Anti-Buddhist Persecution in CHINA

There are multiple recorded times of Anti-Buddhist Persecution in China. I would like to mention some persecutions.

  1. First Anti-Buddhist Persecution in China was beginning in 446 AD. The Northern Wei emperor Tai Wudi was a devout Taoist. In a campaign to suppress an uprising in the Changan area, weapons and women were discovered in Buddhist temples, resulting in emperor believing that the Buddhists were against him. Backed by prime-minister Cui Hao, the emperor ordered that Buddhism be abolished under penalty of death. Thus, the emperor ordered that all monks should be killed and Buddhist scriptures and statues be destroyed.
  2. Second Anti-Buddhist Persecution in China was in 577, Emperor Zhou Wudi of Northern Zhou banned both Buddhism and Taoism. He started his elimination of Buddhist faith on the grounds that the religion exhausted the wealth of the people, harmful to the people and was immoral to follow. Huiyuan of Jingyin monastery and other monks protested but it was no use. The emperor believed that the two religions had both become wealthy and powerful. With this belief, all the monasteries and stupas were destroyed and all Buddhist scriptures were burned. All the monasteries were given to princes and kings for their living accommodation. The number of monks who returned to civilian lifestyle was about 3 million.
  3. Third Anti-Buddhist Persecution in China. When Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty ascended the throne in 712, he was a renowned Taoist follower. He restrained Buddhist activities in various ways such as prohibiting the copying of Buddhist scriptures, making Buddha statues and building monasteries. He ordered twenty thousand Buddhist clergy to return to lay life.
  4. Forth Anti-Buddhist Persecution was at conflict with Uyghur tribes in 843. The army ultimately won the battle, but as a result China was nearly bankrupt. Emperor Wuzong’s solution to the nation’s economic problem was to acquire the wealth gained by Buddhist monasteries. That's why, one of the largest Anti-Buddhist Persecutions was in 845 and was initiated by Taoist Emperor Wuzong of the Tang Dynasty. The employee closed many Buddhist shrines and confiscated their land. He was infamous for his prejudice against Buddhists. During his campaign, he destroyed Buddhist temples and forced monks and nuns to return to tax-paying commoners. Buddha statues were melted and cast into coins or tools. Practicing Buddhism in private was also outlawed, if a Buddha statue was found in a home the family would be punished.
  5. Fifth Anti-Buddhist Persecution in China occurred in 995, and was led by Emperor Shizong of the Later Zhou Dynasty. He ordered that all property belonging to Buddhist monasteries be confiscated and Buddhist practices were banned. It has been said that this persecution started from a need for copper. Shizong ordered that Buddha statues be melted so that the copper could be used for mint coins.


interesting topic. Is it not ironic how organized religion -no matter which idol is worshiped- ends up looking like the disgraced Catholic Church? They preach deepities and the consolation of the world beyond to the churl, but live in affluence like celebrities (with appended scandals etc). I watched an old French documentary about Afghanistan BEFORE the civil war, turmoil and Soviet occupation of the 1970s: Some Muslim Imams and leaders of Muslim universities were among the wealthiest people in Kabul...with good peace of the consolation with the world beyond, Pfft!

Something to add (补充两句)

Buddhist Persecution in Modern China

When we talked about Buddhist Persecution in China, we usually referred to the old China and omitted the Modern China. By Modern China, we mean the period from 1911 (when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown and with the establishment of Republic of China) to the present day. Initially, there was no religious persecution from 1911 to 1949 in China. Hence, we see we have famous Buddhists like Yang Wenhui, Master Taixu, Master Hongyi, Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, etc. With the ending of the Second World War in 1945, civil wars broke out in China. Then in 1949, the Kuomintang was defeated and retreated to Taiwan. With that, the Communist Party established itself as the ruling party in China (the formation of the People’s Republic of China).

Communists are officially atheists. Not only are they atheists, they are well-known to have a negative attitude towards any religion. There are famous sayings by Karl Marx (the father of Communism): ‘Not God had created man, but rather man created God’ and ‘Religion is the opium of the people’. Therefore, news of Communist being unfriendly to religion spread throughout China and on seeing that the Communist was going to win the war in 1949, there was an exodus of Buddhist monks, like Master Xing Yun, Master Yin Shun, Master Zhumo, etc. to mainly Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In the initial years of Chinese Communist rule, all religious activities were stopped. Monasteries were closed and most of the monks and nuns were forced to disrobe and work in the communes (公社). Though there is a Chinese Buddhist Association still existed in Beijing, it was more of a show to the outside world. Then came the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) which destroyed most of the religious statues and artifacts except those temples protected by the State. This is the modern Buddhist Persecution in China which we seldom talked about.

Hence, in those early days (80-90’s), when you travelled to China, you see only the temple structure void of anything inside, there is no Buddha and no Bodhisattva, emptiness in irony. You also see monks inside the temple, but these were not real monks. They were engaged by the public authority to stand in as monks. Though they have shaven heads and donned yellow robes, in the evening, after the temple closure, they changed into commoner clothing and went out with girlfriend for cinema, etc. Also, during those early days, practitioners of any religion were very secretive because they do not know when the authority will change its attitude towards them. This goes on until late 90’s and early 00’s, when the whole religious atmosphere changed, lots of monasteries were restored with new extensions like parks, museums, shops, etc. Entrance tickets were sold if you want to visit them. There are more ‘real’ monks and nuns. More Buddhist publications were made available to the public especially with the revival of Nanjing Jingling (金陵刻经处) .

Although, there is a proclamation of article 36 of the Chinese constitution (1982) which says that citizens have freedom of religious belief; we were told time and again that total freedom is out of the question, the State authority has tightened their control and supervision over all religious affairs of the whole country.

(Please note that Tibetan Buddhism in the Tibet region under Communist rule has a different story to tell.)