The history of Buddhism seemed familiar to all other religions: those that did not collapse splintered into several schools of thought for the Way to Enlightenment. The pioneering believers of the Mahayana Buddhism conveyed their beliefs in a more universal and systematic way.
It was easily embraced by the following 5 Asian nations. Here are the first countries that sponsored and cultivated the revolutionary perspective of Buddha's teachings:
The first of the 5 Asian nations that embraced Mahayana is none other than the birthplace of Buddha - Nepal. A century after his death, succeeding sages figured out that amending some methods of proselytizing (e.g. from strictly oral to written) and perspectives (e.g. inclusion of supernatural otherworldly dimensions) could help preserve the great teacher's core lessons. Ironically, only 11% of the total population today is Buddhists.
The unconventional Mahayana sages may have (arguably) sprang from Nepal, but the success of the movement took root in China. Buddhist monks back then have slowly penetrated the land during the Han dynasty, but its vast explosion started during the Tang dynasty. Zen Buddhism fused with Taoist and Confucian influences and became known from then on as Chan/Zen. In fact, China is credited for spreading Mahayana Buddhism throughout Asia in the same breadth that India was responsible for the proliferation of traditional Theravada. Not surprisingly, 80% of its current population is Buddhists.
With Chinese traders exploring neighboring civilizations, Mahayana Buddhism later arrived in the Korean peninsula. Zen school influenced the fragmented kingdoms of Sila, Goreo, and Baekje. In fact, the Mahayana Way to Enlightenment enabled these three rival kingdoms to closely resemble each other, culturally (apart from their spoken language). Only 50% of people in South Korea are Buddhists in contemporary times.
With the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia, Mahayana (Zen) eventually penetrated the Japanese archipelago. Although Shinto remained the core belief justifying the Japanese emperor's divinity, Zen Buddhism easily converted droves of peasants and warrior classes. Today, 96% of Japanese citizens are 'officially' Buddhist.
Although (arguably) a part of China, Tibet is pretty much a culturally autonomous civilization. The same can be said about their Buddhist beliefs. As one of the pioneering believers of Mahayana Buddhism, the Tibetan school of thought maintained other traditional aspects followed by Theravada scholars.
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