Korean Buddhism came from China so it is natural to undestand what Chinese Buddhism was in ancient time. It is not happy to ignore Chinses Buddhism in ancient period. In particular history of the Former Qin and the Sixteen Kingdoms.
The Sixteen Kingdoms, less commonly the Sixteen States, was a period in Chinese history from 304 to 439 in which the political order of northern China fractured into a series of short-lived sovereign states, most of which were founded by ethnic minority peoples who had settled in northern China during the preceding centuries and participated in the overthrow of the Western Jin Dynasty in the early 4th century. The period ended with the unification of northern China by the Northern Wei in the early 5th century.
The term "Sixteen Kingdoms" was first used by the 6th century historian Cui Hong in the The Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms and refers to the five Liangs (Former, Later, Northern, Southern and Western), four Yans (Former, Later, Northern, and Southern), three Qins (Former, Later and Western), two Zhaos (Former and Late), Cheng Han and Xia. Cui Hong did not count several other kingdoms that appeared at the time including the Ran Wei, Zhai Wei, and Western Yan. Nor did he include the Northern Wei and its predecessor Dai, because the Northern Wei eventually became the ruling dynasty of northern China.
Classical Chinese historians called the period the Sixteen King
doms of the Five Barbarians because most of the kingdoms were founded by ethnic Xiongnu, Xianbei, Di, Jie, Qiang, and Dingling rulers who took on Chinese dynastic names. Among the handful of the states founded by Han Chinese (Former Liang, Western Liang, Ran Wei and Northern Yan), several founders had close relations with ethnic minorities. The father of Ran Min, the founder of the Ran Wei, was adopted into a Jie ruling family. Feng Ba, who is considered by some historians to be the founder of the Northern Yan, had been assimilated into Xianbei culture. Gao Yun, considered by other historians to be the Northern Yan founder, was an ethnic Korean who had been adopted by Xianbei nobility.
Due to fierce competition among the states and internal political instability, the kingdoms of this era were mostly short-lived. From 376 to 383, the Former Qin briefly unified northern China, but its collapse led to even greater political fragmentation. The Sixteen Kingdoms is considered to be one of the most chaotic periods in Chinese history. The collapse of the Western Jin Dynasty and the rise of barbarian regimes in China during this period resembles the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire amidst invasions by the Huns and Germanic tribes in Europe, which also occurred in the 4th to 5th centuries.
Involvement of other ethnicities
The Goguryeo kingdom was a powerful and influential state in northeast China at the beginning of the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Goguryeo was attacked by the Murong Xianbei numerous times, and in 342 Prince Murong Huang of Former Yan captured the Goguryeo capital Hwando (Wandu in Chinese). Under the powerful and dynamic leadership of feudal kings, Goguryeo during the reign of Gwanggaeto the Great successfully invaded the kingdoms of Baekje, Silla, and Dongbuyeo. Riding its success, Goguryeo campaigned against the Later Yan, obtaining the Liao River region. King Murong Xi of Later Yan twice launched retaliatory attacks to reclaim the Liao River watershed territory, but was only partially successful. At Northern Yan's destruction by the Northern Wei, Yan king Feng Hong fled to Goguryeo to seek asylum. Although granted asylum, Hong was said to have acted as if he was still king, issuing orders and demanding respect, and was executed by King Jangsu of Goguryeo.
The Yuwen Xianbei group Kumo Xi, who lived north of Youzhou, and the Khitan began increasing in strength. In 414, the Kumo Xi tribes sent a trade caravan to Northern Yan, then joined with the Khitan in declaring allegiance to Northern Yan, and then to Northern Wei after its destruction of Northern Yan. Thus, the Northern Wei (essentially the Tuoba Xianbei), held de facto rule over the entire Mongolian Plateau and the Liao River region.
In the Western Regions (modern Xinjiang) of the former Han Empire lay the kingdoms of Shanshan, Qiuzi, Yutian, Dongshi, and Shule. These kingdoms were often controlled or influenced by the various Liang kingdoms that existed during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. The Former Liang organized Gaochang Commandery (Chinese: 高昌郡) and Tiandi County (闐地縣) in the west, both under the administration of the Gaochang Governor. Day-to-day administration was run out of several forts: Western Regions Chief Clerk, Wu and Ji Colonel, and Jade Gate Commissioner of the Army. Other Liangzhou states generally followed this administrative system. In 382, the Former Qin king Fu Jian sent General Lü Guang on a military expedition to the Dayuan kingdom and promoted him to Protector General of the western border regions. After Qin collapsed and Lü Guang founded the Northern Liang, the western border forts and the Shanshan kingdom all became parts of or vassals to the Northern Liang.
Several rulers of the northern kingdoms patronized Buddhism which spread across northern China during the Sixteen Kingdoms and flourished during the subsequent Northern Dynasties.
The Former Qin ruler Fu Jian was a strong patron of Buddhist scholarship. After capturing Xiangyang in 379, he invited the monk Dao An to Chang'an to catalogue Buddhist scriptures. When the teachings of the famed Kuchean monk, Kumārajīva, reached Chang'an, Dao An advised Fu Jian to invite the Kumārajīva. In 382, Fu Jian sent general Lü Guang to conquer the Western Regions (Tarim Basin) and bring Kumārajīva to Chang'an. Lü Guang captured Kucha and seized Kumārajīva, but the Former Qin kingdom collapsed after the Battle of Feishui in 383. Lü Guang founded the Later Liang and held Kumārajīva captive in western Gansu for 18 years. In 401, the Later Qin ruler, Yao Xing conquered the Former Liang and Kumārajīva was able to settle in Chang'an and become one of the most influential translators of Buddhist sutras into Chinese.
The first grottoes in the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang were carved in the Former Qin. Work on the Maijishan Grottoes began during the Later Qin. The Bingling Grottoes ere started during the Western Qin. Numerous other grottoes were built in the Hexi Corridor under the Northern Liang.
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