Chinese Buddhism

Paul Harrison has worked on some of the texts that are arguably the earliest versions we have of the Mahāyāna sūtras, those translated into Chinese in the last half of the second century CE by the Indo-Scythian translator Lokakṣema. Harrison points to the enthusiasm in the Lokakṣema sūtra corpus for the extra ascetic practices, for dwelling in the forest, and above all for states of meditative absorption (samādhi). Meditation and meditative states seem to have occupied a central place in early Mahāyāna, certainly because of their spiritual efficacy but also because they may have given access to fresh revelations and inspiration.

After the communist takeover of Mainland China, many monastics followed the ROC's exodus to Taiwan. In the latter half of the twentieth century, many new Buddhist temples and organizations were set up by these monastics, which would later come to become influential back in Mainland China after the end of the Cultural Revolution.

With the rapid increase of immigrants from mainland China to Western countries in the 1980s, the landscape of the Chinese Buddhism in local societies has also changed over time. Based on fieldwork research conducted in France, some scholars categorize three patterns in the collective Buddhism practice among Chinese Buddhists in France: An ethnolinguistic immigrant group, a transnational organizational system, and information technology. These distinctions are made according to the linkages of globalization.

In the first pattern, religious globalization is a product of immigrants’ transplantation of local cultural traditions. For example, people of similar immigration experiences establish a Buddha hall (佛堂) within the framework of their associations for collective religious activities.

The philosophy behind incense burning is to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others, the true spirit of Buddhism. The specific knowledge of incense as a healing tool was assimilated into the religious practices of the time from traditional Chinese medicine.

These are the holy days that Chinese Buddhists celebrate by visiting temples to make offerings of prayers, incense, fruits, flowers and donations. On such days they observe the moral precepts very strictly as well as a full day's vegetarian diet, a practice originally from China.