Buddhism originated in ancient India. After it was introduced into China, the religion went through an extended period of integrated development with the indigenous Confucianism and Taoism and finally became the Buddhism with Chinese characteristics, thus making a deep impact on the religious belief, philosophy, literature, art, etiquette and customs of the Chinese people. Xuanzang, the Tang monk who endured untold sufferings as he went on a pilgrimage to the west for Buddhist scriptures, gave full expression to the determination and fortitude of the Chinese people to learn from other cultures. I am sure that you have all heard about the Chinese classics Journey to the West, which was written on the basis of his stories. The Chinese people have enriched Buddhism in the light of Chinese culture and developed some special Buddhist thoughts. Moreover, they also helped Buddhism spread from China to Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and beyond.
There are three main issues regarding cultural exchange and mutual learning. First, as the origins of war are from human ideology, it is imperative to nurture the ideas of protection and peace. Second, as how civilization is enriched and flourishes, it is vital to have exchanges and mutual learning to promote the improvement of humanity and the peaceful development of the world. Third, to allow culture to become the motivation for human improvement in order to promote creative transformation and the innovative development in the Chinese culture.
In 1987, twenty exquisite pieces of colored glaze were excavated at the underground chamber of Famen Temple in China’s Shaanxi Province. These East Roman and Islamic relics were brought into China during the Tang Dynasty. Marveling at these exotic relics, I thought hard and concluded that as we approach the world’s different civilizations, we should not limit ourselves to just admiring the exquisiteness of the objects involved. Rather, we should try to learn and appreciate the cultural significance behind them. Instead of satisfying ourselves with their artistic presentation of people's life in the past, we should do our best to breathe new life into their inherent spirit.
The Chinese dream will be realized through balanced development and mutual reinforcement of material and cultural progress. As China continues to make economic and social progress, the Chinese civilization will keep pace with the times and acquire greater vitality.
In recent years, if we were to compare Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism in their respective representations of traditional Chinese culture, the development of Buddhism could be said to be better. It has gradually become one of the most important elements for the revitalization of Chinese culture. In the new century, Chinese Buddhism has increasingly established cultural awareness and has proactively ventured into the mighty torrent of creative transformation and innovative development of Chinese culture. Napoleon Bonaparte once compared China to a “sleeping lion” and served that “when she wakes she will shake the world.” Now China the lion has awakened, but it is a peaceful, amicable, and civilized lion. But even more fundamental is the revival of Chinese culture, a journey and a responsibility shouldered by Chinese Buddhism.