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Daoism, Buddhism and Wushu

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  • Daoism, Buddhism and Wushu

    Daoism, Buddhism & Wushu:

    Daoism derived from observing nature & the waning & waxing of the moon by shaman. These shaman began doing divination which gave rise to writing. The Zhou Dynasty (1100-221 BCE, consisting of 4 different eras) conformed the shaman into a priesthood and created the Yijing or Book of Changes. The Yijing uses 8 trigrams and 64 hexigrams of broken and unbroken lines for divination; all the advice in the Yijing is slanted toward moral conduct, so while it does not give an exact answer it steers you in the direction of proper conduct.

    The Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), so called because Han were the ethnic majority in China, would bring Legalism & Kongzian (Confucian) ethics into balance. Wu De was the Military Emperor, who began his 53 year reign at 16, showing himself a brilliant tactician expanding his empire through military campaigns. Steel was developed & perfected in the Han & Jin Dynasties making a better class of weapon.

    While the jian (double bladed sword, sometimes known as a taiji sword) was an officers weapon the common soldier carried the saber, a heavier, wider blade more effective in pitched battle. Government officials carried jian as a badge of their status, they were used to officiate rites of office, jian were used in Daoist religious ceremonies, it was also believed they could exorcise demons.

    Buddhism was brought to China circa 60 C.E. from India. It arrived in the north via the Silk Road, and by seaports like Guanzhou & Amoy, in the south. The first two missionaries to arrive were Dharmaraksa and Kasyapa Matanga, there were to follow sixty-two more monks learning the difficult Chinese language and teaching the Chinese to translate texts from Sanskrit into Chinese. The first Buddhist monastery built in China was the White Horse Monastery 13 kilometers east of Luoyang. It was so called for the two Indian monks who brought sutras with them while arriving in China on the back of a white horse. Luoyang and Chang'an (modern day Xi'an) became the two biggest sights for Buddhism in China. However Buddhism was not readily accepted by the Han, it was an alien idealism that was taken differently in various parts of the country.

    The north was the seat of power, and consequently wealth; they were the Confucian ruling class. Ancestor worship made up Chinese religious & family life, even after a person died their spirit still roamed their old haunts, coming back to the family who must appease them. The idea of reincarnation was bizarre, to the Chinese everybody was accounted for in life & death: Uncle Gong is here, he likes to haunt his chair over there, he certainly did not inhabit the body of baby Wing! The idea of non-violence was repugnant to the Warlords, how were they to maintain control of their territories without corporal punishment? Then there was the Vinaya- Pitaka, the rules of governing monks & nuns. According to it monks & nuns were exempt from military service and paying taxes! Worse still they were beggers, not only did they not contribute to government coffers, they were a drain on society, no self respecting city wants its streets clogged with beggars. Still Buddhism got a foothold and flourished.

    Southern China was a very different place then. There were no huge thriving cities, only heavy rain forest were elephant & rhinoceros still roamed, inhabited by many different feuding tribes who saw the Han colonists as invaders in their land. Slowly the Han arrived as the British had in Australia, sending in prisoners and undesirables looked after by soldiers, and of course the adventurous. Sea port cities grew the fastest, colonists would come in droves during the Song Dynasty fleeing Mongol invaders from the north, setting up businesses, cutting down the forest for lumber, and farming. The tribal peoples would one day be wiped out or assimilated into Chinese culture. Here the seeds of rebellion were sewen against the North and would flourish many times over the centuries. Yet it was in the south that Buddhism was more readily accepted by the people. Buddhism was looked upon as an extension of Daoism. While Confucians tried to interpret the esoteric sutras of India into terms they could understand, the followers of Dao were used to metaphysics and thus found an easier time of translating the Buddha's lessons.

    Like Christian Rome when the ruling class converted so too did the people, but this would not come until after the Han rule. The wealthy realized they could not only sink their money into temples for the purposes of tax shelters, but according to their interpretations of the sutras, they could buy their way to salvation doing good works like building temples & shrines. This idea would be shattered with the story of an Indian missionary named Bodhidharma who admonishes an emperor for such deeds in the Northern Wei Dynasty. For the more serious minded, Daoism required long yogic practices over years in seclusion to achieve Oneness with the Void in this lifetime, however Buddhism was far easier for the common people to practice. Temples began appearing all over the country and like everything that came to China was enveloped & made uniquely its own. Paintings, statues and stupas became singularly Chinese; for example the pagoda is the Chinese version of the Indian stupa.

    It was at the time of the Tang Dynasty that fencing hit its zenith, the jian we know today came to being. Chang'an was an exciting place, the capital city was rivaled only by the likes of Baghdad and Constantinople. There was an influx of foreigners along the Silk Road all pouring into the capital, as it was the gateway to China. Arabs had traded with China along the Silk Road since before the Prophet Mohammed, in 650 C.E. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas brought Islam to the Middle Kingdom. The Emperor respected the teachings of Islam, comparing them to Confucius, & allowed the first mosque to be built in his capital. China was the most literary society in the world, for printing was developed in the country about the same time. The great Daoist poet Li Bai (Li Po) resided in Chang'an when not hiring himself out as mercenary or bodyguard along the Silk Road. Li Bai spoke several languages including Turkish, was known not only as master poet and swordsman but drunkard; China's greatest poet died falling drunk into a river trying to catch the beautiful reflection of the moon. Aside from professional soldiers nobility were the only class allowed to practice warrior arts, as with the Knights of Britain, a gentleman of the Tang dynasty was a scholar, poet, and swordsman.
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