Episode 35: Reclamation

It is a Golden Age for the Eastern Han. After decades of tumult, famine, and civil war, the Chinese Empire is poised once again to reclaim its status as preeminent East Asian power. Retaking the abandoned Western Vassal Kingdoms, sending envoys to India and even Rome, and at long last finishing the 200 year old war with the rapidly disintegrating Xiongnu Empire to the north.

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One thought on “Episode 35: Reclamation

  1. Though not remotely close to being an expert in Chinese history, I’ll attempt to weigh⚖️ in on the topic of Buddhism’s development & cultural significance in China (as I understand it) based on all the info (library & personally owned books 📚 read, credible web resources scoured, podcasts listened to, etc…) I’ve obtained on the subject thusfar:

    Buddhism was introduced to China during the Han dynasty. In the mid-1950s, Scientology was introduced to the USA. Now, I’m not trying to compare these 2 on theological terms, but rather on the imprint they leave on their 2 respective cultures. Would we say that Scientology has permeated its essence into the very fabric of US culture? 😐Eh… no. No we wouldn’t. It’s viewed (fairly or unfairly) by most Americans as an odd, fringe religion, w/some famous & powerful people believing in it, but which most find kinda strange. It isn’t ingrained into the cultural DNA of US society. The same is true of Buddhism in China during the Han, 3 Kingdoms, & Western Jin times. It was only during the 16 Kingdoms period in which Buddhism in China began flourishing & imprinting its genetic code upon China’s cultural DNA, & it quickly augmented from there, until it became the dominant cultural facet of the land during the Northern & Southern Dynasties period all the way until the end of the 2nd Zhou Dynasty.

    This presents a question: 🤔Why do the Chinese, even today, cling to the notion of the Eastern Han (a period in which the average person in China, if you asked them about Buddhism, would either respond with 😕 “WTF is Buddhism?”, or “I only know that it’s some kinda weird offshoot of that weird foreign religion [Hinduism]”, or wouldn’t respond at all, mistaking the word “Buddhism” for being the sound of you letting out a sneeze) being the start of China’s Buddhist age, rather than giving the credit to the 16 Northern Kingdoms period (when Buddhism actually began finding some recognition & having some impact within Chinese society)? I have thoughts about this, which you can give or take, & which may (& probably will) ruffle a few feathers, but I’m gonna say what I feel is the obvious:

    The fact of the matter is that Buddhism’s monumental role in Chinese culture is NOT Huaxia inspired. That’s just a fact. And I’m not at all factoring in its coming from a distant land; I’m specifically referring to Chinese Buddhism. It was the despised Wuhu who, upon conquering areas of North China, cultivated & disseminated such a culture throughout the Middle Kingdom. The Huaren Chinese feel great pride 😌 in how the beauty of their culture has, throughout the centuries, resulted in outsiders willingly becoming Sinicized. W/Chinese Buddhism, however, the opposite is true. Chinese Buddhism saw the Huaxia Chinese willfully adopting a barbarian-promoted religion (& its related cultural aspects) into their culture, one that came into being only upon the result of the Wuhu’s conquest of their Yellow River heartland. I believe (again, just my theory, based on the facts I’ve gathered) that to acknowledge the truth that this beloved, glorious, & monumentally important aspect of their cultural identity was gifted to them by their enemies is something that the Huaren Chinese can’t come to grips with😰, & so, in order to lay claim to Chinese Buddhist culture as being their own, Huaxia historians of the centuries following the establishment of Buddhism in China specifically emphasized these tales of pre-16 Kingdoms Chinese Buddhists as a way of saying “See! See! It was around before the Wuhu! It was ours all along!” Which again, while perhaps true (true in its having existed in China before the Wuhu conquest) omits the fact that, despite being around back then, it was perceived by most of the Huaxia (at least those who actually knew about it) as a weird fringe religion, one which had no cultural or societal impact at that time. Until the Wuhu conquest of the north, Buddhism was the Scientology of ancient China. The Barbarians made it a staple of China’s culture. A reversal of traditional Sinicization. A “Wuhuization” of the Huaxia, if you will.

    I’m sorry if this comment angers some out there. I’m really not trolling, I’m just trying to offer up some facts & my own honest thoughts on the issue. Please don’t be vicious in your replies. (& sorry for the long length of this comment, lol!)

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