SampleTopicExplorationMMW3Summer2011 - 1 Writing Assignment...

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1 Writing Assignment 1: Sample Topics and Observations MMW3, Spring 2011 Topic #1: The development of Chan Buddhism in China Observation #1 : Morten Schlutter analyzes the schism that took place between two traditions within Chan Buddhism during the southern Song dynasty (twelfth century C.E.). Schlutter argues that although it is commonly believed that the government and educated elite of this period were Neo-Confucian in orientation and hostile to Buddhism, Chan Buddhism in fact benefitted from the support of the state and of many members of the literati. It is actually competition for this support, he claims, that led to increased sectarianism within Chan Buddhism during this period (9-12). Buddhist monasteries could be found in all of the towns and cities of Song China (1). Most of the monks originated from the literati class, which was concentrated in the Yellow River valley around the capitol, Kaifeng. After a nomadic people called the Jurchen conquered the northern part of Song territory, the monks became more dispersed and the government moved south to Hangzhou (27). Commentary : I ’m interested in the way in which rel igions gain and lose popularity and in the controversy regarding the influence Buddhism had during the Song. Observation #2 : According to Philip Yampolsky, during the Five Dynasties Period (907- 960 C.E.), Chan Buddhism spread throughout China. This period of flourishing came less than a century after a period of persecution of Buddhists (842-845 C.E.). The ninth-
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2 century persecution is thought to be one of the main reasons for the end of the dominance of Buddhism in government circles (Yampolsky 189). According to Yampolsky, Buddhism during this time developed in “outlying areas,” with Chan leadership centered in the provinces of Jiangxi and Hunan (189). Commentary : I find it interesting that Chan Buddhism continued to flourish despite its loss of status as a government-sponsored religion. Observation #3 : Yampolsky also writes that Buddhism during the Song dynasty is generally seen as having suffered a decline, while Neo-Confucianism became the basis of government and education. Yet at the same time, Chan monks were closely connected to government officials, and an abundance of Chan literary works were produced at this time. Note: Buddhism by this point had spread throughout Song China, aided by the development of printing. However, this observation deals specifically with the influence of Buddhism in government circles. From 960-1126, the Song government was located in
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SampleTopicExplorationMMW3Summer2011 - 1 Writing Assignment...

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