Religious Diversity in Three Teachings Discourses

  • Joachim Gentz


During the fourth-century CE, Chinese Buddhism, which in the beginning had been perceived as another Daoist sect, increasingly presented itself as its own distinct tradition. This fostered a new level of intellectual involvement with Buddhism that led to the production of a new genre of interreligious polemical texts on one hand and to an awareness of religious diversity on the other. 1 The Chinese traditional discourse on the harmony of the Three Teachings (i.e., Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism) (sanjiao heyi 三教合一) began at this time with claims such as the one by Sun Chuo 孫綽 (between 310–397) in his Yudao lun 喻道论:

[The Confucian sages] Duke of Zhou and Confucius are like the Buddha and the Buddha is like the Duke of Zhou and Confucius. These are probably just designations of outer and inner aspects. Therefore it works as imperial in front of an emperor and as kingly in front of a king. The term “fo” is Sanskrit and in [the language] of the Jin it has the meaning of “awakened.” “Awakened” means “to get the meaning” and denotes an insight into the things. It is like Mencius taking the sages to be those who are the first to awaken, both point to one and the same. To appropriately respond to the social affairs of the times and follow the course of the things you probably also have to meet the timely moment. The Duke of Zhou and Confucius rescued the world in times of utmost distress, the Buddha illuminated its roots. Together they can be taken as head and tail, what they lead to is not different.2


Religious Tradition Ming Dynasty Religious Diversity Confucian Classic Chinese Religion 
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© Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Joachim Gentz 2013

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  • Joachim Gentz

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