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Influence Of Monkey In China Essay

2098 words - 8 pages

A commonality among all religions is the struggle to expand and adapt to new geographic areas and evolving societies. In order to successfully globalize, a religion needs to tailor to the interests and the concerns of the individuals involved; if a religion fails to change, it will then die out and be forgotten. It was this principle that caused Buddhism to broaden from a national religion of India to an international religion spanning throughout the continent of Asia. After some time of slowly leaking from the northern regions of India into the large civilization of China, the contrast between Buddhism and Confucianism began to spark the attention of the Chinese. It was this interest that inspired curious individuals to embark on pilgrimages to India to learn more extensively the background and the nature of the Buddhist religion. These particular pilgrimages, one which is discussed in Monkey, were along the Silk Road which stretched from northern China through the majority of India. (Wriggens, IIIX) The story of Xuanzang told within Monkey is one of the most important pieces of writing to the Chinese people because it represents a historical and informative reference for the foundations of Buddhism within China.

The emergence of the folktale of Monkey was a pivotal asset to the Buddhist culture in China because it allowed for a transition between what was already accepted and what was unfamiliar. The story was based on the pilgrimage of Xuanzang, a Chinese monk who traveled the along the Silk Road, exploring every facet of Buddhism he could encounter with extreme detail. It was thought that throughout his journey “every place he turned he seemed to present a story connected with an event in the Buddha’s life, the life of a previous buddha, or the life of a famous Buddhist saint.” (Eastern Religions, 131) Since Confucianism was already firmly established in China, those who believed in Buddhist practices had to validate their perspective by finding commonalities between the two religions. In doing so they acquired the attention of the Confucians, causing them to be curious how another religion could support similar axioms such as family and unity which they hold most important. As stated by Ch’en, “Buddhism came of age in China; it was supported by all elements of society--by the imperial household, the nobility, the great and wealthy families, the common people.” (Ch’en, 213) Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty intended to unite the people under his control by means of Buddhism, emphasizing that all individuals are able to reach the Way just as he did. (Ch’en, 199) Additionally, Emperor Wen made efforts to eliminate Confucian schools in hopes of diverting the attention of Confucian students toward the new religion. (Ch’en, 200) Through propaganda and construction of temples, shrines and monuments, Buddhism was being reassembled and spread within the Chinese territory; this knowledge came directly from the western pilgrimages. Without the...

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