Chinese Buddhsim includes Han Chinese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism. Han Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism belong to the Mahayana form of Buddhism, transmitted from India towards to the north. Theravada Buddhism spread south from India to Sri Lanka and South East Asia, and then to the are of the Dai ethnic group in Yunnan.
汉传佛教 Han Chinese Buddhism
Buddhism came to China via two paths, one path from ancient India via the Western Regions of China into Central China and the other path from Southern India by Sea to Southern China. In 67 CE, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, Dharmaratna and Kasyapamatanga accompanied Cai Yin to Luoyang to evangelize. Dharmaratna translated the first Chinese Sutra, The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections, and stayed first in the White Horse Temple then at Da Fa Wang Temple. White Horse Temple in Luoyang thus became the first Buddhist temple in China.
During the Three Kingdoms period the centers of Buddhism were Jianye (present day Nanjing) in the south and Luoyang in the north. In the Eastern Jin the monk Fa Xian travelled with disciples to India, Sri Lanka, and other countries, arriving in the year 410 CE. Later he wrote the book Fa Xian's Pilgrimage to India. In 627, during the Tang Dynasty, Xuanzang left the ancient capital of Chang'an on a dangerous journey to India to seek scriptures. During his many years in India one of the temples that he spent time at was the well known Nalanda Temple at the time of its peak. Based on Xuan Zang's oral account, his disciple Bian Ji compiled Tang Records on the Western Regions. He is the model for the central character, the monk Tang Seng, in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.
藏传佛教 Tibetan Buddhism
The main form of Tibetan Buddhism is Tantric Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhism tradition began the seventh century when Indian monk Padmasambhava came to Tibet. Starting in the thirteenth century Tibetan Buddhism was propogated to Mongolia.
Potala Palace is located in Lhasa. It is a huge complex of architectural structures. Originally Potala Palace was built by Songtsen Gampo for Princess Wencheng. Jokhang Temple is a Tibetan Buddhist temple located in Lhasa. Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple are World Cultural Heritage sites.
南传佛教 Theravada Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism was brought to the Yunan area from Myanmar in about the seventh century. Initially, the Dharma was taught orally only. In about the eleventh century Buddhist sutras written in the Lannathai language were brought from Myanmar to Xishuangbanna.
Han Chinese Buddhism schools include Tiantai, Sanlun, Huayan, Ci'en, Chan, Vinaya, Pure Land, and Tantric schools. These schools were all founded in the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Today, the main schools are Pure Land and Chan.
天台宗 Tiantai School
The first Han Chinese Buddhism school was the Tiantai School. The founder of the school was Zhi Yi (538—597) and it was located at Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang. The school was also spread to Japan.
三论宗 Sanlun School
Also translated to English as the Three-Sastra School, the founder of the Sanlun School was Venerable Ji Zang (549－623). The school was founded based on the principles of the three canonical texts Knowledge of the Middle Way and Dvadasa-nikaya-sastra by Nagarjuna and Sata-sastra by Deva.
华严宗 Huayan School
Also translated as the Avatamsaka School, this school takes the Garland Sutra as its canonical text. The founder of the school was Venerable Fa Zang (643—712 CE).
慈恩宗 Ci'en School
Also translated as the Dharmalaksana School, the founder of this school was Venerable Xuan Zang. The Ci'en School was a Chinese continuation of the Indian Yogacara School.
禅宗 Chan School
In the West Chan is also known as “Zen”. The Chan School advocates mediation for practice. Bodhidharma was the first patriarch of the Chan School. Important texts for the Chan School include the Lankavatara Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.
律宗 Vinaya School
The Vinaya School emphasizes study and maintenance of monastic discipline. The founder of the Vinaya School was Venerable Dao Xuan (596 — 667 CE).
净土宗 Pure Land School
The particular practice method of the Pure Land School is reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha. Pure Land practice was transmitted to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Today, Pure Land is the practice with the greatest following.
密宗 Tantric Buddhism
The Han Chinese Buddhism Tantric School was founded by Venerables Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra during the Tang Dynasty Kai Yuan reign (713 — 741 CE).
Most temples face to the south. The main entrance to a temple is called the mountain gate. In the main entrance will be a collection box. Many temples have a Hall of Heavenly Kings, with a statue of Maitreya Boddhisattva and the Four Heavenly Kings to the left and right and a statue of Skanda Bodhisattva to the rear.
Because Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva has a special place in Han Chinese Buddhism many temples have a Avalokitesvara Hall housing a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Some temples have a hall for other Bodhisattvas. Because the Wutai Mountain area has a special connection with Manjushri Bodhisattva many temples there have a hall specially for Manjushri.
The Mahavira Hall (Hall of the Great Heros) is usually located at the center of the temple and is the biggest structure. It houses statues of Sakyamuni, Amitabha, and Medicine Buddhas. Sakyamuni Buddha is located between the Amitabha and Medicine Buddhas. Because Amitabha Buddha is the founder of the Western Paradise he is positioned to the left (facing north). Because the Medicine Buddha is the founder of the Eastern Realm of Pure Lapis Lazuli he is positioned on the right. Some temples have a Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas to serve as the main temple hall with the Buddhas of the Five Directions inside. In the middle is Vairocana Buddha. In the East is Aksobhya Buddha. In the South is Ratnasambhava Buddha. In the West is Amitabha Buddha. In the North is Amoghasiddhi Buddha.
Pagodas are often for maintaining the relics of important figures. Other structures found in temples include a meditation hall for meditating and a Founders' Hall for founders of the school.
Some temples allow lay people to stay overnight. At about five in the morning there is morning chanting and at night there is evening chanting. All meals are vegetarian. Venerables also do not eat onion or garlic.
佛教名山 Sacred Buddhist Mountains
水陆法会 Water and Land Service
The Water and Land Service is one of the grandest repentance ceremonies in Chinese Buddhism. The Dharma service originated with Liang Dynasty Emperor Wu. The service is complex and requires many venerables.
佛诞 Buddha's Birthday
The Buddha's Birthday is on the 8th day of the 4th month in the lunar calendar. It is the most important festival in Han Chinese Buddhism.
大悲忏 Great Compassion Repentance Ceremony
In the Great Compassion Repentance Ceremony the compassion of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva helps living creatures overcome their vexations and difficulties.
放生 Releasing Living Creatures
Releasing living creatures is an activity were fish, birds, or other animals are bought and then released into the wild. At present, this is a very popular activity in China.
A pilgrimage is usually circling a famous mountain or temple.
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