In the Wei-Jin-Nan-Bei-Chao R W J? ~t ~ era (220 -- 589), Chinese Buddhists and anti -Buddhists had a series of debates on the problem of the immortality of the spirit. On the one side, Chinese Buddhists upheld the idea of immortal spirit because they bel ieved it was an integral part of the Buddhist teachings of karma and rebirth. On the other side, Chinese anti-Buddhists tried to demonstrate that the spirit was mortal, because they thought that by doing so they could refute the Buddhist teachings of karma and rebirth, and so would deal a serious blow to the credibility of the Buddhist religion. This thesis attempts to provide a comprehensive historical account and a detai led theoretical analysis of these debates.
This thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter One examines the etymology of the Chinese word for "spirit"( m$ shen) and investigates various traditional Chinese theories about its nature Chapter Two delineates the Indian Buddhist teachings of karma and rebirth, with an eye to demonstrating that they originally did not involve the idea of immortal spiri t. It tries to show that the Buddhist idea of immortal spirit is of Chinese origin.
Chapters Three to Six are the main body of the thesis, in which all the extant writings connected with the debate over the problem of the immortality of the spirit are examined one by one according to the sequence of their appearance. Chapter Three deals wi th the writings of Luo Han ~~ , Sun Sheng ~~ and the monk Hui-Yuan ~ ~ (334--416) in the Eastern Jin Dynasty ~tf (317--420) . Chapter
Four analyzes the writings of He Cheng-tian fiiJJ.f(::R ( 370 -- 447 )
long Bing *m (375-443) , Van Yan-zhi M~Z. (384-456) and Zheng Xian-zhi ~i?. (363-427) in the Liu Song Dynasty 1'1* (420-479) Chapter Five studies the writings of Fan Zhen 111~ (450-510) , Xiao Chen .~ , Cao Si -wen VJ~:)( , Emperor iu ~j.tW (464-549) and Chen Yue tt~ (441-513) in the Qi and Lian Dynasties ~m (479-557) Chapter Six takes up the writings of Du Bi f? (?-559) , Xing Shao
7ffigp (496-?) and monk Du An iR tJi; in the Northern Dynasties ~t ~ (386-581) .
The conclusion sums up the main arguments of the debates assesses their effectiveness, and gives reason for the disappearance of the controversy after the seventh century . It also points out how the Chinese Buddhist conception of the spirit gradually transformed in the course of the debates.
School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:buddhism china history to 581 spirit immortality
Date of Publication:01/01/1997