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


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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...