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China Buddhism vs. Japan Buddhism and Shintoism

Buddhism is a religion that uses Buddha’s perspective, such as the traditions and beliefs attributed to the religious faith. It is believed that Buddha lived and taught in some parts of India during the fourth century BCE (Miura, 2018). Buddhism has been getting popular in many countries, for example, Japan and China. This essay seeks to compare Buddhism in China and Japan by showing how the religion was introduced, the key similarities and differences in the two nations. The paper will also compare Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan.

In Japan and China, Buddhism was introduced by traders who came from India through Pakistan and Afghanistan. The missionaries came to trade for different commodities where they realized that China and Japan did to have an established form of religion (Mejbel & Mejbel, 2018). Many people were converted to Buddhists, and massive popularity of the religion was observed. Through the Indians, the Chinese accepted the religion and Japan followed suit (Miura, 2018). In both countries, Buddhism was recognized to solve disputes among many communities, and the clergy followed guidelines as per the Buddha.

Practice and Popularity of Buddhism in Japan And China

Buddhism’s success factor was the result of the regime that existed at that time. For example, in Japan, Prince Shotoku was a Japanese ruler and allowed the establishment of the new religion to the people he was leading (Seth, 2017). Shotoku, with efforts from his elites, facilitated the spread of the faith in urban areas, the rural, and all marginalized places in the country. Similarly, in China, the Tang dynasty, which had been established in the seventeenth century, aided in Buddhism’s establishment. The dynasty later became a key factor to the new religion by incorporating Chinese art into the faith (Mejbel & Mejbel, 2018). Additionally, Chinese writing and philosophy were also included to enable enough popularity of the religion.

When Buddhism covered a significant region in Japan and China, the new converts were taught contemporary literature about the Buddha’s philosophies. That led to the understanding and adoption of Buddhism culture in both nations (Seth, 2017). Many schools were established in China and the two countries wanted to address the challenge of literacy where they wanted to combine it with religious doctrine as by Buddha’s perspective. Both Japan and China possess the distinct artistic ability and the two nations have been key spreaders of Buddhist culture to other states.

Key Difference in Practicing Buddhism Between China and Japan

However, due to the change of events and globalization’s rise, Buddhism has been different in the two countries. There has been a massive cultural and political alteration in both nations. Buddhism is more widespread in China when compared to Japan (Miura, 2018). For example, there is a wide variety of Buddhist arts and designs in China which outweighs any other country in the world. For instance, Dazu stone and Longmen Grottoes are evident in the Chinese religious compounds that are marked with transition from a generation that did not know supernatural beings’ existence. On the contrary, Japan has a significant population of people who believe in Buddhism more than China (Seth, 2017). Although China contributed to Buddhism’s popularity in Japan: the two nations were faced by political and social forces that saw Japan defeat China in terms of population that was converted to Buddhism.

When it comes to Buddhism art, Japanese art differs from that of China. The reason is that the Japanese artistic style is more sophisticated as compared to China. Japan adopted art from India, Korea, and China which led to comprehensive skills that define their art (Miura, 2018). The other keynote on this religious art by Japan is that it has focused on gods and spirits. In contrast, China has focused on the indigenous culture of spiritual transition affected by traditional beliefs.

Chinese Buddhist art incorporated aspects of realism in work, while the Japanese relied on foreign information to define their subjects in Buddhism. Most Chinese Buddhism art was abstract, while the Japanese religious perspective is inclined to depict Buddha’s real portrayals wherein, Chinese have never been interested in such (Seth, 2017). When it comes to ordained Buddhists, China has not accepted marriages between the Sangha because of commitment to serve Buddha. Another key aspect refers to the meals: Buddhism advocates for the avoidance of animal products. In Japan, they are not strict vegans as compared to China which makes the situation vary in the two countries.

Buddhism vs. Shintoism in Japan

Buddhism and Shintoism (Shinto) religions are the all-time practiced beliefs in Japan. The two religions are almost the same and some people have considered themselves members of both. However, there are distinct differences between both faiths because of their unique origins and traditions. Shinto is more of an animistic religion because all living things have spirits, including inanimate objects such as rocks (Mejbel & Mejbel, 2018). The important living things are called Kami, and human beings worship them. On the other hand, Buddhism is not a theistic perspective because people who have been civilized in the religion, such as Buddha himself, are adored.

The similarity between Shinto and Buddhism in Japan is that the two religious convictions use beliefs and norms of Hinduism. The ancestors are considered Kami, and the two religions follow a system of gotras, the descendants of Rishis (Mejbel & Mejbel, 2018). The two religious convictions have been harmoniously coexisting and complementing each other on many degrees. Both doctrines are concerned with the afterlife and the soul. Additionally, the two religious perspectives accept the spirituality of the world and the recognition of lifestyles.

Buddhism has a unique and clear doctrine compared to Shinto, which involves anything that an individual may wish to do. Buddhism has rules and guidelines popular in Japan, such as refrainment from killing; hence, it would not be easy to consume meat for the Buddhists (Mejbel & Mejbel, 2018). On the contrary, Shinto is unclear and makes ambiguity prevail in the doctrine that is not well defined to many because it does not have religious texts like Buddhism. Shintoism allows a polytheistic religion to worship the kami or any other deity of their choice. Buddhists worship in temples, while Shinto use shrines as their worship sites (Mejbel & Mejbel, 2018). The aesthetic value of the places of worship is also different because Shinto shrines have decorated vermilions and entrances protected by dogs, foxes, and animal sculptures.


Buddhism in Japan and China was introduced from India during the start of the seventeenth century. Many Chinese and Japanese accepted Buddha’s teaching on way of life which made Buddhism gain widespread popularity in the Asian region. Japan has borrowed some significant content of Buddhist art from China. The key difference between both countries is how Buddhism is practiced. In Japan, people strictly follow all the religious practices as per Buddha’s perspective. Shintoism differs from Buddhism because of the animistic belief that every living thing is sacred. Shintoism has gained popularity since it appears to be flexible for many people who like self-pleasure. Buddhism and Shintoism are equally important when it comes to obeying the law and respecting the human dignity.


Mejbel, M., & Mejbel, M. (2018). The most important physical and natural manifestations in Shintoism religion. Alustath Journal for Human and Social Sciences, 224(2), 151–168. Web.

Miura, T. (2018). Shintō is the indigenous religion of the world. Journal of Religion in Japan, 7(1), 57-81. Web.

Seth, A. (2017). Book Review: Changing dynamics of India Japan relations: Buddhism to a special strategic partnership by Shamshad Ahmed Khan. China Report, 53(3), 424–426. Web.


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