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Emperor Tang Wuzong Died One Year after Initiating the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution

April 14, 2015 |   By Zhai Jing


Editor's note: In both Western and Chinese culture, the principle of karmic retribution, that is, being held ultimately accountable for one's own actions, is widely accepted. In other words, good deeds will be rewarded with good, while evil deeds will be duly punished. This article serves as a reminder to those who commit wrongdoings that the concept of“evil begets evil” is an enduring one that has its roots deep in the course of history.

Emperor Tang Wuzong of Tang Dynasty (814 – 846 A.D.) was infamous for his hostility against Buddhism.

In the biggest campaign to eradicate Buddhism in Chinese history, he destroyed Buddhist temples and forced Buddhist monks and nuns to return to the secular world. Buddha statues were cast into coins or farming tools. No one was allowed to keep a Buddha statue at home – if one was found, the family would be punished. Additionally, the emperor issued edicts to defame Buddhism.

According to historical records, during the fifth year of his reign “more than 4,600 temples and monasteries were torn down, 260,500 Buddhist monks and nuns were forced to renounce their beliefs, and more than 40,000 refuges and hermitages were destroyed.”

Only one year after the great persecution against Buddhism began, the young emperor died at the age of 33. He had five sons, but none of them were chosen to succeed him. Instead, it was his uncle Li Chen who would become the next emperor – since Wuzong was losing support from his courtiers as a result of his persecution of Buddhism, no one raised a serious challenge.

As the new emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Li Chen proclaimed a general amnesty and revived Buddhism in China. He was highly praised by historians.