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It is widely believed that Buddhism was introduced to China during the Han period (206 BC-220 AD). After its introduction, Mahayana Buddhism, the most prominent branch of Buddhism in China, played an important role in shaping Chinese civilization. Chinese civilization, as well, exerted a profound impact on the way Buddhism was transformed in China.

The influence of Buddhism grew to such an extent that vast amounts of financial and human resources were expended on the creation and establishment of impressive works of art and elaborate temples. This growing interest in Buddhism helped to inspire new ways of depicting deities, new types of architectural spaces in which to worship them, and new ritual motions and actions. In this section, we will look at Six Dynasties and Tang Chinese Buddhist images, view some early and late Buddhist temples, then take a glimpse at contemporary Buddhist practice.

Think about the following questions as you view this unit:

How were Buddhist images, temples, and practices adapted to Chinese circumstances? Keep in mind both chronological order and geographical variation wherever possible.
What connections do you see between Buddhist doctrines and the physical trappings of Buddhism in China?
Do you see anything in these images that would have contributed to the spread of Buddhism in China?