Han Yu: “Memorial on the Buddha’s Bones”


Han Yu’s “Memorial on the Buddha’s Bones,” in conjunction with his pro-Confucian essay “The Original Tao,” came to be viewed by later generations of Chinese as the polemical foundation for the Confucian revival known as Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism became the dominant social-political discourse from the twelfth through the nineteenth centuries.

In 819 ce, Emperor Xianzong of the Tang Dynasty held a ceremony in which finger bones reputed to be relics of the Buddha were publicly displayed. Although their provenance is unclear, in 558 the relics were enshrined in a special...

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Stones inscribed with the writings of Confucius, Temple of Confucius, Beijing (Library of Congress)

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