The nineteenth and twentieth lectures by Prof David Eckel on Buddhism look at the religious background to the introduction of Buddhism into China and then at the classical period during the T’ang Dynasty.
Buddhism entered China in the second century of the common era, at a time when China was suffering from political turmoil and cultural decline.
The Chinese people had become disillusioned with traditional Confucian values and saw Buddhism as a new way to solve enduring religious and cultural problems. To bridge the gap between the cultures of India and China, the earliest Buddhist translators borrowed Taoist vocabulary to express Buddhist ideas.
Through a long process of interaction with Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese popular religion, Buddhism took on a distinctively Chinese character, becoming more respectful of duties to the family and the ancestors, more pragmatic and this-worldly, and more consistent with traditional Chinese respect for harmony with nature.