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Buddhism also interacted in China with religious Daoism, especially from the 3rd century CE.Religious Daoism, in the form of several competing sects, absorbed many of the local religious temples and doctrines of ancient China.
Buddhism was the first of the great missionary faiths to take advantage of the mobility provided by the Silk Road to extend its reach far beyond its native ground.
From its origins in north eastern India, Buddhism had already spread into the lands that are now Pakistan and Afghanistan by the 1st century BCE.
In the former case, ethnicity, language, color, and other physical and cultural differences are taken to be of relatively small importance compared with the common humanity of all believers, and the availability of the faith (and its particular canons of belief, forms of worship, and promises of salvation) to all humans everywhere.
In the latter case, that is, of non-proselytizing religions, membership in a religion often coincides with membership in an ethnic group, so that religious participation is a birth right and not a matter of conversion; conversion often occurs only when a person marries into the faith, and in extreme cases conversion is rejected as an impossibility.
It posited a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness; its use of fire as the symbol of the purifying power of good was probably borrowed from the Brahmanic religion of ancient India.
The Greek colonies of Central Asia that had been left behind after the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great had, by the 1st century BCE, largely converted from Greco-Roman paganism to Buddhism, a religion that would soon use the Silk Road to spread far and wide.Buddhism spread from China to Korea and Japan by the 6th century CE; it retained a dominant position in China until the decline of the Tang dynasty in the 9th century.Thereafter Buddhism remained important in China, but more as a private than an officially sponsored religion.Generally speaking, religions are either proselytizing or non-proselytizing.That is, they either actively seek to recruit new members to the faith from outside the current membership group, or they do not.Missionaries of many faiths accompanied caravans on the Silk Road, consciously trying to expand the reach of their own religious persuasion and make converts to their faith.The dynamics of the spread of beliefs along the Silk Road involves a crucial, though little-remarked, difference between two fundamental types of religions.Christianity was still more than a century in the future.Daoism, in the strict sense of that term, connoting an organized religion with an ordained clergy and an established body of doctrine, would not appear in China for another three centuries.Jewish merchants and other settlers had spread beyond the borders of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judea and had established their own places of worship in towns and cities throughout the region.Elsewhere in the Middle East, and especially in Persia and Central Asia, many people were adherents of Zoroastrianism, a religion founded by the Persian sage Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE.