This post is part of our ongoing series featuring the works of Professor LeBoeuf 's students in her Introduction to Religions of Asia course at Whittier College!
The opportunity of doing research on another Religion is truly unappreciated, and unacknowledged. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure to dive into a whole new culture to which I was never exposed too. I chose my topic on ‘Chinese Buddhism’ which is very popular all over the universe. Within my first year at Whittier College I have encountered several encounters of Buddhism. During my winter course of taking Philosophy I was introduced to Buddhism in the Winter of 2017.
After several weeks of research I found notable characteristics that should be highlighted amongst the world. One topic that I feel needs to be discussed is the beginning and, the development of the Chinese Culture. The Chinese Culture was introduced through a missionary movement by Buddhist Monks. Through expansion policies we saw a huge push for the Buddhist Religion to expand influence many. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty where he had ruled from (140-87 B.C.) He was the first ruler to push the Chinese military into Central Asia. It was there when the Chinese culture was introduced to the Persian and Indian society. One of the most pivotal moments within the Chinese Religion was when they were revealed the Buddha's ‘ultimate teaching’ being the Sutra. The Sutra is perceived have been literal or metaphorical dialect of the Buddha himself. Alongside with scriptures of the Buddha it also contains, quotes, history, and language.
What I found interesting is that these scriptures aren’t universal, but yet they seem to overlap one another, coinciding in many topics. An issue which the Chinese had struggled with was when they had to interpret the Sutra, a great tool was Daoism. In these teachings they came to learn that Buddhism was taught in a system which centered around Confucianism, then followed by Buddhism itself, lastly by Daoism. These factors have have played a role with Chinese Philosophy, Art, in the language itself. In the Chinese history many discrepancies soon appeared due to the lack of freedom in the Chinese culture. In this change we began to interpret and understand Confucianism and Daoism differently. Some of these reasons were due to Chinese Philosophy, and other Chinese Manifestations. Many influential monuments or statues derive from the Indian Buddhist culture, also that is why we can see the Buddha in many different poses.
The beginning of the Chinese Buddha was developed from a Chinese folktale that stems all the way back in the 10th century. This folktale was developed from a man named Ch’an (Zen) monk who had lived approximately 1,000 years ago who was very significant in the Buddhist culture. Growing up in the U.S. we tend to have a westernized approach to Chinese Buddhism. The “Fat Buddha” can also be best known as the “Laughing Buddha.” His real name goes by Hotei, but widely regarded in China as the “Loving and Caring One.” The Chinese Buddha has several key signatures. The main one we take notice of is the laughing Buddha himself, with the large belly which is very relevant and key importance to the imagery. Some of the most key components such as meaning in wealth, contentment, also an abundance of goods. One of the things the Laughing Buddha has around his neck was a cloth linen filled with varieties of goods such as a rice basket which would represent which hinted wealth, other goods such as candy, even food.
What I had found interesting was that he had much influence over the innocence of the poor children alongside those who are weak. That is due to the reason why he was a patron saint. There are many reasons as to why we see the Laughing Buddha all over the world. In a westernized culture and in the Asian Chinese culture we take notice of the importance of having a Laughing Buddha present in a restaurant is because he provides abundance. A lot of the time we experience over eating and become very full, which leads to a larger belly such as the Buddha. In that comes with happiness, Chinese culture expresses that this comes from the influence of the joyful Buddha. In final words regarding the Chinese Buddha statue it had many representations and depictions that all represent happiness, good luck, and plentitude.
About Christian Renteria
During this adventure Christian found it very joyful to have learned a new Religion due to the fact I’ve been exposed to Catholicism their whole life and all they've ever known. Chinese Buddhism is a way of living your life, not so much a Religion. THeir interpretation through their research has enabled him to think the Buddha had set aside ways to live your best life in which he accomplished. Christian is currently Business Management Major at Whittier College, an interesting fact about him is that he is a fraternal twin.