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Mahā-Cīna: The Buddhist Reinterpretation of the History of China [16]

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Chapter Summary

Mahā-Cīna suggests the contradictory necessity that the adherents of a foreign doctrine felt of renouncing neither their faith nor their belonging to China. This chapter shows how Chinese Buddhists have tried to resolve this contradiction in two related domains: that of history and that of the conception of universal sovereignty. According to traditional conceptions in China, history is essentially a history of civilization. The Chinese conception of history is not cyclical. It recognizes an evolution that goes from the primitive to the complex in all domains of material civilization, political organization and culture. This linear and oscillatory conception of history also entails that it has no conclusion: according to the orthodox view, eschatology, millenarian expectations or the physical destruction of the universe do not have a place in history. In short, the Buddhist conception of history is built on the theme of salvation.

Keywords: Chinese Buddhists; eschatology; Mahā-Cīna; salvation; universal sovereignty

10.1163/9789004263291_010
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