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From the time of the first entry of Buddhism into China it has had critics, often very passionate ones. Both the flowering of Buddhism and the explosion of anti-Buddhist sentiment came to a head in the Táng 唐 dynasty (period 12, 618-907) and finally resulted in widespread suppression of Buddhism during the reign of the Emperor Wǔzōng 武宗 (reign 12a-18, AD 840-846).
Click here for a summary of the political events associated with the suppression of Buddhism in the Táng.
By far the most famous anti-Buddhist tirade in Chinese history is that penned by the distinguished scholar HÁN Yù 韩愈 (768-824), who in 819 drafted an unsuccessful memorial to the throne in hopes of preventing the emperor from accepting a visit in state by a relic of the Buddha. He had predecessors, however.
Presented here, in English and Chinese, are texts summarizing the anti-Buddhist sentiments of three different influential courtiers of the Táng period, about a century apart from each other. As far as can be known, although the first two of these men influenced policy in a way that restricted Buddhism, the effects were of brief duration. But all three of the memorials introduced here reflect Confucian misgivings about Buddhism and each writer would gladly have stopped it in its tracks if he could have done so. And all three, being remembered through subsequent ages for their hostility to the faith, probably had at least a small influence upon Wǔzōng's sweeping suppression in the IXth century and upon his later apologists.
All three of the texts presented here are modified from the translation and discussion in:
- de Groot, J.J. M.
- 1903 Sectarian & Religious Persecution in China: A Page in the History of Religions. Volume 1. Leiden: E.J. Brill. Pp.36-59.
Among the Chinese sources on which de Groot relies, the most important are Old Books of the Táng Dynasty 旧唐书 and New Books of the Táng Dynasty 新唐书.
For occasional historical notes I have largely relied on:
- DILLON, Michael (ed.)
- 1998 China: a cultural and historical dictionary. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon)
- EITEL, Ernest J.
- 1904 Hand-book of Chinese Buddhism.Second edition. Tokyo: Sanshusha.
- GILES, Herbert A.
- 1898 A Chinese biogrqphical dictionary.
- WINTLE, Justin
- 2002 A Rough Guide history of China. London: Rough Guides.
Because of the differing needs to be met here, I have freely modified de Groot's formatting, his spellings, and occasionally his prose. I have added subtitles and have imposed and numbered sentence units to facilitate class discussion or reference. I have also added dynasty and reign numbers, which correspond to those used throughout this web site. (Link) They rarely really matter to a modern audience, but the citation of ancient examples and antique precedents was a characteristic feature of Chinese persuasive rhetoric.
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The modern picture of Fù Yì is from the Hudong web encyclopedia (Link)