Foundations and Transformations of Buddhism: An Overview
John M. Koller

Buddhism in Korea and Japan

The Chinese Buddhist schools of Pure Land , Huayen, Tiantai, and Chan were brought to Korea beginning in the fourth century, but became an important cultural force only in the seventh century, in part because of the prodigious efforts of the great Korean Buddhist scholar Wonhyo (617-686 CE). Chan, the most influential tradition, was probably brought to Korea , where it is known as Son, by Pomnang (c. 632-646 CE) in the middle of the seventh century. But it was Chinul (1128-1210) who established the Chogye-chong school of Son as Korea 's dominant Buddhist tradition.

Buddhism first came to Japan from Korea . It was officially introduced at the state level in the sixth century, but had been practiced in Japan even earlier by immigrants from the Korean peninsula. From the late seventh century on, China exerted considerable influence on the development of Buddhism in Japan with the Chinese Buddhist traditions of Chan (which became Zen in Japan), Tiantai (Tendai), and Chen-yen (Shingon) all flourishing [too strong of a word?] there. The extremely popular Pure Land Buddhism was established in the twelfth century as an attempt at reforming the Tendai tradition. Tendai also gave rise to the Nichiren school, founded by Nichiren (1222-1282) as a reform movement aimed at saving the nation through a return to “true Buddhism.” In both Korea and Japan , as in China , Mahayana forms of Buddhism are dominant.

Although beginning in the mid-twentieth century there has been an overwhelming and continuing Western interest in Zen Buddhism in Japan, Zen has never been the dominant form of Buddhism there. For example, the great Zen master Dogen's (1200-1253) importance was hardly recognized before the modern period. The only school that might be able to claim the greatest number of adherents was Jodo Shinshu. Yet the numbers of adherents of any of the schools changed over time and are difficult to quantify with any certainty before Edo (1600-1868).

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