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Relationship Of Buddhism With The Tang Government

1134 words - 5 pages

Relationship of Buddhism with the Tang Government

Since the introduction of Buddhism into China, it was not well received by the population as its foreign beliefs clashed with pre-existent principals of Confucianism and Taoism. On top of that, it was alienated by the Confucianism-based government in the late Han Dynasty. All in all, Buddhism was not a common nor a popular religion throughout China at first. Nevertheless, this all changed after the rise of the Tang Dynasty. There is no doubt that Buddhism and the Tang administration under Wu’s reign formed a critical symbiotic relationship with one another. Buddhism played a pivotal role in justifying Empress Wu’s rule. She enthroned herself as the monarch of China, an extraordinarily difficult achievement for a woman in a male-dominant society, by associating herself with Buddhism: proclaiming herself as the Maitreya and that she will bring an utopian era for the Chinese. (Smarr, 17 Feb. 2012) At the same time, Buddhism benefitted handsomely from government support, as monasteries are exempted from tax and that they are financially supported by the state, as seen in A Pilgrim’s Visit to the Five Terraces Mountains, which ultimately resulted in the substantial growth in attraction of Buddhist converts and Buddhism itself. Wu’s extensive support of the religion with ostentatious gifts and donations contributed to the rapid proliferation of Buddhism. Evidently, the mutually benefitting relationship between Buddhism and the state are crucial to each other’s survival during Wu’s sovereignty, but to what extent did her financial support (donations to monasteries) of Buddhism bettered the government overall?
The close connection between government and religion is not a new concept to the Tang era as it has been well-established prior to its time and it even survived long after. However, what distinct the Tang from the other dynasties in China is that its counterpart is Buddhism, which is indispensable to the rise of Wu and the survival of her administration, rather than Confucianism. Her benevolence policies towards the Buddhist religion, which includes generous and lavish annual donations to monasteries and tax exemptions of monasteries, prove to benefit her empire considerably (A Pilgrim’s Visit to the Five Terraces Mountains, 109). During her reign, she proclaims an era of peace and put a stop to the expansion of the state, when combined with her openhanded policies for Buddhism, she brought an era of economical stability and prosperity to the country (Smarr, 17 Feb. 2012). On top of being advantageous for the empire, Empress Wu’s financial aid to Buddhism earns her praise and respects from the Buddhist followers, who also helps her in justifying her rule as the emperor of China (Smarr, 17 Feb. 2012). The reciprocated correlation between religion and state is clearly identified by Wu’s unambiguous relationship with Buddhism: Wu accepts the previously rejected religion and becomes its primary...

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