Chinese Buddhist Philosophy

Brook Ziporyn

in The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195328998
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Chinese Buddhist Philosophy


This article introduces the three traditions within Chinese Buddhism that alter the face of Indian Buddhism most distinctly. The earliest attempt at a thoroughgoing Sinitic reworking of the Buddhist tradition is found in the Tiantai school, founded in the fifth century ce. Close on its heels, the Huayan school and the Chan (Japanese: Zen) school emerged. All three schools succeeded in creating elaborate syntheses of indigenous and Indian Buddhist thinking, with varying emphases. While the Chan school sheds much of the scholastic theoretical baggage of Indian Buddhism, or at least streamlines and marginalizes it in favor of modes of practice and affect that owe much to indigenous traditions, the Huayan and Tiantai schools remained committed to elaborate theoretical expositions of metaphysical ideas derived from the framework of Indian religious categories. But all of these schools may be seen as emphasizing and extending the valorization of the phenomenal world, found also in some Mahayana scriptures, and a down-playing of the need for literal transcendence of the cycle of rebirth in the world. In so doing each in its own way develops a doctrine of what might be called “omnisolipsism”: the notion that each and every entity is actually all entities, that each particular thing in the world is the totality of the world. This idea allows for a strong affirmation of immanence of Buddhahood in the world, and the interfusion and identity between sentient beings and Buddhas, between samsara and Nirvana.

Keywords: Chinese philosophy; Buddhism; Buddha; Tiantai; Huayan; Chan

Article.  7056 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy

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