Chang Taiyan have all been influenced by Buddhism. Buddhism was one of the sources of Tan Sitong’s philosophy of Humanism. Other eminent monks such as the Great Masters Yue Lin, Di Xian, Tai Xu, and Hong Yi have all worked zealously to make Buddhism flourish again, thus bringing a fresh style to Buddhism.