East Asian Mythology: China and Japan

Buddhism, Shamanism, and Chinese Mythology

How did Buddhism affect Chinese mythology?

It is unclear as to when exactly Buddhism came to China from India and Nepal. Scholars generally put the date between 200 B.C.E. and 150 C.E. There were Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures by 148 C.E., and Buddhism gradually gained ground on its rivals, Confucianism and Taoism, after that until by the sixth century Buddhism in the Mahayana form predominated in Chinese religious thought. Buddhism contributed in new ways to Chinese mythology. The gods of Mahayana were associated with government ministries, for instance. A given government minister might have an alter ego among the Ministry of Gods. And, of course, Buddhism brought its own mythology, such as that of the Tibetan bodhisattvas AvalokiteĊ›vara and Tara, a probable combination of which became the well known Guanyin.

The goddess of compassion, Guanyin, is usually depicted as a woman, as in this circa 1025 statue from the Sung dynasty.


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