Over a thousand years of Buddhist History Hidden at Dunhuang

The first time I heard about Dunhuang in China’s Gobi desert, I was attending a seminar conducted by Dr. Vincent Yip. Dr. Yip is an accomplished photojournalist who taught a Silk Road course at Stanford in addition to his courses about Marketing to more than 1.3 Billion Customers in China and Asia.

The June 2010 issue of National Geographic had a piece about the history of the Mogao caves near Dunhuang, a Silk Road oasis in northwestern China.

The Buddhist art found in almost 800 hand carved caves are considered among the world’s finest. There is nearly a half-million square feet of wall space decorated with these murals and more than 2,000 sculptures.

Between the fourth and 14th centuries AD—over a thousand years of history was documented on scrolls, sculptures and wall paintings revealing a multicultural world more vibrant than anyone imagined.

Contrary to popular belief and the Dalai Lama’s soft-spoken words of peace, Buddhism, like all large religious movements, has had a bloody and violent history depicted in the picture on page 145 of the National Geographic that shows an eighth-century heavenly armored guard with bulging eyes trampling a foreign demon.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on June 22 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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7 Responses to Over a thousand years of Buddhist History Hidden at Dunhuang

  1. Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to my trip to dunhuang this summer. But I don’t understand why the words “bloody and violent history” were used. Yes, wars have been fought in Buddhist areas, but to use such extreme words for a spirituality that has elevated people’s minds and morals for centuries is quite ignorant.

    • Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?

      A Short History of Violent Buddhism

      “Of course, Buddhists are human beings and it should come as no surprise that lay Buddhists over the centuries have sometimes marched out to war. Some have committed murder; and many eat meat despite theological teachings that stress vegetarianism.”


      The darker side of Buddhism

      “Violence in Buddhism refers to acts of violence and aggression committed by Buddhists with religious, political, socio-cultural motivations as well as self-inflicted violence during ascetics or for religious purposes.[1] Buddhism is generally seen as among the religious traditions least associated with violence,[2] but in the history of Buddhism there have been acts of violence directed, fomented or inspired by Buddhists. Jerryson & Juergensmeyer 2010, pp. 24.

      Monks with guns
      Westerners think that Buddhism is about peace and non-violence. So how come Buddhist monks are in arms against Islam?

      “Such an association of Buddhism with peace is neither accidental nor unusual. The vast majority of introductory books on Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy do not mention Buddhist violence. Instead, they associate Buddhism with pacifism and non-violence. …

      “After the Second World War, the Buddhist movement found its home in the Beatnik generation through romanticised works such as Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (1958), the writings of the poet Allen Ginsberg, and those of the ex-Episcopal priest Alan Watts. Later, Robert Pirsig’s philosophical reflections in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) gained an enthusiastic following among readers dissatisfied with modern life and who wanted more. In 1987, US interest in Buddhism began to assume political implications with the founding of the Free Tibet movement. …

      “in sixth-century China, the Buddhist monk Faqing led a revolt and declared the arrival of a new Buddha. He marshalled 50,000 men to fight, promising them that, with each kill, they would reach a higher stage in the bodhisattva path. In ninth-century Tibet, Emperor Langdarma was assassinated by a Tibetan lama. According to Tibetan sources, Langdarma had become possessed by demonic forces (gdon). He destroyed monasteries and began to attack the Buddhist establishment. Things were changing and not in the right direction. The murder of Langdarma ‘saved’ Buddhism in Tibet. It has become such an important event that the Tibetans commemorate the murder in their Cham dance, which offers moral instructions through performance.”

      • Thanks for the info, but I’ll stick to MY guns. Having traveled to many eastern asians countries, I have experienced with my own senses the virtues that have been passed down from followers of Buddhism. It takes just one visit to a temple to feel the inner PEACE resonating through one’s body, mind and soul. Generalizing and reading other people’s “facts” and opinions isn’t my thing. Experiencing is.

      • How many apples do you have to eat before you bite into one that is rotten to the core?

      • Personally, I prefer strawberries. They’re fresher!

      • But not all strawberries are equal. Some have no flavor.

        My aunt studied all the religious for most of her life and she said that Zen Buddhists were the most peaceful, but like all major religions, Buddhism is not one unified sect. Even Tibetan Buddhism is divided into four major sects and the Dalai Lama belongs to only one of them. Before Buddhism was introduced to Tibet by a conquering warlike Mongol king, the Tibetans were violent and warlike. And even after Buddhism arrived, not all Tibetans were peaceful.

        The October 1912 issue of National Geographic Magazine was dedicated to Tibet and China, and there’s a piece in that issue written by a Western-trained Chinese doctor who was sent to Tibet by the Emperor of China in 1907 to deal with a cholera epidemic. He stayed for several years in Lhasa and took a lot of photographs and shared what he learned about Tibet and its people. It’s worth reading to learn what life was really like in Tibet for most of the Tibetans.

      • Thank you for the clarification. It’s important to make a distinction between the sects. When compared, Zen Buddhism has a much more peaceful history and philosophy than Tibetan Buddhism, where politics has always played a larger role in its development imo.

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