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Buddhism in a Pre-Modern Bureaucratic Empire: The Chinese Experience [9]

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Chapter Summary

This chapter concentrates on the cultural environment, the Chinese matrix in which Buddhism came to function. The underlying assumption is that there is such a thing as a typology of political and socioeconomic systems, and that, in other words, a number of essential features of Chinese Buddhism in the pre-modern period are not just due to random development, fate, or the "genius of the Chinese people", but that they can be related to the basic orientations of a pre-modern, agrarian-based, centralized bureaucratic empire with a dominant élite of scholar-officials and a universalistic state ideology. From early times the cakravartin ideal became popular among the Chinese Buddhist élite. An extremely interesting case of compartmentalization can be observed in the whole complex of Buddhist notions concerning cosmology, cosmography, geography and, in general, ideas concerning the nature and composition of the physical world.

Keywords: cakravartin; centralized bureaucratic empire; Chinese Buddhism; Chinese people; compartmentalization; cultural interaction



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