Buddhist Studies timelines of buddhist history
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Timeline of Buddhist History
Major Events
World Figures and Events

 - 120*

6th Century B.C.E. *

Life of Siddhartha Guatama, the historical Buddha: conventional dates: 566-486 B.C.E. (According to more recent research, revised dates are: 490-410 BCE).

• Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great (550 B.C.E.)
• Confucius (551-479)
• Zarathustra (630-553)
• Birth of Mahavira (550)

 - 20

5th Century

First Buddhist Council at Rajagaha (486) after the Parinirvana*, under the patronage of King Ajatasattu.
The Buddhist Canon as it exist today was settled at this Council and preserved as an oral tradition.

• Socrates (469-399)
• Plato (427-347)
Battle of Marathon (490)
Greek-Persian Wars (490-479)
Partheon Built (438)


4th Century

• Second Buddhist Council at Vesali (386) about 100 year after the Parinirvana.
• First schism of the Sangha occurs in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the Sthaviravadins and the Theravadins.
• Non-canonical Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (367)

• Aristotle (384-322)

• Alexander the Great (356-323)
invaded India (327)


3rd Century

• Reign of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231) who converts and establishes the Buddha's Dharma on a national level for the first time.
• Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (250) under the patronage of Emperor Asoka about 200 years after the Parinirvana. • The modern Pali Tipitaka now essentially complete.
• Asoka's son and missionary Mahinda established Buddhism in Sri Lanka (247)

• Great Wall of China (250)

• Hadrian's Wall circa 3rd Century AD

• Hannibal Barca (247?-183?)


2nd Century

Beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism (20O).
Composition of Prajnaparamita literature.
• Historical record has it that two Buddhist missionaries from India in 68 AD, arrived at the court of Emperor Ming (58-75) of Han Dynasty. They enjoyed imperial favour and stayed on to translate various Buddhist Texts, one of which, The 'Sutra of Forty-two Sections' continues to be popular even today.

• Buddhist monuments: Sanchi, Amaravati, Bodhi Gaya, India. (185-175)

Han Dynasty in China


1st Century

• Entire scriptural canon of Theravada School was committed to writing on palm leaves in Pali at the Aloka Cave, near Matale, Sri Lanka (35-32)
Milinda-pañha or Questions of King Milinda to Venerble Nagasena.

• 01BCE Mar 1, Start of the revised Julian calendar in Rome.

• Julius Caesar (100-44)

• Virgil, Latin poet (70-19)


1st Century C.E.*

• King Kaniska (78-101) convened the Fourth Buddhist Council at Jalandhar or in Kashmir around 100 C.E. (This is not recognized by the Theravadins).
• Buddhism established in Cambodia 100 C.E and in Vietnam 150 C.E.
• Composition of Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana Buddhist texts.
• Buddhism enters Central Asia and China.

• Jesus of Nazareth (0-33 C.E.)

• Destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple: (70 C.E.)

• The Buddha first represented in art as human form.


2nd Century

The Age of Indian Buddhist philosopher Nargarjuna (150) founder of the school of Madhyamika ('the Middle Way').

Roman Empire reaches the height of its power.
• In 185 C.E, Shunga a Brahman general became the ruler and the Shunga dynasty ruled for 112 years in India.


3rd Century

• Expansion of Buddhism to Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
The Yogacara (meditation) school was founded by Maitreyanatha (3rd century).
• Buddhist influence in Persia spreads through trade.

Three Kingdoms dynasty (220–265) Division into three states: Wei, Shu, Wu. Many scientific advances adopted from India.
• The Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity (312)


4th Century

Asanga (310-390) and his brother Vasubandhu (420-500) prominent teachers of the Yogacara school of Buddhism.
Development of Vajrayana Buddhism in India.
Translation of Buddhist texts into Chinese by Kumarajiva (344-413) and Hui-yüan (334-416).
Buddhism enters Korea (372).

Gupta dynasty exemplified by Chandra Gupta II (375-415) dominated North Central India.

Saint Augustine (354-430)



5th Century

• Buddhist monastic university founded at Nalanda, India.
Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga and major commentaries in Sri Lanka.
Buddhism established in Burma and Korea.
Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien visits India (399-414).
Amitabha (Amida) Pure Land sect emerges in China.
• Sri lankan Theravadin nuns introduce full ordination lineage into China (433).
Mahayana Buddhism was introduced into Java, Sumatra, Borneo, mainly by Indian immigrants.

• 5th Century Anglo-Saxon Invasion of England

• Earliest hospital in Sri Lanka (437)

• Fall of the Western Roman Empire (476)


6th Century

Bodhidharma founder of Ch'an (Zen) arrives in China from India. (526)
• Sui Dynasty in Chinese History (589-617) beginning of Golden Age of Chinese Buddhism.
• Development of T'ien-tai, Hua-yen, Pure Land, and Ch'an schools of Chinese Buddhism.
• Buddhism enters Japan (538) becomes state religion (594).
• Buddhism flourishing in Indonesia.

• Jataka Tales translated into Persian by King Khusru (531-579).

• Prophet Mohammed (570-632)

• The Age of Islamic Expansion

• First pagoda built in China (600)


7th Century

• Construction of Potala Palace, Jokang and Ramoche temples to house Buddha images (641-650)
Harsa-vardhana ruler of a large empire in northern India from 606 to 647. He was a Buddhist convert in a Hindu era.
• Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-Tsang (602-664) visits India.

• Islam sweeps across North Africa (700-800)

• Tang dynasty, China (618-906)


8th Century

Academic schools (Jöjitsu, Kusha, Sanron, Hossö, Ritsu, and Kegon) proliferate in Japan.
Great debate between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist schools.
Ch'an declared heretical in Tibet.
Nyingma School of Tibet Buddhism established.
Borobudur Temple complex built in Java.
• Jataka Tales translated into Syrian and Arabic under title: Kalilag and Damnag.

• Nara Period in Japanese history (710-784)

• First monastery built in Tibet (Sam-ye) (749)

• Moslem invasion of Central Asia (760)

• Charlemagne (742-814)


9th Century

• Khmer kings build Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument.

Tendai School (founded by Saichö (767-822) and Shingon School (founded by Kukai: (774-835) appear in Japan.
Great Buddhist persecution in China (845)

• Biography of Buddha translated into Greek by Saint John of Damascus and distributed in Christianity as "Balaam" and "Josaphat".

• Heian Period in Japanese history (794-1185)

• First printed book, Diamond Sutra, China (868)


10th Century

• First complete printing of Chinese Buddhist Canon (983), known as the Szechuan edition.

• Buddhism in Thailand (900-1000)

• Islam replaces Buddhism in Central Asia (900-1000).

Sung Dynasty in Chinese History (960-1279)

• 1000 C.E The population at this time was about 200 million people in the world.


11th Century

• Conversion of King Anawrahta of Pagan (Burma) (1044-1077) by Shin Arahan.

Atisha (982-1054) arrives in Tibet from India (1042).
Marpa (1012-1097) begins Kargyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.
Milarepa (1040-1123) becomes greatest poet and most popular saint in Tibetan Buddhism.

•The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni (monk and nun) communities at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, die out following invasions from South India.

Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism established.
Revival of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Burma. Decline of Buddhism in India.

• 1000-1100 There was a Confucian revival in China.

• Edward the Confessor, English king (1042-1066)

• Great Schism between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches (1054)

• 1st Crusades (1096-1099)


12th Century

• Theravada Buddhism established in Burma.

Hönen (1133-1212) founded the Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.

• Eisai (1141-1215) founds the Rinzai Zen School of Japanese Buddhism.

• In 1193 the Moslems attacked and conquered Magadha, the heartland of Buddhism in India, and with the destruction of the Buddhist Monasteries and Universities (Valabhi and Nalanda) - in that area Buddhism was wiped out.

• Buddhism in Korea flourishes under the Koryo dynasty (1140-1390).

• Omar Khayyam, Persian poet and mathematician (1044-1123)

• 1119 Bologna University founded in Italy; Paris University, in France, is founded in 1150.

• Kamakura Period in Japanese history (1192-1338)


13th Century

Shinran (1173-1263 ) founds True Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.
Dogen (1200-1253) founds Soto Zen School of Japanese Buddhism.
Nichiren (1222-1282) founds school of Japanese Buddhism named after him.
Mongols converted to Vajrayana Buddhism.

• Theravada Buddhism spreads to Laos.
• Some Buddhist texts still being translated into Arabic, in Persia.

• Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
• Magna Carta (1215)
• Genghis Khan invades China (1215)
• Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
• Mongol conquest of China complete (1279)


14th Century

Bu-ston collects and edits Tibetan Buddhist Canon.
• Rulers of the north (Chieng-mai) and northeast (Sukhothai) Thailand adopt Theravada Buddhism (becomes state religion in 1360).
• Theravada Buddhism adopted in Cambodia and Laos.
Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419) Tibetan Buddhist reformer and founder of Dge-lugs-pa (or Gelugpa, or 'Yellow Hat') order.

• John Wycliffe (1328-1384) English theologian and biblical translator.

• China regains its independence from the Mongols under the Ming dynasty (1368)


15th Century

Beginning of Dalai Lama lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. In Cambodia, the Vishnuite temple, Angkor Wat, founded in the 12th century, becomes a Buddhist centre.

• Development of printing in Europe
• Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)
• Columbus "finds" the new world (1492)


16th Century

Tibet's Gelugpa leader receives the title of "Dalai" from Altan Khan (1578).
• "Great Fifth" Dalai Lama meets Qing Emperor Shunzhi near Beijing.

• Martin Luther (1483-1546)
• Protestant Reformation
• Shakespeare, (1564-1616)
• Galileo (1564-1642)


17th Century

Control of Japanese Buddhism by Tokugawa Shögunate (the ruling feudal government) (I603-1867)
Hakuin (1686-1769) monk, writer and artist who helped revive the Rinzai Zen Sect in Japanese Buddhism.

Japan closes the door to foreigners (1639)
• Pilgrims reach America (1620)
• Galileo recants (1633)
• English Civil War (1642)


18th Century

• Colonial occupation of Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
• King Kirti Sri Rajasinha obtains bhikkhus from the Thai court to reinstate the bhikkhu ordination line which has died out in Sri Lanka.

• 1700s Age of Enlightenment introduces revolutionary new ideas to Europe.
• American independence (1776)
• French revolution (1789-1802)


19th Century

• New sects begin to emerge in Japanese Buddhism.
• Sri Lankan forest monks go to Burma for reordination (1862)
• First Western translation of the Dhammapada. (German-1862).
• German translation of Lotus Sutra, 1852 and pioneer Buddhist scholars: - Neumann and Odlenburg, first German monk, Nyanatiloka.

• First Chinese Temple in USA (San Francisco) (1853)
• 5th Buddhist Council in Mandalay, Burma (1868-1871) where the text of the Pali Canon was revised and inscribed on 729 marble slabs.

Meiji Restoration in Japanese history 1868, marking end of military rule.

1833 Abolition of slavery in British empire.

• American Civil War (1861-1865)


20th Century

• Buddhist Society of Great Britain, founded (1907).
Buddhist Mission Society in Germany, founded (1903).
• Taishö Shinshü Daizokyö edition of Chinese Buddhist Canon printed in Tokyo (1924-1929).
Chinese control of Tibetan Buddhism (1950).
Founding of World Fellowship of Buddhists (1952).
Buddha Jayanti Year, commemorating 2,500 years of Buddhism (1956).

• 6th Buddhist Council held at Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma) (1954-1956).
• Dalai Lama fleesTibet to India (1959).
• Tibetan Buddhism spreads to western countries.
• First Theravada Monastery established in USA (1966).
• First Tibetan (Sakya) Centre founded in USA (1971).
• Tibetan texts collected, translated and disseminated by Buddhist publishers 1960's.
• H.H. Dalai Lama receives Nobel Peace Prize (1989).

• Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

• WW I (1914-1918)

• Russian revolution (1917-1922)

• 1919 Ernest Rutherford splits atom for first time.

• WW II (1939-1945)

• Cultural Revolution (China) (1966)

• Pope John Paul II pardons Galileo (1995)

• The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War ends. (1989)


* The Buddhist calendar starts (year 1) from the Buddha's Parinirvana (death and final release) which occured in his eightieth year.
B.C.E. = Before Common Era (Equivalent to B.C.) * C.E. = Common Era (Equivalent to A.D.)

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