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Buddhism has interacted with several East Asian religious traditions since it spread from India during the second century AD.


Confucianism in particular raised fierce opposition to Buddhism in early history, principally because it perceived Buddhism to be a nihilistic worldview, with a negative impact on society at large. The prominence of Confucianism in the Chinese society forced Buddhism to endorse certain uniquely Confucianist values. Over time as Buddhism became increasingly accepted by the Chinese intellectual class, relation between these two philosophies became more symbiotic. For example, Buddhism shares many commonalities with Neo-Confucianism, which is Confucianism with more religious elements.


In the Japanese religion of Shinto, the long coexistence of Buddhism and Shintoism resulted in the merging of Shintoism and Buddhism. Gods in Shintoism were given a position similar to that of Hindu gods in Buddhism. Moreover, because the Buddha Vairochana's symbol was the sun, many equated Amaterasu, the sun goddess, as his previous bodhisattva reincarnation. The later Tokugawa Shogunate era saw a revival of Shinto, and some Shinto scholars began to argue that Buddhas were previous incarnations of Shinto gods, reversing the traditional positions of the two religions. Shinto and Buddhism were officially separated during the Meiji Restoration and the brief, but impacting rise of State Shinto followed. In post-war modern Japan, most families count themselves as being of both religions, despite the idea of "official separation".


"Gathering the Light" from the Taoist book The Secret of the Golden Flower, translated by C. G. Jung and Richard Wilhelm

The relationships between Taoism and Buddhism are complex, as they influenced each other in many ways while often competing for influence. Taoism in its early form was a mixture of early mythology, folk religion, and Taoist philosophy. The arrival of Buddhism forced Taoism to renew and restructure itself into a more organized religion, while addressing similar existential questions raised by Buddhism. Early Buddhism was sometimes seen as a kind of foreign relative of Taoism and its scriptures were often translated into Chinese with Taoist vocabulary. Ch'an Buddhism in particular holds many beliefs in common with philosophical Taoism.



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