Enjoying the Culture 155
Zen Buddhism, China’s own form, was introduced to
Korea in the 8th century and to Japan at the end of the 12th
century. Subsequent political events caused Buddhism to
be forbidden in China, both in 845 for social and economic
reasons, as well as with the advent of Communism, where
all religions were banned. Zen Buddhism eventually became
known as Han Buddhism.
Tibet’s Buddhist history dates back to the 7th century,
when King Songtsen Gampo (617–650) married Nepalese
and Chinese princesses who were Buddhists. The earliest
influences were the scriptures and statues that these ladies
brought with them to Tibet. Buddhism has had fits and starts
in Tibet—it was banned and then restored in the 10th century.
The modern form of Tibetan Buddhism, called Lamaism, ws
Tibetan Buddhism belongs to the Mahayana school.
It utilises symbolic ritual practices of Tantric Buddhism
(Vajrayana) and incorporates features of the indigenous
Tibetan Bon Religion. Tibetan Buddhism is more mystical
than other forms of Buddhism due to Tantric and Bon
influences, relying strongly on mudras (ritual postures),
mantras (sacred speech), yantras (sacred art) and other
initiation rites which are performed in secrecy. Tibetan
Buddhism has many sects and sub-sects. The most popular
known in the world today is Gelugpa, the order of the Dalai
Lama and Panchen Lama— this is also known as the yellow
sect because they wear yellow hats. The sect began with
Tsong Khapa, a great Buddhist reformer, in 1407. It stresses
strict discipline and study of scriptures.
Southern Buddhsim is unique to the Dai people of
Xishuangbanna. It came to this region from Burma and
Thailand after the wars of the 11th century. Based upon a
combination of religion and politics, and its influence by Thai
culture, monks can eat meat and live among normal people.
Women do not become nuns because if they did so, they