Lewis Hodous.

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[Illustration: EX LIBRIS:
Western Reserve University

From the Library of
Charles Franklin Thwing
Acquired in 1938]


This volume is the third to be published of a series on "The World's
Living Religions," projected in 1920 by the Board of Missionary
Preparation of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America. The
series seeks to introduce Western readers to the real religious life of
each great national area of the non-Christian world.

Buddhism is a religion which must be viewed from many angles. Its
original form, as preached by Gautama in India and developed in the
early years succeeding, and as embodied in the sacred literature of
early Buddhism, is not representative of the actual Buddhism of any land
today. The faithful student of Buddhist literature would be as far
removed from understanding the working activities of a busy center of
Buddhism in Burmah, Tibet or China today as a student of patristic
literature would be from appreciating the Christian life of London or
New York City.

Moreover Buddhism, like Christianity, has been affected by national
conditions. It has developed at least three markedly different types,
requiring, therefore, as many distinct volumes of this series for its
fair interpretation and presentation. The volume on the Buddhism of
Southern Asia by Professor Kenneth J. Saunders was published in May,
1923; this volume on the Buddhism of China by Professor Hodous will be
the second to appear; a third on the Buddhism of Japan, to be written by
Dr. R. C. Armstrong, will be published in 1924. Each of these is needed
in order that the would be student of Buddhism as practiced in those
countries should be given a true, impressive and friendly picture of
what he will meet.

A missionary no less than a professional student of Buddhism needs to
approach that religion with a real appreciation of what it aims to do
for its people and does do. No one can come into contact with the best
that Buddhism offers without being impressed by its serenity, assurance
and power.

Professor Hodous has written this volume on Buddhism in China out of the
ripe experience and continuing studies of sixteen years of missionary
service in Foochow, the chief city of Fukien Province, China, one of the
important centers of Buddhism. His local studies were supplemented by
the results of broader research and study in northern China. No other
available writer on the subject has gone so far as he in reproducing the
actual thinking of a trained Buddhist mind in regard to the fundamentals
of religion. At the same time he has taken pains to exhibit and to
interpret the religious life of the peasant as affected by Buddhism. He
has sought to be absolutely fair to Buddhism, but still to express his
own conviction that the best that is in Buddhism is given far more
adequate expression in Christianity.

The purpose of each volume in this series is impressionistic rather than
definitely educational. They are not textbooks for the formal study of
Buddhism, but introductions to its study. They aim to kindle interest
and to direct the activity of the awakened student along sound lines.
For further study each volume amply provides through directions and
literature in the appendices. It seeks to help the student to
discriminate, to think in terms of a devotee of Buddhism when he
compares that religion with Christianity. It assumes, however, that
Christianity is the broader and deeper revelation of God and the world
of today.

Buddhism in China undoubtedly includes among its adherents many
high-minded, devout, and earnest souls who live an idealistic life.
Christianity ought to make a strong appeal to such minds, taking from
them none of the joy or assurance or devotion which they possess, but
promoting a deeper, better balanced interpretation of the active world,
a nobler conception of God, a stronger sense of sinfulness and need, and
a truer idea of the full meaning of incarnation and revelation.

It is our hope that this fresh contribution to the understanding of
Buddhism as it is today may be found helpful to readers everywhere.

The Editors.

_New York city,
December, 1923._

The Committee of Reference and Counsel of the Foreign Missions
Conference of North America has authorized the publication of this
series. The author of each volume is alone responsible for the opinions
expressed, unless otherwise stated.





1. The World of Invisible Spirits
2. The Universal Sense of Ancestor Control
3. Degenerate Taoism
4. The Organizing Value of Confucianism
5. Buddhism an Inclusive Religion

1. The Monastery of Kushan
2. Monasteries Control Fêng-shui
3. Prayer for Rain
(a) The altar
(b) The prayer service
(c) Its Meaning
4. Monasteries are Supported because They
Control Fêng-shui

1. Kuan Yin, the Giver of Children and Protector of Women
2. Kuan Yin, the Model of Local Mother-Goddesses
3. Exhortations on Family Virtues
4. Services for the Dead

1. How the Laity is Trained in Buddhist Ideas
2. Effect of Ideals of Mercy and Universal Love
3. Relation to Confucian Ideal
4. The Embodiment of Buddhist Ideals in the Vegetarian Sects
5. Pilgrimages

1. The Buddhist Purgatory
2. Its Social Value
3. The Buddhist Heaven
4. The Harmonization of These Ideas with Ancestor Worship

1. The Threefold Classification of Men under Buddhism
2. Salvation for the Common Man
3. The Place of Faith
4. Salvation of the Second Class
5. Salvation for the Highest Class
6. Heaven and Purgatory
7. Sin
8. Nirvana
9. The Philosophical Background
10. What Buddhism Has to Give

1. Periods of Buddhist History
2. The Progress of the Last Twenty-five Years
3. Present Activities
(a) The reconstruction of monasteries
(b) Accessions
(c) Publications
(d) Lectures
(e) Buddhist societies
(f) Signs of social ambition
4. The Attitude of Tibetan Lamas
5. The Buddhist World Versus the Christian World

1. Questions which Buddhists Ask
2. Knowledge and Sympathy
3. Emphasis on the Æsthetic in Christianity
4. Emphasis on the Mystical in Christianity
5. Emphasis on the Social Elements in Christianity
6. Emphasis on the Person of Jesus Christ
(a) As a Historical Character
(b) As the Revealer
(c) As the Saviour
(d) As the Eternal Son of God
7. How Christianity Expresses Itself in Buddhist Minds
8. Christianity's Constructive Values

APPENDIX ONE, Hints for the Preliminary Study of Buddhism in China

APPENDIX TWO, A Brief Bibliography




A well known missionary of Peking, China, was invited one day by a
Buddhist acquaintance to attend the ceremony of initiation for a class
of one hundred and eighty priests and some twenty laity who had been
undergoing preparatory instruction at the stately and important Buddhist
monastery. The beautiful courts of the temple were filled by a throng of
invited guests and spectators, waiting to watch the impressive
procession of candidates, acolytes, attendants and high officials, all
in their appropriate vestments. No outsider was privileged to witness
the solemn taking by each candidate for the priesthood of the vow to
"keep the Ten Laws," followed by the indelible branding of his scalp,
truly a "baptism of fire." Less private was the initiation of the lay
brethren and _sisters,_ more lightly branded on the right wrist,
while all about intoned "Na Mah Pen Shih Shih Chia Mou Ni Fo." (I put my
trust in my original Teacher, Säkyamuni, Buddha.)

The missionary was deeply impressed by the serenity and devotion of the
worshipers and by the dignity and solemnity of the service. The last
candidate to rise and receive the baptism of branding was a young
married woman of refined appearance, attended by an elderly lady,
evidently her mother, who watched with an expression of mingled
devotion, insight and pride her daughter's initiation and welcomed her
at the end of the process with radiant face, as a daughter, now, in a
spiritual as well as a physical sense. At that moment an attendant,
noting the keen interest of the missionary, said to him rather
flippantly, "Would you not like to have your arm branded, too?" "I
might," he replied, "just out of curiosity, but I could not receive the
branding as a believer in the Buddha. I am a Christian believer. To be
branded without inward faith would be an insult to your religion as well
as treachery to my own, would it not? Is not real religion a matter of
the heart?"

The old lady, who had overheard with evident disapproval the remark of
the attendant, turned to the missionary at once and said, "Is that the
way you Westerners, you Christians, speak of your faith? Is the reality
of religion for you also an inward experience of the heart?" And with
that began an interesting interchange of conversation, each party
discovering that in the heart of the other was a genuine longing for God
that overwhelmed all the artificial, material distinctions and the human
devices through which men have limited to particular and exclusive paths
their way of search, and drew these two pilgrims on the way toward God
into a common and very real fellowship of the spirit.

A Buddhist monk was passing by a mission building in another city' of
China when his attention was suddenly drawn to the Svastika and other
Buddhist symbols which the architect had skilfully used in decorating
the building. His face brightened as he said to his companion: "I did
not know that Christians had any appreciation of beauty in their

These incidents reveal aspects of the alchemy of the soul by which the
real devotee of one religion perceives values which are dear to him in
another religion. The good which he has attained in his old religion
enables him to appropriate the better in the new religion. A converted
monk, explaining his acceptance of Christianity, said: "I found in Jesus
Christ the great Bodhisattva, my Saviour, who brings to fruition the
aspirations awakened in me by Buddhism."

Just as it has been said that they do not know England who know England
only, so it may be said with equal truth that they do not know
Christianity who know it and no other faith. There are many in China
like the old lady at the temple, who have found in Buddhism something of
that spiritual satisfaction and stimulus which true Christianity
affords, in fuller measure. The recognition of such religious values by
the student or the missionary furnishes a sound foundation for the
building of a truer spirituality among such devotees.

As will be seen in what follows, religion in China is at first sight a
mixed affair. From the standpoint of cruder household superstitions an
average Chinese family may be regarded as Taoists; the principles by
which its members seek to guide their lives individually and socially
may be called Confucian; their attitude of worship and their hopes for
the future make them Buddhists. The student would not be far afield when
he credits the religious aspirations of the Chinese today to Buddhism,
regarding Confucianism as furnishing the ethical system to which they
submit and Taoism as responsible for many superstitious practices. But
the Buddhism found in China differs radically from that of Southern
Asia, as will be made clear by the following sketch of its introduction
into the Flowery Kingdom and its subsequent history.



Buddhism was not an indigenous religion of China. Its founder was
Gautama of India in the sixth century B.C. Some centuries later it found
its way into China by way of central Asia. There is a tradition that as
early as 142 B.C. Chang Ch'ien, an ambassador of the Chinese emperor, Wu
Ti, visited the countries of central Asia, where he first learned about
the new religion which was making such headway and reported concerning
it to his master. A few years later the generals of Wu Ti captured a
gold image of the Buddha which the emperor set up in his palace and
worshiped, but he took no further steps.

According to Chinese historians Buddhism was officially recognized in
China about 67 A.D. A few years before that date, the emperor, Ming-Ti,
saw in a dream a large golden image with a halo hovering above his
palace. His advisers, some of whom were no doubt already favorable to
the new religion, interpreted the image of the dream to be that of
Buddha, the great sage of India, who was inviting his adhesion.
Following their advice the emperor sent an embassy to study into
Buddhism. It brought back two Indian monks and a quantity of Buddhist
classics. These were carried on a white horse and so the monastery which
the emperor built for the monks and those who came after them was called
the White Horse Monastery. Its tablet is said to have survived to this

This dream story is worth repeating because it goes to show that
Buddhism was not only known at an early date, but was favored at the
court of China. In fact, the same history which relates the dream
contains the biography of an official who became an adherent of Buddhism
a few years before the dream took place. This is not at all surprising,
because an acquaintance with Buddhism was the inevitable concomitant of
the military campaigning, the many embassies and the wide-ranging trade
of those centuries. But the introduction of Buddhism into China was
especially promoted by reason of the current policy of the Chinese
government of moving conquered populations in countries west of China
into China proper, The vanquished peoples brought their own religion
along with them. At one time what is now the province of Shansi was
populated in this way by the Hsiung-nu, many of whom were Buddhists.

The introduction and spread of Buddhism were hastened by the decline of
Confucianism and Taoism. The Han dynasty (206 B. C.-221 A. D.)
established a government founded on Confucianism. It reproduced the
classics destroyed in the previous dynasty and encouraged their study;
it established the state worship of Confucius; it based its laws and
regulations upon the ideals and principles advocated by Confucius. The
great increase of wealth and power under this dynasty led to a gradual
deterioration in the character of the rulers and officials. The rigid
Confucian regulations became burdensome to the people who ceased to
respect their leaders. Confucianism lost its hold as the complete
solution of the problems of life. At the same time Taoism had become a
veritable jumble of meaningless and superstitious rites which served to
support a horde of ignorant, selfish priests. The high religious ideals
of the earlier Taoist mystics were abandoned for a search after the
elixir of life during fruitless journeys to the isles of the Immortals
which were supposed to be in the Eastern Sea.

At this juncture there arose in North China a sect of men called the
Purists who advocated a return from the vagaries of Taoism and the
irritating rules of Confucianism to the simple life practised by the
Taoist mystics. When these thoughtful and earnest minded men came into
contact with Buddhism they were captivated by it. It had all they were
claiming for Taoist mysticism and more. They devoted their literary
ability and religious fervor to the spreading of the new religion and
its success was in no small measure due to their efforts. As a result of
this early association the tenets of the two religions seemed so much
alike that various emperors called assemblies of Buddhists and Taoists
with the intention of effecting a union of the two religions into one.
If the emperor was under the influence of Buddhism he tried to force all
Taoists to become Buddhists. If he was favorable to Taoism he tried to
make all Buddhists become Taoists.

But such mandates were as unsuccessful as other similar schemes have
been. In the third century A. D. after the Han dynasty had ended, China
was broken up into several small kingdoms which contended for supremacy,
so that for about four hundred years the whole country was in a state of
disunion. One of the strong dynasties of this period, the Northern Wei
(386-535 A. D.), was distinctly loyal to Buddhism. During its
continuance Buddhism prospered greatly. Although Chinese were not
permitted to become monks until 335 A. D., still Buddhism made rapid
advances and in the fourth century, when that restriction was removed,
about nine-tenths of the people of northwestern China had become
Buddhists. Since then Buddhism has been an established factor in Chinese



Even the historical influences noted above do not account entirely for
the spread of Buddhism in China. In order to understand this and the
place which Buddhism occupies, we need to review briefly the different
forms which religion takes in China and to note how Buddhism has related
itself to them.

_1. The World of Invisible Spirits_

The Chinese believe _in_ a surrounding-world of spirits, whose
origin is exceedingly various. They touch life at every point. There are
spirits which are guardians of the soil, tree spirits, mountain demons,
fire gods, the spirits of animals, of mountains, of rivers, seas and
stars, of the heavenly bodies and of many forms of active life. These
spirits to the Chinese mind, of today are a projection, a sort of
spiritual counterpart, of the many sided interests, practical or
otherwise, of the groups and communities by whom they are worshipped.
There are other spirits which mirror the ideals of the groups by which
they are worshipped. Some of them may have been incarnated in the lives
of great leaders. There are spirits which are mere animations,
occasional spirits, associated with objects crossing the interests of
men, but not constant enough to attain a definite, independent life as
spiritual beings. Thus surrounding the average Chinese peasant there is
a densely populated spirit world affecting in all kinds of ways his,
daily existence. This other world is the background which must be kept
in mind by one who would understand or attempt to guide Chinese
religious experience. It is the basis on which all organized forms of
religious activity are built. The nearest of these to his heart is the
proper regard for his ancestors.

_2. The Universal Sense_ of _Ancestor Control_

The ancestral control of family life occupies so large and important a
place in Chinese thought and practice that ancestor worship has been
called the original religion of the Chinese. It is certain that the
earliest Confucian records recognize ancestor worship; but doubtless it
antedated them, growing up out of the general religious consciousness of
the people. The discussion of that origin in detail cannot be taken up
here. It may be followed in the literature noted in the appendix or in
the volume of this series entitled "Present-Day Confucianism." Ancestor
worship is active today, however, because the Chinese as a people
believe that these ancestors control in a very real way the good or evil
fortunes of their descendants, because this recognition of ancestors
furnishes a potent means of promoting family unity and social ethics,
and, most of all, because a happy future life is supposed to be
dependent upon descendants who will faithfully minister to the dead.
Since each one desires such a future he is faithful in promoting the
observance of the obligation. Consequently, ancestor worship, like the
previously mentioned belief in the invisible spiritual world, underlies
all other religious developments. No family is so obscure or poor that
it does not submit to the ritual or discipline which is supposed to
ensure the favor of the spirits belonging to the community. Likewise,
every such family is loyal to the supposed needs of its deceased
ancestors. In a very intimate way these beliefs are interwoven with the
private and social morality of every family or group in Chinese society,
and must be taken into account by any one who seeks to bring a religious
message to the Chinese people.

_3. Degenerate Taoism_

Taoism is that system of Chinese religious thought and practice,
beginning about the fifth century B. C., which was originally based on
the teachings of Lao Tzu and developed in the writings of Lieh Tzu and
Chuang Tzu and found in the Tao Tê Ching. It is really in this original
form a philosophy of some merit. According to its teaching the Tao is
the great impersonal background of the world from which all things
proceed as beams from the sun, and to which all beings return. In
contrast to the present, transient, changing world the Tao is
unchangeable and quiet. Originally the Taoists emphasized quiescence, a
life in accordance with nature, as a means of assimilating themselves to
the Tao, believing that in this way they would obtain length of days,
eternal life and especially the power to become superior to natural

There is a movement today among Chinese scholars in favor of a return to
this original highest form of Taoism. It appeals to them as a philosophy
of life; an answer to its riddles. Among the masses of the people,
however, Taoism manifests itself in a ritual of extreme superstition. It
recommends magic tricks and curious superstitions as a means of
prolonging life. It expresses itself very largely in these degrading
practices which few Chinese will defend, but which are yet very commonly

_4. The Organizing Value of Confucianism_

Confucianism brought organization into these hazy conceptions of life
and duty. It took for granted this spiritual-unspiritual background of
animism, ancestor-worship and Taoism, but reshaped and adapted it as a
whole so that it might fit into that proper organization of the state
and nation which was one of its great objectives. Just as Confucianism
related the family to the village, the village to the district, and the
district to the state, so it organized the spiritual world into a
hierarchy with Shang Ti as its head. This hierarchy was developed along
the lines of the organization mentioned above. Under Shang Ti were the
five cosmic emperors, one for each of the four quarters and one for
heaven above, under whom were the gods of the soil, the mountains,
rivers, seas, stars, the sun and moon, the ancestors and the gods of
special groups. Each of the deities in the various ranks had duties to
those above and rights with reference to those below. These duties and
rights, as they affected the individual, were not only expressed in law
but were embodied in ceremony and music, in daily religious life and
practice in such a way that each individual had reason to feel that he
was a functioning agent in this grand Confucian universe. If any one
failed to do his part, the whole universe would suffer. So thoroughly
has this idea been adopted by the Chinese people that every one joins in
forcing an individual, however reluctant or careless, to perform his
part of each ceremony as it has been ordered from high antiquity.

The emperor alone worshipped the supreme deity, Shang Ti; the great
officers of state, according to the dignity of their office, were
related to subordinate gods and required to show them adequate respect
and reverence. Confucius and a long line of noted men following him were
semi-deified [Footnote: Confucius was by imperial decree deified in
1908.] and highly reverenced by the literati, the class from which the
officers of state were as a rule obtained, in connection with their
duties, and as an expression of their ideals. To the common people were
left the ordinary local deities, while all classes, of course, each in
its own fashion reverenced, cherished and obeyed their ancestors. It
should be remarked at this point that Confucianism of this official
character has broken down, not only under the impact of modern ideas,
but under the longing of the Chinese for a universal deity. The people

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Online LibraryLewis HodousBuddhism and Buddhists in China → online text (page 1 of 7)