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Ch’an History

The first Buddhist temple founded in China in the 1st Century

Bai-ma si (White Horse Temple), the first Buddhist establishment in China

Buddhism came from India to China in the 1st century CE, the first establishment being in the Han capital of Luoyang, White Horse temple (Bai-ma si).   The development of the religion in China was dominated by the schools and thinkers of Mahayana Indian and Central Asian Buddhism.  Sinification of Buddhism had its beginnings with such figures as Tao-an, Tao-sheng and Kumarajiva.  A turning point however, was reached when Bodhidharma arrived in southern China in the late fifth century CE.  From this beginning marks the development of a truly Chinese school of Buddhism, Ch’an.   While sharing the same doctrines common to all schools, the Ch’an approach to teaching and meditation was unique and fresh, recapturing the vibrancy of Buddhism in India a thousand years earlier, separate from the analytical approach to Buddhist sutras and treatises that had been adopted in China previously. 

Below are a series of articles on the periods of Ch’an development which we hope you will find interesting.  More pages will follow when we feel they are ready and what is below will be revised from time to time.  Please feel free to comment.  


Page TitleDescriptionLink
Chan, A Short HistoryThe history of Chan can be understood in terms of three periods of developmentLink
Chan of the PatriarchsFrom Bodhidharma to Huineng, the six patriarchs of Chan gave the foundation to this important schoolLink
Northern and Southern SchoolsThe controversy over sudden or gradual enlightenment was a watershed moment for ChanLink
Founders of the Two LineagesFrom these two important Chan masters came the five houses of Ch'anLink
The Five Houses of ChanThe Rise of the Five Schools of ChanLink