Timeline

History of Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion that originated in India over 2,600 years ago. After the Buddha’s departure from this world, Buddhism flourished in India for 400 years before sweeping across other parts of Southeast Asia. It reached China around the 1st century A.D., where Mahayana Buddhism later became the predominant school of thought, as many of its principles were compatible with the philosophies of Chinese scholars Lao Tse and Confucius. Several hundred years later, Buddhism spread to Korea and Japan, and towards Tibet.

Although Buddhism’s spread to the West seems like a recent phenomenon, it actually started more than a century ago. In the 1700s, travellers from England, France, Germany, and other European countries began journeying to the Far East and returning with Eastern philosophy. Many of them then studied and translated the Buddhist texts. As such, most of the Theravada traditional texts have been translated into French, English, and German. However, many European scholars were not satisfied with the mere study of Buddhist texts. In order to acquire firsthand knowledge of the practice of Buddhism, they travelled to the East in the 19th century. Some later became monks.

Around the same time, people from Asia began to immigrate to North America, bringing with them Mahayana Buddhist principles and practices. Still, it was not until the late 1900s that Buddhism gained a greater North American audience.

600 BCE
Life of historical Buddha.
563 - 483 BCE
Life of historical Buddha.
400 BCE
First Buddha Council and Buddhist Canon settled.
486 BCE
First Buddha Council and Buddhist Canon settled.
200 BCE
King Asoka converts, spreads Buddhism from India.
258 BCE
King Asoka converts, spreads Buddhism from India.
200 BCE
Development of Theravada Buddhism.
200 BCE - 200 CE
Development of Theravada Buddhism.
80 BCE
Theravada Canon written down in Sri Lanka.
80 BCE
Theravada Canon written down in Sri Lanka.
50 CE
Buddhism transmitted to China and east Asia
50 CE
50 CE
Buddhism established in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia
50 CE
Buddhism established in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia
60 CE
Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana Buddhism texts written.
1st C CE
Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana Buddhism texts written.
100 CE
Development of Mahayana Buddhism
100 – 200 CE
200 CE
Nagarjuna expounds concept of emptiness
200s CE
375 CE
Buddhism established in Korea.
372 - 500s CE
Buddhism established in Korea.
400 CE
Translation of Buddhist Texts into Chinese, most prolific translator being Kumarajiva
334-413 CE
540 CE
4th Patriarch, Zhiyi, establishes Tiantai Sect in China
538 - 597 CE
550 CE
Buddhism Enters Japan
550 CE
589 CE
Peak of Chinese Buddhism
589 – 845 CE (Tang Dynasty)
600 CE
Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-Tsang visits India
600 CE
600 CE
Buddhism declared national religions of Tibet
600 CE
850 CE
First complete printing of Chinese Buddhist Canon
850 CE
900 CE
Buddhism in Thailand
900 - 1000 CE
1100 CE
Pure Land school of Japanese Buddhism
1100 CE
1150 CE
Revival of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Burma
1150 CE
1200 CE
True Pure Land and Soto Zen schools of Japanese Buddhism
1200 CE
1200 CE
Ch’an Buddhism of China taken to Japan as Zen
1200 CE
1250 CE
Life of Nichiren
1222 - 1282 CE
1400 CE
Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia
1400 CE