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Emperor Qin made Buddhism taboo: historian

THE first emperor of a united China could go down in history not only for the Great Wall and the terracotta warriors, but also for his attempt to crush Buddhism, according to a historian.

"China's first and most influential history book, the Historical Records, stated clearly that Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC) strictly banned Buddhism and Buddhist temples," said Han Wei, a noted researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

According to the Historical Records, the ban applied to the whole country.

Though the book, written between 104 BC and 91 BC, provided no evidence of temples destroyed or monks exiled, Han said he believed the ban had been very effective.

"Buddhism never appeared again in historical documents until 2 BC," Han said.

Emperor Qin's ban on Buddhism indicated the religion was already popular in China's interior regions, said Han, whose thesis on the subject was published yesterday in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province. Han recommended that textbooks be changed to reflect his findings.

Historians generally believed Buddhism was introduced in the country around 67 AD in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) that succeeded Qin. But Han said it must have spread into China from today's Xinjiang Ugyur Autonomous Region and central Asian countries along the ancient Silk Road more than two centuries earlier.

Noted Silk Road archaeologist Wang Jianxin said Han's research finding, based on linguistic, historical as well as archaeological studies, sounded "reasonable."

"Another scholar raised the same theory in the early 1900s, but sufficient evidence wasn't provided," said Wang.


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