Three Disasters of Wu

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The Three Disasters of Wu (Chinese language: 三武之禍; pinyin sān wǔ zhī huò) were three major persecutions against Buddhism in Chinese history. They were named as such because the posthumous names or temple names of all three emperors who carried out the persecutions had the character Wu (武) in them.

Chinese language family of languages

Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the Han majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

Buddhism World religion, founded by the Buddha

Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana.

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First Disaster

The first Disaster of Wu started in 446, when Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei, a devout Taoist who followed the Northern Celestial Masters, was fighting the Xiongnu rebel Gai Wu (蓋吳). During the campaign, weapons were located in Buddhist temples, and he therefore believed that Buddhists were against him. With encouragement from his also devoutly Taoist prime minister Cui Hao, Emperor Taiwu ordered Buddhism abolished under penalty of death, and slaughtered the Buddhists in the Guanzhong region, the center of Gai's rebellion. [1] The ban against Buddhism was relaxed in Emperor Taiwu's later years, and formally ended after his grandson Emperor Wencheng of Northern Wei, a Buddhist, took the throne in 452.

Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei ( 魏太武帝) (408–452), personal name Tuoba Tao (拓拔燾), nickname Bili (佛貍), was an emperor of Northern Wei. He was generally regarded as a capable ruler, and during his reign, Northern Wei roughly doubled in size and united all of northern China, thus ending the Sixteen Kingdoms period and, together with the southern dynasty Liu Song, started the Southern and Northern Dynasties period of Chinese history. He was a devout Taoist, under the influence of his prime minister Cui Hao, and in 444, at Cui Hao's suggestion and believing that Buddhists had supported the rebellion of Gai Wu (蓋吳), he ordered the abolition of Buddhism, at the penalty of death. This was the first of the Three Disasters of Wu for Chinese Buddhism. Late in his reign, his reign began to be cruel, and his people were also worn out by his incessant wars against Liu Song. In 452, he was assassinated by his eunuch Zong Ai, who put his son Tuoba Yu on the throne but then assassinated Tuoba Yu as well. The other officials overthrew Zong and put Emperor Taiwu's grandson Tuoba Jun on the throne as Emperor Wencheng.

The Northern Celestial Masters Daoist movement existed in the north of China during the Southern and Northern Dynasties

The Northern Celestial Masters type of the Way of the Celestial Master Daoist movement existed in the north of China during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. The Northern Celestial Masters were a continuation of the Way of the Celestial Masters as it had been practiced in Sichuan province by Zhang Lu and his followers. After the community was forced to relocate in 215 CE, a group of Celestial Masters established themselves in Northern China. Kou Qianzhi, from a family who followed the Celestial Master, brought a new version of Celestial Master Daoism to the Northern Wei. The Northern Wei government embraced his form of Daoism and established it as the state religion, thereby creating a new Daoist theocracy that lasted until 450 CE. The arrival of Buddhism had great influence on the Northern Celestial Masters, bringing monasticism and influencing the diet of practitioners. Art produced in areas dominated by the Northern Celestial Masters also began to show Buddhist influence. When the theocracy collapsed, many Daoists fled to Louguan, which quickly became an important religious center. The Northern Celestial Masters survived as a distinct school at Louguan until the late 7th century CE, when they became integrated into the wider Daoist movement.

Xiongnu an ancient confederation of nomadic Steppe peoples

The Xiongnu were a tribal confederation of nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Chinese sources report that Modu Chanyu, the supreme leader after 209 BC, founded the Xiongnu Empire.

Second Disaster

The second Disaster of Wu was carried out in two separate attempts, one in 574 and one in 577, when Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou banned both Buddhism and Taoism, for he believed that they had become too wealthy and powerful. He ordered the monks of both religions to return to civilian life, to add to the military manpower supply and the economy. [2] Compared to the first Disaster of Wu, the second was relatively bloodless. When it officially ended was difficult to gauge, but it was probably over by the time that his son Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou took the throne in 578.

Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou Northern Zhou emperor

Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ( 周武帝) (543–578), personal name Yuwen Yong (宇文邕), nickname Miluotu (禰羅突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. As was the case of the reigns of his brothers Emperor Xiaomin and Emperor Ming, the early part of his reign was dominated by his cousin Yuwen Hu, but in 572 he ambushed Yuwen Hu and seized power personally. He thereafter ruled ably and built up the power of his military, destroying rival Northern Qi in 577 and annexing its territory. His death the next year, however, ended his ambitions of uniting China, and under the reign of his erratic son Emperor Xuan, Northern Zhou itself soon deteriorated and was usurped by Yang Jian in 581.

Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou ( 周宣帝) (559–580), personal name Yuwen Yun (宇文贇), courtesy name Qianbo (乾伯), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. He was known in history as an erratic and wasteful ruler, whose actions greatly weakened the Northern Zhou regime. As part of that erratic behavior, he passed the throne to his son Emperor Jing in 579, less than a year after taking the throne, and subsequently entitled not only his wife Yang Lihua empress, but four additional concubines as empresses. After his death in 580, the government was taken over by his father-in-law Yang Jian, who soon deposed his son Emperor Jing, ending Northern Zhou and establishing Sui Dynasty.

Third Disaster

The third Disaster of Wu started in 845, when Emperor Wuzong of Tang, a devout Taoist, ordered that Buddhist temples and statues be destroyed and their properties confiscated to state treasury. The ban was not a complete ban; two Buddhist temples were permitted in both the main capital Chang'an and the subsidiary capital Luoyang, and the large municipalities and each circuit were each allowed to maintain one temple with no more than 20 monks. More than 4,600 temples were destroyed empirewide, and more than 260,000 monks and nuns were forced to return to civilian life. [3] The disaster affected not only Buddhism, but also Nestorian Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It appeared to end after Emperor Wuzong was succeeded by his uncle Emperor Xuānzong of Tang in 846.

Emperor Wuzong of Tang emperor of the Tang Dynasty

Emperor Wuzong of Tang, né Li Chan, later changed to Li Yan just before his death, was an emperor of the Tang Dynasty of China, reigning from 840 to 846. Emperor Wuzong is mainly known in modern times for the religious persecution that occurred during his reign. In addition, he was known for his successful reactions against incursions by remnants of the Huigu Khanate and the rebellion by Liu Zhen, as well as his deep trust in the chancellor Li Deyu.

Changan ancient city of China

Chang'an was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese since it was a capital that was repeatedly used by new Chinese rulers. During the short-lived Xin dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; the old name was later restored. By the time of the Ming dynasty, a new walled city named Xi'an, meaning "Western Peace", was built at the Sui and Tang Dynasty city's site, which has remained its name to the present day.

Luoyang Prefecture-level city in Henan, Peoples Republic of China

Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast. As of the final 2010 census, Luoyang had a population of 6,549,941 inhabitants with 1,857,003 people living in the built-up area made of the city's five urban districts, all of which except the Jili District are not urbanized yet.

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References

  1. Wei Shu(《魏书·释老志》):“世祖初继位,亦遵太祖、太宗之业,每引高德沙门,与共谈论。……及得寇谦之道,帝以清净无为,有仙化之证,遂信行其术。时司徒崔浩,博学多闻,帝每访以大事。浩奉谦之道,尤不信佛,与帝言,数加非毁,常谓虚诞,为世费害,帝以其辩博,颇信之。”
  2. 《续高僧传》(卷二十三):“数百年来官私佛寺,扫地并尽!融刮圣容,焚烧经典。禹贡八州见成寺庙,出四十千,并赐王公,充为第宅;三方释子,减三百万,皆复为民,还为编户。三宝福财,其赀无数,簿录入官,登即赏费,分散荡尽。”
  3. Old Book of Tang 《旧唐书·武宗纪》(卷一八上):“还俗僧尼二十六万五百人,收充两税户”“收奴婢为两税户十五万人”。