Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Asian Studies

First Advisor

Linda Patrik




Buddhism, Japan, China, religion, transmission, Tendai


Shingon Buddhism originated in ancient Indian Tantric thought and developed as a distinctive form of Buddhism before arriving in Japan in the early 9th century CE. The religion moved across countries, from India through the Silk Road countries into China and finally into Japan, before it took shape as a distinctively Japanese form of esoteric Buddhism. In order to understand this branch of Buddhism it is important to study its path from India to China, and then finally to Japan. Along every stop on its path the religion adapted to the culture around it, constantly changing until arriving in Japan. Although extensive documents and archaeological evidence from this journey no longer exist, there are a few highlights along the Silk Road that shed light on esoteric Buddhism’s path. Specifically in India and China Buddhism went though severe religious persecution causing relics and temples to be destroyed. However many cave temples in China have been spared, although they have endured some damage. Another important factor affecting the preservation of evidence concerns the secret nature of esoteric Buddhism. Because Shingon and other esoteric sects were always restricted to those who were initiated into the sects, Shingon was able to fossilize the religion in secret chambers, some of which are being discovered today.