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Buddhacinga Fotudeng.png
Illustration of Fotudeng from a Chinese print
Born 232 CE
Died 348 CE
Occupation Buddhist monk, scholar, political analyst and translator
Religion Buddhism

Fotudeng (Sanskrit: Buddhacinga?; simplified Chinese: 佛图澄; traditional Chinese: 佛圖澄; pinyin: Fótúdéng) (ca. 232–348 CE[1]) was a Buddhist monk from Kucha. He studied in Kashmir and came to Luoyang in 310, and was active in the spread of Buddhism in China.[2]


Early life and emigration to China[edit]

Fotudeng came from Central Asia to China in 310 CE and propagated Buddhism widely. He is said to have demonstrated many spiritual powers, and was able to convert the warlords in this region of China over to Buddhism.[3] He succeeded in converting the Xiongnu general Shi Le and became his closest advisor as he founded the Later Zhao dynasty in 319. Fotudeng uttered the only phrase that reached us in the Jie language, cited in connection with the Shi Le fight against Liu Yao in 328 CE, and recorded in the Chinese annals with Chinese translation.[4] This phrase was analyzed in several publications.[5][6][7][8][9]

As a teacher of meditation[edit]

Fotudeng is well known for teaching methods of meditation, and especially ānāpānasmṛti ("mindfulness of breathing"). Fotudeng widely taught ānāpānasmṛti through methods of counting breaths, so as to temper to the breathing, simultaneously focusing the mind into a state of peaceful meditative concentration (Skt. samādhi).[10] By teaching meditation methods as well as doctrine, Fotudeng popularized Buddhism quickly. According to Nan Huai-Chin, "Besides all its theoretical accounts of emptiness and existence, Buddhism also offered methods for genuine realization of spiritual powers and meditative concentration that could be relied upon. This is the reason that Buddhism began to develop so vigorously in China with Fotudeng."[10]

Legacy and successors[edit]

Eventually Fotudeng became a Later Zhao government official under Shi Hu, who allowed him to found a great number of Buddhist temples. Among his disciples were Dao An, Zhu Faya, Zhu Fatai, Fa-he and Fa-ch'ang. These disciples had a great impact on Buddhism in China, and continued to revere the memory of their teacher. In his history of China, John Keay writes:[11]

Fotudeng's disciples would include some of Chinese Buddhism's most outstanding scholars. When the Later Zhao kingdom fell apart in 349 — four princes were enthroned and murdered in that year alone — Fotudeng's disciples fanned out across the north from Shandong to Sichuan and gravitated south as far as Guangdong. One of them, the monk Dao'an, became the greatest exponent, translator, and organiser in the early history of Chinese Buddhism; and of his disciples several assisted Kumarajiva, another native of Kuqa, in the most ambitious of all translation projects in terms of quantity and fidelity. Yet all such luminaries continued to revere Fotudeng's memory, which would suggest that he was more than a mere showman and miracle-worker.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 304
  2. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 304
  3. ^ Nan, Huai-Chin. Basic Buddhism: Exploring Buddhism and Zen. 1997. pp. 80-81
  4. ^ Fang, Xuanling (1958). 晉書 [Book of Jin] (in Chinese). Beijing: Commercial Press.  Vol. 95, pp. 12b-13a.
  5. ^ Ramstedt G.J., "Zur Frage nach der Stellung des Tschuwassischen" (On the question of the position of the Chuvash), JSFOu 38, 1922, pp. 1on
  6. ^ Bazin, Louis (1948). "Un texte proto-turc du IVe siècle: le distique hiong-nou du "Tsin-chou"". Oriens 1 (2): 208–219. JSTOR 1578997. 
  7. ^ von Gabain, Annemarie (1950). "Louis Bazin: Un texte proto-turc du IVe siècle: le distique hiong-nou du "Tsin-chou" (Besprechung)". Der Islam 29: 244–246. 
  8. ^ Pulleyblank, Edwin George (1963). "The consonantal system of Old Chinese. Part II" (PDF). Asia Major 9: 206–265. Retrieved 2011-02-06.  p. 264.
  9. ^ Shervashidze I.N. "Verb forms in the language of the Turkic runiform inscriptions", Tbilisi, 1986, pp. 3-9
  10. ^ a b Nan, Huai-Chin. Basic Buddhism: Exploring Buddhism and Zen. 1997. p. 81
  11. ^ Keay, John. China: A History. 2009. pp. 207-208

External links[edit]