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Monk Soldier


Ian_Lee
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The most famous Buddhist monk soldiers in China were those dozens Shaolin monks who had helped Li family establish Tang Dynasty.

But very ironically the formal ban of Buddhism also happened during the Tang Dynasty by the Emperor's decree.

In other times of Chinese history, the Buddhist monks seemed to be deliberately dissociated from politics.

On the other hand, Buddhist monk soldiers seemed to be quite a common phenomenon during Japan's Warring States period. And in 1571, Oda Nobunaga slaughtered them in mass at Mt. Hiei.

However, the Chinese monk soldiers were much morally decent than their Japanese counterparts. After helping to establish Tang Dynasty, those monk soldiers went back to Shaolin Temple and continued their spartan life.

But those Japanese monk soldiers ate meat, kept concubines, and fought whomever they disliked. No wonder they faced that plight.

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The most famous Buddhist monk soldiers in China were those dozens Shaolin monks who had helped Li family establish Tang Dynasty. But very ironically the formal ban of Buddhism also happened during the Tang Dynasty by the Emperor's decree.

The formal ban on Buddhism during Tang did not happen until the late 8th century, I think during Dezong's reign.

Li Yuan was not enthusiastic about Buddhism, but he did not ban it either.

Li Shimin was much more into Buddhism and permitted its growth during Zhenguan. He even greeted the Buddhist monk Xuanzang with much fanfare upon the latter's return to Chang'an. Shaolin monks saved Li Shimin's life once when he was helping his father overthrow Sui. So I guess he owed them a big debt.

Wu Zetian was the Tang ruler who was most enthusiastic about Buddhism. After all she was sent to a Buddhist monastery after Li Shimin's death, and even had an affair with a monk at the monastery.

Even Xuanzong tolerated Buddhism during Kaiyuan.

So if you were into Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, you would be better off if you lived during the Zhenguan period, Wu Zetian's reign, and Kaiyuan. After that, you would be persecuted for being a Buddhist monk.

In other times of Chinese history, the Buddhist monks seemed to be deliberately dissociated from politics.

The fact that Xuanzang rejected an official position that Li Shimin offered to him supports this.

However, the Chinese monk soldiers were much morally decent than their Japanese counterparts. After helping to establish Tang Dynasty, those monk soldiers went back to Shaolin Temple and continued their spartan life.

I think Chinese Buddhist monks had to take a vow "不許殺生".

On the other hand, Buddhist monk soldiers seemed to be quite a common phenomenon during Japan's Warring States period. And in 1571, Oda Nobunaga slaughtered them in mass at Mt. Hiei.

Japanese monk soldiers were often involved in political intrigue and constantly opposed Nobunaga. No wonder he hated their guts. Even the women and children were slaughtered at Mt. Hiei.

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The formal ban on Buddhism during Tang did not happen until the late 8th century, I think during Dezong's reign.

It was during Wuzong(唐武宗李炎)'s reign, one of 4 famous prosecutions, so called "三武一宗之祸", in Chinese Buddhism history.

By the way, Taoism was the real religious belief of this royal family, because they honored Laozi as their forefather due to the same surname, who kept an emperor title (玄元道君皇帝) in tang dynasty. And you might know a number of Tang emperors died in mystery, because they were addicted to Taoism's medicine for immortality, which contained HgS or under the Chinese name 朱砂.

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By the way, Taoism was the real religious belief of this royal family

That is correct, especially Tang Ming Huang (Xuanzong). The Li family also allowed Buddhism to grow despite their main affiliation with Taoism. Then there was a crackdown on Buddhism in the years following An Lushan's Rebellion.

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