Tracing Buddhism’s Journey into China

Chün-fang Yü Sheng Yen, E. Zurcher

How Buddhism, a foreign religion, became Chinese?

This is such a vast daunting topic that no recent historians have attempted to write a chronological history of its spread into China.

The best two books on this area were written way back in 1959 [ The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaption of Buddhism in Early Medieval China by Erik Zurcher] and in 1964 [Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey by Kenneth Chen].

Buddhism in China a Historical Survey is excellent. Though written in 1964 it is still the only book on this topic.

Zucher’s book covered only the first 500 years from spread of Buddhism into China during the Han Dynasty and ending before Sui and Tang.

In her 2020 book Chinese Buddhism: A Thematic History, Yu Chun Fang who is the Sheng Yan Professor Emerita of Chinese Buddhism at Columbia University acknowledged the difficulty in writing a chronological history of Chinese Buddhism following the dynastic order.

She has therefore written a thematic history of Chinese Buddhism. Each chapter deals with one theme and related issues.

Her book is the culmination of a 40-year teaching career on Chinese Buddhism. Highly recommended.

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