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Sukhothai Heritage City
Sukhothai Historical Park covers an area of about 70sqkm and contains more than 190 historical ruins. Inside the city wall and moat, Wat Mahathat stands at its epicentre, as the spiritual centre of the kingdom, and the royal palace (now collapsed) lies to its northwest. To the city&rsquos immediate north is a small contained area, housing Wat Phra Pai Luang, believed to be the original foundation site of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Strolling through the grounds of the historical park, you will encounter at least three architectural styles.
Early Sukhothai people shared the same beliefs in the system of the universe with the Khmer. Temples were laid out according to the Mount Meru concept with the central prang being the tallest and most significant structure. Only after Theravada Buddhism entered the kingdom did the Ceylonese bell-shaped chedis replace the corn-shaped prangs. Sukhothai craftsmen also developed their own style, known as the lotus-bud chedi. About 60km from Sukhothai Historical Park is its sister city Si Satchanalai, a flourishing centre for trade with China at the time. If you have time, definitely pay Si Satchanalai a visit in order to get a complete picture of the Sukhothai Kingdom.
Much of what constitutes modern Thailand can be traced back to the Sukhothai Kingdom, although some history dating back to this ancient period remains pretty much unclear and debatable. Before the rise of Sukhothai, Siam was made up of small fiefdoms, subject to the ancient Khmer Empire&rsquos rule. Sukhothai&rsquos founding monarch was able to consolidate power and succeed the Khmer as the ruler of newfound Siam.
As well as in the realms of government and religion, the short-lived Sukhothai Kingdom marked a golden period for art and architecture. King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1239 &ndash 1317), the second ruling monarch of the Phra Ruang dynasty, established the Ceylonese school of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion, set up an administrative system and documented Thai alphabets from ancient Khmer scripts. Ceylonese style, bell-shaped stupas grew to become a common sight at Buddhist temples across the kingdom. Sukhothai temple craftsmen also developed their own style, known as the Sukhothai style, the most notable being the &lsquolotus-bud&rsquo chedis, brick-over-stucco construction technique and Buddha images with a signature graceful form.
After King Ramkhamhaeng, Sukhothai slowly entered a period of decline, beginning 1378 onwards. By the mid-fifteenth century, Sukhothai was fully annexed by the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Sukhothai Walking Buddha
This Buddha is depicted walking with his right hand in the gesture of reassurance (abhayamudra). Most Buddha images throughout Asia are in one of three postures: standing, sitting or lying down. The creation of a walking Buddha image is a distinctive feature of Thai art in the thirteenth century. Walking images of the Buddha continue to be made in Thailand to this day.
Walking among the people
After renouncing his early life as a prince, the Buddha spent the remainder of his life as a mendicant, teaching throughout northern India. Earlier Buddhist art had stressed the god-like and king-like aspects of the Buddha, and neither gods nor kings were imagined as a walking monk. Thai images presented a new image of the Buddha walking among the people emphasizing his earthly aspects. Sukhothai walking images are also connected with the conception of Thai kings as being closer to the people than their Indian or Khmer counterparts.
Greatest extent of the Sukhothai Kingdom, 1292 (map: Thames Mapping, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Sukhothai kingdom was the first Theravada Buddhist kingdom of Thailand. The ethnic Thai people entered modern Thailand from the north, modern south-west China. The Sukhothai style of sculpture is very distinctive, with smooth long limbs, an oval face and smooth modeling of clothing. The influence of Sri Lanka is clear in the flame-like ushnisha which is seen on the head of images of the Buddha.
© Trustees of the British Museum
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
Speaking of Japan, the Japanese also have a long tradition of "warrior-monks" or yamabushi. During the late 1500s, as Oda Nobunaga and Hideyoshi Toyotomi were reunifying Japan after the chaotic Sengoku period, most of the famous temples of warrior monks were targeted for extermination. One famous (or infamous) example is the Enryaku-ji, which was burned to the ground by Nobunaga's forces in 1571, with a death toll of about 20,000.
Although the dawn of the Tokugawa Period saw the warrior-monks crushed, militarism and Buddhism joined forces once more in 20th century Japan, before and during the Second World War. In 1932, for example, an unordained Buddhist preacher called Nissho Inoue hatched a plot to assassinate major liberal or westernizing political and business figures in Japan so as to restore full political power to Emperor Hirohito. Called the "League of Blood Incident," this scheme targeted 20 people and managed to assassinate two of them before the League's members were arrested.
Once the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II began, various Zen Buddhist organizations in Japan carried out funding drives to buy war material and even weapons. Japanese Buddhism was not quite so closely associated with violent nationalism as Shinto was, but many monks and other religious figures participated in the rising tide of Japanese nationalism and war-mongering. Some excused the connection by pointing to the tradition of samurai being Zen devotees.
Sukhothai Historical Park
Very well spread with Amazing green cover and local food stalls.
If you like ruins, you will like this place. I had wanted to go for years and finally made the trip this month. The ruins are nice and well preserved.
It would have been nice to get more history on the place, but the brochure and museum didn't really provide great information.
If you want to compare it to other ruins in SE Asia, I would say Angkor Wat is much better, as is Ayutthaya. If you're in SE Asia and have limited time, I'd visit one of those places instead.
Would have given this place 4 stars overall, but knocking 2 off because of the racist pricing. If you are white, black or any race that isn't Asian, you will be charged a price 5x higher.
What beautiful remains. All remaining temples are clearly described, the cycle paths mostly smooth. Pack a bottle of water as there is no cafe on site although there are small stall holders parked up against the fence from whom you can purchase a drink. Mind you it will come in a lot of plastic packaging. If you don’t feel like cycling, you can hire a tuktuk.
Head to Wat Maha That for the ultimate sunset shot.
We were here as part of a group tour of about 18 people. Included in our tour was a morning tour of the Sukhothai Historical Park by Bike. Another girl and myself were debating walking it and I am glad we did not. This place is HUGE! You need a bike. We started our tour around 8:30am which was the prefect time. We did not see many tourists and it wasn't overly hot yet. It cost 100Baht (about $4.25cad) per adult. Most guesthouse have bikes to rent or you can rent them right across the street from the entrance. You can also hire a driver and electric buggy. The riding roads are big enough for vehicle but mostly only maintenance vehicles in the park. So lots of room to ride. They park is very well maintained. Even people trying to clean up the natural ponds. It was a great morning full of mesmerizing history.
The city's walls form a 2km by 1.6km rectangle. There are 193 ruins spread out over 70km of land. There is a gate in the centre of each wall. Inside are the remains of the royal palace and twenty-six temples, Buddha & Hinduism monuments & statues. Wat Mahathat is the largest most impressive one.
This historic city was a Thai Capital in the 13th & 14th centuries. In 1991 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
That according to Straits Times of 29 August 1894, Mrs. C.E. Spooner (wife of C.E. Spooner, State Engineer, PWD Selangor) in performing the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Brickfields Buddhist Temple on the 24 August 1894, addressed the gathering in Sinhala besides in English. The fact that Mr. and Mrs., Spooner has previously resided in Ceylon for over 15 years before coming to Selangor in 1890, their mastery of the Sinhala language would indeed not be surprising
That the Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society was not so named at the time of its registration in March 1894.The original registered name of the society was Sasanabhi Wurdhi Wardhana Society. The engraved inscription on the marble plaque on the outer wall of the shrine room building bears testimony to this fact. During the 1890s the Society used to be also popularly known by its abbreviated name of “SWW Society” by members of the public, including the Sinhala community and even in newspaper reports. The name was changed to its present form of Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society on 14 May 1918
That the Sasana Society at that time of its inception in early 1894 had a total number of 87 founding members, the majority of whom were Government servants
That according to the report in the Straits Times of 29 August 1894 the total number of members of the society was 400
That the Sasana Society applied to the Government in July 1894 to obtain the adjoining lot of land of 2 acres in extent, after having been granted the present 1.964 acre land by the Government in June 1894.The land applied for was offered to be reserved by the Government to the President of the Sasana Society, T.A. Gunasekera in October 1894 subject to the payment of a lump sum of $150.00. The President, unfortunately, for some unknown reason, did not however pursue the matter any further. That adjoining lot of land is now owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church
That the early days the Brickfields area (generally regarded as the birth-place of the Sasana Society and it’s temple) used to be dense jungle and the only access at that time to the Buddhist Temple grounds from the main Brickfields Road was by way of a road reserve, which could have meant only a track or just a clearing
That the Klang River, in the early days (long before the river deviation programme was undertaken in the 1920s) used to flow quite close to the southern perimeter of the Brickfields Buddhist Temple land and almost parallel to the road reserve side along the western boundary of the land. The river then proceeded in a somewhat north-westerly direction towards And Seng Road, after passing through land where the La Salle school is now located
That our Buddhist Vihara (now known as the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur) never had a traditional or indigenous name of its own from the very beginning. whereas the Sinhala Buddhist Temple at Assam Kumbang, Taiping had been known as Bodhi Lanka Ram Temple since its inception, that in Kampar Road, Penang as the Mahindarama Buddhist Temple, and the one in Sentul as the Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple (and for a brief period until recently known as Sri Jayanti Buddhist Temple), it would appear strange that on the other hand the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields has until recently been known as the Batu Limabelas Buddhist temple. Even Ven. Patthalagedera Dhammananda, the first known incumbent bhikkhu of the temple in 1895 used to refer to it in Sinhala as Batu Limabelas Viharastanaya.Later, as the area came closely associated with the brick-making industry, the temple came to be popularly known as the Brickfields Buddhist Temple, and the name had remained so even to this day
That the only access route from the east bank of the Klang River to the vicinity of the Brickfields Buddhist Temple grounds in the early days used to be a wooden pole or two which had to be crossed in a precarious manner.Realising the risk the temple devotees and other residents were exposed to in crossing the river, a wooden bridge (115 feet long and 5 feet wide) was erected by prominent towkays of Kuala Lumpur in October 1897 at a cost of $192.50
That the Buddhist Institution Sunday Dhamma School was not know as such when it was first inaugurated way back in 1929.It was known at the time only as the Sunday Religious School.With an initial enrolement of only 12 students, lessons in Sinhala language and Buddhist scriptures under the guidance of the resident bhikkhu of the Brickfields Buddhist Temple were conducted under the shade of the Bodhi Tree within the temple compound
That up to the late 1920s Wesak carol parties went on their rounds in gaily decorated bullock carts.Children and their carol masters used to sit on long benches provided on either side in the carts.The caroling would start off on their rounds from the Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple,Sentul on the eve of Wesak day , and would wend their way through town visiting all known Sinhala Buddhist houses en route.The carol parties would finally end up at the Brickfields Buddhist Temple, and after a short rest would commence their return journey to the Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple,Sentul in the early hours of the following morning
That the land on Lot 19 Section 55 in Brickfields which was granted by the Government to the Sasana Society on 20 June 1894 could only be regarded as being about 80% usable at the time, although the total land area (on paper) was said to be 1.964 acres in extent, the topography of the terrain at the time was such that almost 1/5th of the area formed a deep ravine with extensive swampland running the entire length of the eastern perimeter of the land, with the deepest end towards the south.(just about where the Wisma Dhamma now stands)
That in the early days proceeds from the sale of coconuts harvested in the temple grounds, used to be one of the major sources of revenue for the Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society (as much as $447.50 during 1952).Revenue from the sale of coconuts however begin to progressively decline in the 63rd Annual General Report of the Society for 1967).Regrettably, there is now not a single coconut tree left within the compound of the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields
That the charity box collections in the Brickfields Buddhist Temple in the early days were nothing to crow about as they often consisted of cash of low value, mainly coins of demonitions of 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 1c and even 1/2c.Dollar notes in the charity box in those days were indeed a rarity.However during the Japanese occupation period of currency notes – of the”banana” variety, but that of course was a different story
That the Sasana Society did not have a bank account in the early days.Even as late as the mid-1940s, G.K.Sedris Appuhamy, the first Hon. Treasurer of the Society after World War II, used to carry a small pillow case of coins to meetings – to meet disbursements. A bank account for the Society was for the first time opened on 1949
That in the early years up to including 1964 the Annual Reports and minutes of meetings of the Sasana Society ever both in English and Sinhala.Even the Rules of the Society (of 1951) appeared similarly published in English and Sinhala, and were printed at the Vidyalankara Pirivena Press at Kelaniya, Ceylon (through courtesy of Ven. Pannasiri Thera who was as Incumbent Bhikkhu of the Brickfields Buddhist Temple from 1950-1954)
That up to 1954 there was no telephone at the Brickfields Buddhist Temple. An application for the telephone made earlier had been turned down by the Priority Board of the Telecoms Department in 1953.A telephone was for the first time installed at the Temple around mid-1954
Buddhist Temple, Sukhothai - History
This is an incomplete summary of events in Buddhist history.
Information sources are listed where known.
See the Timeline of Buddhism at Wikipedia for the latest timeline - I no longer update this page.
A lot of arguments existed about the origins of Brahmi which was at first supposed as an offspring of the Aramaic script. Today, its West Semitic (Phoenician) traits are proved. For instance, the symbol A resembles greatly Semitic letter ALEF. Similarly, DHA, THA, LA, and RA all appear quite close to their Semitic counterparts/ancestors. There is, also, a slightly different school of thought that proposes a Southern Semitic origin. Still, a third school of thought holds that the Brahmi script came from the Indus Valley Script. However, the lack of any textual evidence between the end of the Harappan period at around 1800 B.C. and the first Brahmi and Kharosthi inscriptions at roughtly 500 B.C. makes the Indus origin of Brahmi highly unlikely. More research (as in digs) should be conducted, though, to either prove or disprove this theory.
Brahmi is a syllabary, it consists of syllables only, if we state that single vowels are also syllables. Each character carries a consonant followed by the vowel "a", much like Old Persian or Meroïtic. However, unlike these two systems, Brahmi indicates the same consonant with a different vowel with extra strokes attached to the character. Brahmi is written from the left to the right.
Already in the last centuries BC the script was divided into 3 varieties: northern, south-eastern, and southern. Dialectal differences consisted of the shape of the symbols, though the system remained the same. First separate branches emerged in the 5th century AD. The Brahmi script is the ancestor of practically all modern Indian writing systems, at all there are about 40 varieties of them nowadays, including Tibetan, Singhalese, Sharada, Newari, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Lahnda, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, Devanagari. In addition, many other Asian scripts, even Japanese to a very small extent (vowel order), were also derived from Indian script. Thus the Brahmi script was the Indian equivalent of the Greek script that gave arise to a host of different systems.
Languages which used Brahmi as their script: Indo-Aryan (Vedic, Sanskrit, Prakrits, Pali), Iranian (Sacian), Tocharic.
The first two monks that came to China were known as Moton and Chufarlan, and were received by the Hong-Lu-Si, which is equivalent to our present Foreign Ministry or State Department.
Since then Buddhism has flourished and Sri Lankan monks and expatriate lay people have been prominent in spreading Theravada Buddhism in Asia, the West and even in Africa.
The following, written by Ven. Walpola Rahula was approved unanimously.
Basic Points Unifying The Theravaada and the Mahaayaana
1. The Buddha is our only Master.
2. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
3. We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God.
4. Following the example of the Buddha, who is the embodiment of Great Compassion (mahaa-karu.naa) and Great Wisdom (mahaa- praj
naa), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth.
5. We accept the Four Noble Truths, nameley Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha and the universal law of cause and effect as taught in the pratiitya-samutpaada (Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination).
6. We understand, according to the teaching of the Buddha, that all conditioned things (sa.mskaara) are impermanent (anitya) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things (dharma) are without self (anaatma).
7. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipak.sa-dharma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.
8. There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment, according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely as a disciple (sraavaka), as a Pratyeka-Buddha and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save others.
9. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.
The Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America, Inc., found in 1962, is the oldest Chinese Buddhist temple on the eastern coast of the United States. It was found by Mrs. Annie Ying, and funded by her husband Mr. James Ying. Both served as the Founding Co-Chairmen.
Eastern States Buddhist Temple, or The Temple, was initially founded to fulfill the needs of Chinese Buddhists in the greater New York area and held its first services in a 20 by 20 space at 1544 Broadway in the rear part of Mr. Ying’s store at 1544 Broadway. Lunch and other activities were held in the basement. In 1962, Eastern States Buddhist Temple was officially registered and then rented its own space at 64 Mott St.. 50 years later, The Temple is still located there and had become a landmark and a community fixture.
The choice of 64 Mott Street was dictated not only by the fact that this is a convenient place for Chinese Buddhists to gather each week, but also because Mrs. Ying saw a particular need in Chinatown.
What she saw was many elderly Chinese men sitting on the sidewalk all day and drinking coffee. Upon inquiry, she discovered that these elderly men were laborers from China who planned to leave their family for perhaps one or two decade, earn some American dollars, and then return to their home and family. What they did not count on was the communist revolution. That war essentially scattered their family all over China and thus terminated all their communications with their family members. Now that these men are old and retired, they have neither a Chinese home to return to, nor have they gotten sufficiently Americanized to consider United States their new home. So they sit all day on the sidewalk and drink coffee and chat and wait. What they need is a place to gather and read and chat.
So the new home of the Eastern States Buddhist Temple was designed by Mrs. Ying to be both a social club for these men as well as a temple. As one enters the premises, before actually going into the temple proper, one is in an 8’ by 18’ vestibule with a rectangular table in the middle off to one side and book cases forming one of the walls. These elderly men then came and sat and played chess or read newspaper. Free hot tea was also supplied by the Temple. This ‘social club’ became a smashing success from day one. However, we discovered, that they did become sort of ‘acclimated’ after all…. they often preferred drinking coffee instead of the free tea.
As one walks a few steps through the vestibule and then under a red wooden archway, one enters the temple proper which has many rows of seats on both sides. At the far end, sits a statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. And again from day one, the Temple too was a smashing success. As the first (and only) Chinese Buddhist temple on the eastern coast of the United States, this is where all the Chinese Buddhist functions in Greater New York are held. And in addition to serving the Chinese parishioners, there were lectures every Saturday night for the general public.
Buddhist Temple, Sukhothai - History
It is widely believed by Thais, that Emperor Ashoka sent Buddhist missionaries to Thailand in the 3rd century B.C. While this is quite possible, there is at present no evidence to support this belief. In the main, however, it came with Indian traders and settlers who for seven hundred years, frequented the shores of Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. The early settlers brought both Hinduism and Buddhism, as evidenced by numerous images of Vishnu, Shiva and Buddha found in early sites in Thailand. Animism antedated both Hinduism and Buddhism in Thailand and has persisted to the present day, chiefly in the form of spirit shrines in doors, yards and business premises. By the 6th century A.D. Buddhism was well established in south and central areas of what is now Thailand. Later Mahayana and Tantra together with Hinduism became the predominant religions.
Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. King Mongkut (Rama IV) surmised that it probably was the first stupa to be built in Thailand. King Asoka distributed Buddha's relics among various Buddhist countries including Suwannaphumi. Nakhon Pathom was possibly the capital of Suwannaphumi (approx. 139 B.C -457 A.D.) King Asoka sent to two missionaries, Sona Dhera and Uttara Dhera to Suwannaphumi as recorded in the Mahavamsa.
The Mons of southern Burma adopted Theravada Buddhism at an early date and thereafter influenced the religious history of Thailand by invading the central valley of the Menam Chao Phya and setting up the Kingdom of Dvaravati which lasted from the third to the seventh centuries. They left numerous stupas and a distinctive style of Buddhist image. Theravada Buddhism in Thailand was further strengthened after King Anawrahta of Burma captured Thanton in 1057 A.D. From there he carried to his capital at Pagan a number of Theravadin monks together with the Pali canon, and being an ardent Theravadin he spread his religion along with his conquests in northern Thailand. Later as the Thai moved south from Yuman in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries they came in contact with this form of Buddhism. When they set up the Thai Kingdom of Sukhothai, about 1238 A.D. it was with Theravada Buddhism as the state religion.
The history of Thailand begins with the rise of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the thirteenth century, a State whose people were one in blood and language with the present Thais. Under devout kings of Ayudhya, Buddhism flourished, and by 1750 must have accumulated great quantities of sacred writings and valuable chronicles connected with the Monastic Order. Practically all such writings were destroyed in the devastation that attended the Burmese invasion of 1766-1767. Ayudhaya, the capital, fell after a siege of fourteen months during which fires and epidemics ravaged the city. However, by the 13th and 14th centuries monks from Sri Lanka succeeded in establishing Theravada Buddhism and it has remained the state religion ever since.
Wat Haripunchai (pictured above ) is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the Chiang Mai valley. This was the capital of a Mon kingdom about 1,000 years ago
The first two kings of the present Chakri dynasty, who reigned from 1782 to 1824, are known by the names of Phra Buddha Yod Fa and Phra Buddha Loet la. While the third king, Phra Nang Klao, did not possess the name "Buddha" he was known for his devotion to the Order and his aid in temple building and scriptural revision. The son of King Mongkut, the fourth ruler, Prince Vajirayanvaroros was virtually head of the Buddhist Monastic Order from 1892 to 1910 until his death in 1921 he was Prince Patriarch. Thereafter a grandson of Rama 111 became Prince Patriarch and filled this high position until his death in 1937. It has been the custom of all the Thai kings to serve a novitiate in the temple of their youth, thus the Throne has been closely bound to the Buddhist Order by ties of experience as well as by personal interest.
Never having been conquered by the colonial powers, Thailand was never subjected to assaults by Christian missionaries or imposed Western influence, and today some 94% of Thais call themselves Buddhists. In the 19th century King Mongkut, himself a former monk, conducted a campaign to reform and modernise the monkhood, a movement that has continued in the present century under the inspiration of several great ascetic monks from the northeast of the country. The Western disciples of one of these monks, Ajhan Cha, have successfully founded thriving monasteries in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries .
A Brief History Of Buddhism Parts 13 & 14
“Buddhism expanded westward into the eastern-most fringes of Arsacid Parthia, to the area of Merv, in ancient Margiana (modern day Turkmenistan). Soviet archaeological teams have excavated a Buddhist chapel, a gigantic Buddha statue and a Monastery in Giaur Kala, near Merv.
Parthians were directly involved in the propagation of Buddhism. For instance, An Shigao (148-180 CE), a Parthian Prince, became a Buddhist missionary monk and travelled to China, and is the first known translator of Indian Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.”
“The eastern part of Central Asia (Chinese Turkestan, Tarim Basin, Xinjiang) has revealed extremely rich Buddhist works of art, such as wall paintings and reliefs in numerous caves, portable paintings on canvas, sculpture and ritual objects, which display multiple influences from Indian and Hellenistic cultures. Serindian art is highly reminiscent of the Gandharan style, and scriptures in the Gandhari script Kharoṣṭhi have been found.
Central Asians seem to have played a key role in the transmission of Buddhism to the East. The first translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were Parthian, like An Shigao and An Hsuan, Kushan of Yuezhi ethnicity, like Lokaksema, Zhi Qian and Zhi Yao, or Sogdians, like Kang Sengkai.
Thirty-seven early translators of Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese are known, and the majority of them have been identified as Central Asians.
Central Asian and East Asian Buddhist monks appear to have maintained strong exchanges until around the 10th century, as shown by frescoes from the Tarim Basin.
These influences were rapidly absorbed, however, by the vigorous Chinese culture, and a strongly Chinese flavour developed from that point onwards.”
Dharmacharya Andrew. J. Williams
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BUDDHISM Part 14 –
CENTRAL & NORTHERN ASIA (Part 3)
“According to traditional accounts, Buddhism was introduced into China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), after, an emperor dreamed of a flying golden man thought to be the Buddha. Although archaeological records confirm that Buddhism was introduced sometime during the Han dynasty, it did not flourish in China until the Six Dynasties period (220-589 CE).
The year 67 CE saw Buddhism’s official introduction to China with the coming of the two monks Moton and Chufarlan. In 68 CE, under imperial patronage, they established the White Horse Temple, which still exists today, close to the imperial capital at Luoyang. By the end of the 2nd century, a prosperous Buddhist community had settled at Pengcheng (modern day Xuzhou, Jiangsu).
The first known Mahayana scriptural texts are translations into Chinese by the Kushan monk Lokakṣema in Luoyang, between 178 and 189 CE. Some of the earliest known Buddhist artifacts found in China are small statues on ‘money trees’, dated 200 CE, in typical Gandharan drawing style. That the imported images accompanying the newly arrived doctrine came from Gandhara is strongly suggested by the early Gandharan characteristics on this ‘money tree’, such as the Buddha with an uṣhnisha vertical arrangement of the hair, moustache, symmetrically looped robe and parallel incisions for the folds of the arms.
In the period between 460-525 CE, during the Northern Wei dynasty, the Chinese constructed the Yungang Grottoes, which are outstanding examples of Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes.
Another famous example of Buddhist Grottoes is the Longmen Grottoes which started with the Northern Wei Dynasty in 493 CE. There are as many as 100,000 statues within the 1,400 caves, ranging from 25 mm to 17 metres in height. The area also contains nearly 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, as well as over sixty Buddhist pagodas.
Buddhism flourished during the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE). The dynasty was initially characterised by a strong openness to foreign influences and renewed exchanges with Indian culture due to the numerous travels of Chinese Buddhist monks to India from the 4th to the 11th centuries. The Tang capital of Changan (modern day Xian) became an important centre for Buddhist thought. From there Buddhism spread to Korea, and the Japanese embassies of Kentoshi helped gain footholds in Japan.
However, foreign influences came to be negatively perceived towards the end of the Tang Dynasty. In the year 845 CE, the Tang emperor Wuzong outlawed all foreign religions, including Buddhism, in order to support the indigenous Taoism. Throughout his territory, he confiscated Buddhist possessions, destroyed monasteries and temples, and executed Buddhist monks, ending Buddhism’s cultural and intellectual dominance.
However, about a hundred years after the Anti-Buddhist Persecution, Buddhism revived during the Song Dynasty (1127–1279 CE).
Pure Land and Chan Buddhism continued to prosper for some centuries, the latter giving rise to Korean Seon and Japanese Zen. In China, Chan flourished particularly under the Song dynasty (1127–1279 CE) when its monasteries were great centres of culture and learning.
In the last two thousand years, Chinese Buddhists have established what are known as The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism. Mount Wutai, Mount Emei, Mount Jiuhua and Mount Putuo.
Today, China boasts one of the richest collections of Buddhist arts and heritages in the world. UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu province, the Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang in Henan province, the Yungang Grottoes near Datong in Shanxi province, and the Dazu Rock Carvings near Chongqing are among the most important and renowned Buddhist sculptural sites. The Leshan Giant Buddha, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty, and which overlooks the confluence of three rivers, is still the largest stone Buddha statue in the world.”