2016 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


Buddhist Historical Discourse and the Sui Dynasty’s Ideology
in the Late Sixth and Early Seventh Centuries

Yang Fu

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge

The reunification of China by the Sui (581-617) in 589 CE marks a momentous episode in Chinese history, suggesting that a centuries-long division was over and a new imperial order emerging. One of its corollaries was the formation of Sui ideology, whose foremost concern was to legitimize the newly-established empire by managing the legacies of the previous chaotic years. This article elucidates how some Buddhists in the late sixth and early seventh centuries made use of historical discourse to respond to the call of the Sui ideology, so as to urge the state to protect and sponsor Buddhism. In this article, historical discourse refers to political discourse that takes historical changes over time the interpretations of them as its core. Drawing materials from such historical records as Lidai Sanbao ji (Record of the Three Jewels through the Generations), and Guoqing bailu (One hundred records of Guoqing Monastery), I argue that Sui ideology was essentially a form of historical discourse, and that some Buddhists successfully deployed their own historical discourse to negotiate with the state. On the one hand, the ruling group of the Sui was ideologically driven to favor Buddhism, so as to proclaim the Sui’s accomplishment in bringing about peace. On the other hand, however, in backing up the state through historical discourse, Buddhist adherents also had their own interests and rhetoric on the agenda of the development of Buddhism.


Keywords: Buddhism, historical discourse, Sui Dynasty, ideology, state and religion