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Buddhism and Confucianism in the Tangut State

Pages 139 - 155


The religious beliefs of the Chinese Dynasties, contemporary with the Tangut State (Western Xia), were multiple and diverse. These beliefs included Buddhism and Taoism, combined with the surviving elements of archaic religions. Throughout Tangut history, Buddhism always remained in the religious mainstream, but had never completely dominated the religious life of the Tangut state. Buddhism in Xixia had following distinct characteristics: 1) the Tripiṭaka was translated into the Tangut language, which allowed the Tangut people to accept the Buddhist religion through their own language; 2) the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the Tangut state set the pattern for the transplanting of Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet. This established the foundation for further eastward transmission of Tibetan Buddhism during the Yuan Dynasty; 3) the building up the North Wutai Temple in Helan Mountain; 4) the continuation of generous royal support for Mogao and Yulin Grottoes, introduction of Tibetan esoteric motifs into the grotto arts. Confucianism was the dominant ideology of the Tangut State. Tangut emperors implemented Confucian ritualism more thoroughly than the Kitan-Liao and the Jurchen-Jin Dynasties. The Tangut State venerated the Buddha together with Confucius, creating an organic combination between spiritual solace and political practice.


Institute of Ethnology & Anthropology, Academy of Social Sciences 中國社會科學院民族學與人類學研究所, Beijing, China

1 This issue was originally addressed by E. I. Kychanov in his “Buddhism and state in Hsi Hsia from juridical aspect”, in: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientarum Hungaricae, vol. 34 (1980), pp. 105–111; E. I. Kychanov, “The State and the Buddhist Sangha: Xixia State (987–1227)” in: Journal and Oriental Studies, vol. 10 (2000), pp. 119–128. The role of Buddhism in the legitimation of the ruling dynasty in Xixia is discussed by Ruth Dunnell in her The Great State of White and High: Buddhism and the State Formation in Eleventh-Century Xia. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1996).

2 Such doubts had been expressed quite recently by Li Huarui 李華瑞 in the series of articles published in Xixia xue 西夏學, e.g. “Lun Ruxue yu Fojiao zai Xixia wenhua zhong de diwei 論儒學與佛教在西夏文化中的地位”, Xixia xue, 2006, no. 1, pp. 26–32. Li argues that the influence of Confucianism in Xixia had been limited, and that Tangut scholars in fact were not familiar with the Confucian classical literature. And that, all in all, the Tangut ideological agenda had been dominated by Buddhism and not by Confucianism sensu stricto.

3 Li Fanwen 李範文, “Zangchuan fojiao dui Xi Xia de yingxiang 藏傳佛教對西夏的影響”, in: Lishi bowuguan guankan, 歷史博物館館刊, 1996, vol. 6, no. 3.

4 Here and elsewhere I refer to Confucianism (ruxue 儒學) in a very broad sense, not only as the teaching of Confucius as we know it from the Analects and other monuments of classical literature, but as a sort of generalising rubric, indicating the complex of ideas referring to the ideas of government, humane rule, etc. Li Huarui identifies this complex as the “bureaucratic system and political ideology influenced by Confucianism”. Li Huarui, “Lun Ruxue yu Fojiao zai Xixia wenhua zhong de diwei”, p. 27.

5 Songshi 宋史, juan 8, “Zhenzong ji 真宗纪”, part 3 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1977), p. 154.

6 “Those who harm and damage the images of celestial gods, effiges of the Buddha, are punished by 3 years in jail. If Daoist priests male or female, or Buddhist clegry, male or female destroy or damage the images of celestial gods and Buddha effiges, the jail term is added by exile 諸盜毀天尊像、佛像者,徒三年。即道士、女冠盜毀天尊像,僧、尼盜毀佛像者,加役流。.” Dou Yi 竇儀 et al. (Xie Meiqing 薛梅卿, ed.), Song xingtong 宋刑统 (Beijing: Falű chubanshe, 1999), j. 19, p. 338.

7 Shi Jinbo 史金波, Nie Hongyin 聶鴻音, Bai Bin 白濱, (eds), Tiansheng gaijiu xindng lőling 天盛改旧新定律令, (Beijing: Falű chubanshe, 2000), vol. 1, pp. 112–113. All further quotations refer to this edition. These entries from the TSLL have been thoroughly discussed in the academic discourse, starting with Kychanov's initial publications on the TSLL in Russian.

8 “It is not allowed to destroy or damage Buddha images, prayer banners, Daoist images, images of celestial gods and temples of the Grand master (Confucius). If there is such destruction in violation of the law, the masterminds are sentenced to six years of hard labour and their accomplices to three years. If there are monks and nuns among the criminals, their crime is judged one degree harder than if committed by other people. 諸人佛像、神帳、道教像、天尊、夫子廟等不准盜損滅毀。若違律時,造意徒六年,從犯徒三年。其中僧人、道士及軍所屬管事者損毀時,當比他人罪狀增加一等, TSLL III, p. 184.

9 Xie Chongguang 謝重光, Bai Wengu 白文固, Zhongguo sengguan zhidushi 中國僧管制度史, (Xining: Qinghai renmin chubanshe, 1990), pp. 85–121; 155–167.

10 TSLL X, pp. 362–363.

11 TSLL X, pp. 367–368.

12 Changsun Wuji 長孫無忌 (et al.), Tang lű shuyi 唐律疏議 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983), p. 383.

13 “He liked magic and learnt abstention from the five cereals from the Daoist master Liu Xiuhuang. He died of suffocation” (喜方術, 從道士路修篁學辟穀,氣忤而死). See: Li Tao 李濤, Xu Zizhi tongjian changpian 續資治通鑒長篇, j. 162, p. 3901. Records of the 8th year of the Song dynasty's Renzong 仁宗 emperor's 慶歷 Qingli period, 1048.

14 Li Dao, Xű Zizhi tongjian changpian, j. 318, p. 763; 84th year Yuanfeng 元豐 period of Song Shenzong 神宗, 1081.

15 Li Fanwen, “Zangchuan fojiao dui Xi Xia de yingxiang”.

16 TSLL XI, pp. 404–405.

17 Shen Weirong 沈衛榮, “Hanzang Fojiao yanjiu chuyi” 漢藏佛教比較研究芻議, Lishi yanjiu 歷史研究, 2009, no. 1.

18 TSLL I, pp. 110–130.

19 Shi Jinbo 史金波, Xixia Fojiao shi lűe 西夏佛教史略, (Yinchuan: Ningxia renmin chubanshe, 1988), pp. 59–72.

20 Shi Jinbo 史金波, “Xixia Guoqu zhuangyan jie qianfo ming jing fayuanwen yizheng 西夏文<過去莊嚴劫千佛名經>發願文譯證”, Shijie zongjiao yanjiu 世界宗教研究, 1981, no. 1.

21 Shi Jinbo 史金波 and Bai Bin 白濱, “Mingdai Xixia wen jingjuan he shichuang chushen” 明代西夏文經卷和石幢初探, Kaogu xuebao 考古學報, 1977, no. 1.

22 Dong ge Luosang Chili 東嘎·洛桑赤列, Lun Xiziang zhengjiao heyi 論西藏政教合一制度, (Beijing: Minzu chubanshe, 1983), part 2, chapter 1.

23 Shi Jinbo 史金波, “Xixia de Zangchuan Fojiao 西夏的藏傳佛教”, Zhongguo zangxue, 中國藏學, 2002, no. 1.

24 Songshi 宋史, juan 485, Xiaguo zhuan, part 1, 夏國傳上, p. 1399; Li Dao, X&udblac; Zizhi tongjian changpian, j. 67, 4th Jingde 景德 year of Zhenzong era (1007), p. 1502.

25 ibid., j. 121, 1st Baoyuan 寶源 year of Renzong era, p. 2849.

26 Zhang Jian 張鑒, Xixia jishi benmo 西夏紀事本末, 11th Guangxu year (1885), opening chart.

27 Dunhuang wenwu yanjiu suo (eds), 敦煌文物研究所, Dunhuang Mogao neirong zonglu 敦煌莫高窟內容總錄, (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), pp. 183–184.

28 Bai Bin 白濱 and Shi Jinbo 史金波, “Mogao ku, Yulin ku Xixia ziliao gaishu 莫高窟,榆林窟西夏資料概述”, Lanzhou daxue xuebao 蘭州大學學報 1980, no. 2; Liu Yuquan 劉玉權 “Dunhuang Mogao ku, Anxi Yulin ku Xixia dongku fenqi 敦煌莫高窟、安西榆林窟西夏洞窟分期”, Dunhuang yanjiu wenji 敦煌研究文集, 1982, no. 3.

29 Peng Jinzhang 彭金章, Wang Jianjun 王建軍, Dunhuang mogao ku Beiqu shiku 敦煌莫高窟北區石窟, vol. 1 (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe 2000), pp. 334–337; vol. 2 (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 2004), pp. 332–334; vol. 3 (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 2004), pp. 370–373.

30 Shi Jinbo 史金波, Bai Bin 白濱, “Mogao ku Yulin ku Xixia wen tiji yanjiu 莫高窟榆林窟西夏文題記研究”, Kaogu xuebao 考古學報, 1982, vol. 3.

31 Shi Jinbo 史金波, “Xixia huangshi he Dunhuang Mogaoko quyi 西夏皇室和敦煌莫高窟芻議”, Xixia xue 西夏學 2009, no. 4.

32 Liao shi 遼史, j. 103, “Xiao Han jia'nu zhuan 蕭韓家奴傳” (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), p. 1450; Jin shi 金史, j. 110, “Zhao Bingwen zhuan 趙秉文傳” (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), p. 2428.

33 Shi Jinbo 史金波, Wei Tongxian 魏同賢, Kychanov 克恰諾夫, (eds), Ecang Heishuichneg wenxian 俄藏黑水城文獻 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chuabanshe), vol. 11, pp. 133–141.

34 Li Huarui, “Lun Ruxue yu Fojiao zai Xixia wenhua zhong de diwei”, pp. 28–32.

35 Song shi, “Xiaguo zhuan xia”, p. 1425.

36 TSLL X, pp. 378–379.

37 Liao shi 遼史, j. 61, p. 937.

38 Jin shi 金史, appendix “Jin Jinshi biao 進金史表”, p. 2899.

39 Cai Meibiao et al. (eds), 蔡美彪等著, Zhongguo tongshi 中國通史, vol. 6, (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1979), pp. 164–174.

40 Wu Guangcheng 吳廣成, Xixia shushi 西夏書事 (Xiaoshuoshan press 小硯山房刻本), 5th Daoguang year (1835), j. 36, p. 14.

41 Shi Jinbo, Wei Tongxian, Kychanov, Ecang Heishui cheng wenxian, 1997, no. 3, p. 71; 史金波, Shi Jinbo, “Xixia “Qing Jin guowang” kaolun 西夏 “秦晉國王” 考論”, Ningxia Shehui kexue 寧夏社會科學, 1987, no. 3.


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