Growth of Japanese Culture

Japanese Forms of Buddhism

The Religion of Buddhism

In the year 500 B.C. in India, Buddhism began. It was based upon the teachings of a man named Siddhartha Gautama. This religion spread from China to Korea, and then finally to Japan.

Buddhism Spreads in Japan

Prince Shitoku fully supported Buddhism, and because of this it was widely and rapidly spread throughout Japan. The people of Japan liked Buddhism not only because Prince Shitoku supported it, but also because of the fact that it didn't replace the Shinto religion; it was practiced with Buddhism. The people of Japan could continue the religion of Shinto but still practice Buddhism. Buddhism had a huge influence upon Japanese culture first upon the nobles and then the common people. The Buddhist belief was that peace and happiness could be gained by leading a life of virtue and wisdom.



  • Tendai Buddhism: Focused on study of texts
  • Shingon Buddhism: People who appreciated complex rituals
  • Amida/Pure Land: Belief that people might have salvation in a pure land after death
  • Zen: Something precious and divine exists in each person
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Zen Buddhism

The Japanese adopted Zen which means "meditation". It became more popular in the 1100's. This religion displays self-discipline, simplicity, and meditation. Zen was simple and the people that practiced it believed that quiet reflection was more useful than performing ceremonies or studying scriptures. It focused on an individual's attempt to find inner peace. Zen, a major school of Buddhism had a huge impact on Japanese culture. Samurai liked this practice because they thought it helped them in battle. Artists also liked it and reflected simplicity and boldness in their art by using black ink and thick lines.

Review Question

How was Japanese society affected by Buddhism?