Buddhist History Timeline
by Ven. Wayne Hughes (Ren Cheng)
The philosophy of Buddhism as set forth by the Awakened One, the Buddha, has been part of the causal process of the Universe for over 2500 years. The history of Buddhism is also a history of the world it encompasses. While what we may seem to experience is a linear march of time and the events that take place we are mindful of the cyclic nature of existence that at times is invisible to us.
Throughout my studies (that whole dedication to life-long learning thing) and research I have been putting together a timeline of events and people that have had impacts on Buddhist history. It is far from complete, but it is a beginning and a work in progress.
Most notable is the scarcity of dated events and people since 1900. Let me know what you think is missing and give me dates/events/people. Be sure to include the attribution, where the information comes from.
Note that dating in bold (1100S) signify the century that events took place until definitive dates can be found.
For example the bibliography for this timeline includes: The Shape of Ancient Thought, thomas McEvilley, 2002, Allworth Press . . . Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kurt Behrendt, 2007 . . . Timeline of Early Buddhism, John J Holder, Hackett Publishing . . . and many more.
I bow with respect for any help you can give.
TIMELINE OF BUDDHIST HISTORY — EVENTS/PLACES/PEOPLE [a work in progress]
1989 Dalai Lama receives Nobel Peace Prize
1980 First Peace Pagoda (Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order) erected in the Western hemisphere (Nichiren)
1974 Chogyam Trungpa establishes urban Buddhist centers (Dharmadhatus) and the Naropa Institute
1971 First Tibetan (Sakya) center founded USA
1966 First Theravadan monastery in USA
1959 Dalai Lama flees Tibet
1956 Revival of Buddhism in India by Dr. B R Ambedkar
1955 Kangyur Rinpoche leaves Tibet for India taking hundreds of volumes to later be used by Tibetan refuge monks for study and recitation
1954 – 56 6th Buddhist Council, Rangoon, Myanmar
1952 Founding of the World Fellowship of Buddhists
1924 – 29 Daizokyo edition of Chinese Buddhist Canon printed in Tokyo
1907 Buddhist Society of Great Britain founded
1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago, IL – Buddhist preacher Anagarika Dharmapala was invited there as a representative of Therevadan, “Southern Buddhism”
1881 Pali Text Society founded in England by T W Rhys Davids, most of the Pali Canon is published in Pali and over the following 100 years into English.
1868- 71 5th Buddhist Council in Mandalay, Burma where text of the Pali Canon revised and inscribed on 729 marble slabs.
1853 First Chinese temple in San Francisco
1862 First Western (German) translation of the Dhammapada
New sects of Japanese Buddhism emerge
Hakuin (monk, scholar, and writer) revitalizes Rinzai Zen Sect in Japanese Buddhism
5th Dalai Lama unites Tibet under Geluk school
Tibetan lamas establish Buddhism monarchies in Bhutan and Sikkim
1642 5th Dalai Lama (Geluk order) enthroned by Gushri Khan
Altan Khan founds independent Buddhist kingdom in Mongolia
Burmese kings reunite Burman and forge Buddhist empire
Geluk, Tibetan school founded by Tsongkhapa
1549 Jesuits make port at Kagoshima, Japan
1578 Geluk leader receives the title of Dalai from Altan Khan, Mongol leader
1409 Tsongkhapa founds Ganden monastery outside Lhasa, Tibet
First edition of the Tibetan Buddhist canon is compiled
Buddhism in Vietnam begins to decline under Le dynasty
Buddhist Shan people found kingdoms of Ava in Burma, Lanna and Ayutthaya in Thailand- Lan Xang in Laos.
Kublai Khan makes Buddhism court religion of Tibet, now part of the Mongol empire
Shiran (1173 – 1263) founds True Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.
1295 Marco Polo returns to Venice
1254, May 31, Mongke Khan holds the first Interspiritual Dialogue between Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Saracen and Nestorian
1244 Soto Zen introduced in Japan by Dogen
1223 Eihei Dogen leaves Japan for China
1222 Nichiren born in Kominato, Japan
Muslim armies invade and conquer N India
Sakya and Kagyu traditions emerged in Tibet (2nd wave of teaching from India)
119 Rinza1 Zen introduced in Japan by Eisai
1185 – 1333 Kamakura period, Japan
1118 – 1219 Angkor Wat – Succeeded by Jayagvarman VII a Buddhist
1113 – 1150 Angkor Wat style – colossal mountain temple by Suryavarman II – dedicated to Visnu
Atisha, monk from Nalanda, translates Sanskrit texts to Tibetan. Tibetan schools of Buddhism emerge.
Ly dynasty establishes Buddhist state in Vietnam, Chan Buddhism prevails
Vikramashila in NE India becomes center for Tantric Buddhism
Ladakh becomes a sanctuary for Tibetan Buddhist fleeing persecution
983 First Chinese Buddhist canon
800 – 900 End of Buddhist tradition in Greater Gandharan region
Zen Buddhism emerges in Japan
Burmese found the kingdom of Bagan and becomes center of Thervada study.
King Indravarman II founds Mahayana Buddhist dynasty in kingdom of Champa in Vietnam.
700 – 1200 TIBETAN – Pala era
770 Padmasambhava enters Tibet (Indian tantric adept)
Vajrayana tradition develops at Nalanda (Tantric)
Buddhism becomes official religion of Tibet
Srivijaya and Mataram in Malaysia and Indonesia become centers of Mahayana learning
Borobudur is built on island of Java.
Shantideva (Indian poet) composes A guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhicaryavatara)
650 Buddhism introduced to Tibet
618 – 907 increased contact with Central Asian Kingdoms and Buddhist India via the Silk Road
Chinese Tang persecution and destruction of Buddhist art and texts
600 – 900 Buddhism at his height in China
Chan meditative school is founded.
Buddhist monasteries founded in Bhutan.
Arab armies invade Bactira and Gandhara.
Tantric Buddhism emerges from the Mahayana school.
520 China, arrival of Bodhidharma
550 – 600 Monumental Buddhist sculptures (Bamiyan)
500 – 1500 Hindu/Javanese period
Chinese monks are appointed to political positions in China and Buddhism defuses throughout country.
Mahayana monks establish Buddhism in Japan.
Buddhist kingdoms of Dvaravati and Haripunchai founded by the Mon in SE Asia.
400 – 1100 Buddhist caves near Dunhuang (Buddhist center)
400 – 800 Afghanistan (Nagapahara and Bactria) prosperity, trade routes favor Afghan areas, Buddhism thrives again
400 – 600 Huns take control of Gandhara, loss of patronage, Buddhist sites decline and older sculptures reused (little new produced)
400 – 500 Period of ideological change is evidenced by icons becoming monumental, Buddhist iconography more complex
Chinese Buddhist pilgrims such as “Xuanzang” coming along the Silk Road
Dhammapala composes commentaries on parts of the Canon missed by Buddhaghosa and does sub-commentaries on Buddhaghosa’s work.
440 White Huns invade norther India
425 Buddhaghosa collates the Sinhalese commentaries on the Canon and translates the work into Pali. Composes the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purity) which becomes the classic Sri Lankan textbook on Buddha’s teachings.
Pure Land Buddhism becomes prominent in China
Theravadan tradition reaches mature form in Ceylon
366 Chinese – approximate date of first cave-temple at Dunhuang
300, late Buddhist monks come across Hindu Kush to Gandhara and Taxila (Silk Road)
300 – 600 Time of the Guptas in India
300 – 500 New Buddhist sites and older ones expanded – most Gandharan Buddhist sculpture created in this period
326 Alexander conquered Gandhara and Swat
300 Devotional icons of Buddha and Bodhisattvas sculpted (schist, clay, stucco, terracotta)
300 – 200 Buddhist monastic university, Nalanda, India flourishes, center of world Buddhist study for over a millennium.
Emergence of Yogacara school.
Chinese Mahayana monks reach Korea.
First Chinese Buddhist schools are founded.
200 Many Buddhist sites founded, most Gandharan narrative sculptures produced
200, early First datable Buddhist site Butkara I, Swat Valley
Buddhist monasteries founded in TaxilaEmperor Kanishka convenes the 4th Buddhist Council in Gandhara
190 – 199 No distinctive Greek communities left in NW India
150 Indian and classical Greco-Roman influences were evident
100 Mathuran and Grandharan artists create Buddha as human figure
100 First sculptures at Buddhist sites
100 – 200 Rule of Kanishka – Chinese Buddhism takes hold
100 – 300 Kushan Dynasty
Nagarjuna writes the Mulamadhyamakakarika and emergence of Madhyamaka school.
57 – 75 Chinese — 2 Indian monks arrive in China (Han Dynasty)
Chinese Emperor Han Mingdi (Golden Apparition) sends envoys to India to bring back a “sacred image”.
65 First example of Buddhist community in China – Han
50 Kushans (from Kansu Province, China [Yueh-Chi])
100 – 1 Gandharan Buddhist art comes into being
Theravada Buddhist Canon Tipitaka written on palm leaves in Sri Lanka at Aluvihara.
Composition of Milinda-panha or Questions of King Milinda (Menander) to Ven. Nagasena
After 190 Foreign rulers in Gandhara
182 Demetrius occupied Taxila and Gandhara (sent forth Gen. Menander)
200 – 100 Stupa at Bharhut, earliest monuments with narrative carvings
Composition of the early Mahayana texts, the Prajnaparamita literature
200 First Buddhist sites in Gandhara, no religious imagery known from this period
200 – 100 Gandhara – Carved stone dishes and secular luxury objects
272 – 237 King Chandragupa, Mauryan Dynasty, grandson of Asoka, Gandhara converts to Buddhism
247 Bhikkhu Mahinad brings Buddhism to Sri Lanka, establishes Mhavihara (Great Monastery) of Anuradhapura – Ven. Sanghamitta, Mahinda’s sister arrives with cutting fromt he original Bodhi tree and establishes the nuns in Sri Lanka.
250 3rd Buddhist Council called by Asoka at Patalipura – the Abhidhamma PItaka is recited and additional sections of the Khuddaka Nikaya, Pali Canon reaches present form.
267 – 231 Asoka Rule.
322 – 185 Maurya period
Asoka — opened 8 original stupas — divided Buddha’s remains and enshrined them in 84,000 stupas making Buddha’s presence infinite
Asoka engraved Greek and Aramaic text on rocks near Kandahar
327 – 306 Greek rule
303 2nd Buddhist Council at Vesali – discuss controversial points of the Vinaya, some scholars believe the first schism took place which marks the beginning of the Mahayana school.
331 – 327 Alexander in Gandhara, conquers Taxila, arrives in the Indus River valley
327 – 324 Alexander’s Indian expedition
403 First Council at Rajagaha – tradition has it that the full Canon was recited but this is not likely, thought a version of Vinaya (monk rules) was codified.
404 Death of Buddha
449 First Sermon and enlightenment
484 Birth of Siddhartha Guatama (20th C scholars 566-486, Theravadan tradition place it in 7th C, best evidence points to 484-404 as most likely life span of the Buddha)
1000 Contemporary discovery of silk in the hair of an Egyptian mummy points to possibility of much earlier trade from China than previously thought.
3000 Prehistoric Gandhara (Sarai Khola)