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Chinese Buddhism



The Chu-she or Kosa (Treasury) School, is the Chinese transmission of the philosophy of the Indian Sarvastivada, or “All-things-exist”, School.  This philosophy is concerned with giving a detailed and precise analysis of everything in reality in terms of constituent elements or dharmas.  It can thus be understood as an analytic refinement of the doctrine of Dependent Origination (Skt. pratitya-samutpada) taught by the Buddha, and supportive of the teaching of no-self (Skt. anatman). 
     Seventy-five elements in all are distinguished.  Eleven account for matter, one for consciousness or mind, forty-six for mental functions (perception, touch, will, ignorance, envy etc.), and fourteen which are neither matter nor mind.  All of these seventy-two elements are termed created or conditioned by one another, the remaining three elements are all termed uncreated or unconditioned, one of these being Nirvana itself.  What separates the Chu-she from other Hinayana Buddhist schools with similar philosophies, is that it held that the elements that make up reality exist both in the past and future, and not only in the present.


The Sarvastivada School was influential in the first centuries CE in north India and Central Asia.  Its texts were translated into Chinese between 383 and 434 and became the focus of the P’i-t’an scholastic study group.  In 563-7 the important Abhidharma-kosa or Treasury of Higher Subtleties by Vasubhandu was translated by Paramartha, and on this text the Chu-she School was founded, thus replacing the earlier P’i-t’an.  The School attracted limited attention until the Abhidharma-kosa was retranslated by Hsuan-tsang (ca. 596-664) in 651-654, when he returned from his lengthy pilgrimage to India.  The Chu-she was brought to completion by Hsuan-tsang’s pupil K’uei-chi (632-682), and its doctrines became studied in other philosophical schools as one of the fundamental bases of Buddhist thought. 
     The Chu-she was closely connected with the Fa-hsiang School founded by Hsuan-tsang and K’uei-chi, and in 793, as the Chu-she had no followers exclusively its own, the School became part of the Fa-hsiang.  Neither School survived the persecution of 845.


As a philosophical school concerned with the precise description of reality, the Chu-she did not use any symbols.


No contemporary adherents.

Main Centre

Ch'ang-an (present day Hsi-an) in Shensi Province.