The Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) was ensconced in the safety of south China, keeping the 16 kingdoms up north at bay through the natural barrier of the Yangtze River. Mount Lushan and the city of Jianye (present-day Nanjing) emerged as two centers of Buddhism in the south, where many monks were engaged in the translation of Buddhist scriptures. In the North, Buddhism found its center in Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), where Kumarajiva and his team of Chinese and Indian scholar-translators rendered many scriptures into Chinese.
The increase in the number of Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures gave rise to a new discipline of learning designed to rediscover the truth of Buddhism at a time when the meta-physical learning of Laozi and Zhuangzi was in vogue. That was why quite a few Buddhists were also versed in Taoism, and their knowledge was often a mixture of both refigions. Zhi Dun (314-366) was an outstanding representative in this regard.
During the Eastern Jin Dynasty so many people embarked on pilgrimages to the West in search of the Buddha's holy words that this had become something of a campaign. One of the well-accomplished pilgrims was Fa Xian (c.337-c.422). In 399 (3rd year of the Long'an reign), he teamed up with Hui Jing and two other fellow disciples to set off from Chang'an for India in search of commandments and scriptures. Their 11-year journey brought them to more than thirty kingdoms. In India, they paid homage to Buddhist sites and obtained a number of scriptures and commandments. In Sinhala (present-day Sri Lanka), Fa Xian was moved to tears when he saw local merchants offering Chinese-made silk fans as sacrifices to the Buddha. He became so homesick that two years later he boarded a ship in Sinhala, and braving life-threatening risks on the sea returned to China in 412 (8th year of the Yixi reign, Eastern Jin Dynasty).
In the North, Kumarajiva was not the only prolific translator of Buddhist scriptures and classics. There were two others who played a pivotal role in this field. One was Fo Tucheng and the other is Shi Dao'an.
Fo Tucheng (232-348), a Buddhist from Kucha, arrived in Luoyang in 310 (4th year of the Yongjia reign, Western Jin Dynasty) but war and turmoil dashed his hopes of building a monastery to disseminate Buddhism. At that time, General Shi Le's army was stationed in Gepo (north of present-day Xincai, Henan Province) and was terrorizing the area by the indiscriminate killing of innocent people, including quite a few monks. Fo Tucheng, showing great sympathy for the misery of the local people, risked his own life by going to see Shi Leat his head- quarters. The general asked him what Buddhism could accomplish in divination. Fo, knowing that the general was a savage, impervious to reason, decided to impress him by his extraordinary powers. According to Volume III of the Biographies of Pre-eminent Monks, Fo filled a container with some water, lit some incense sticks and began to chant incantations. In no time a green lotus popped out of the water, emitting brilliant light and color. With this trick the monk caught the fancy of the general and won his confidence. He went on to persuade the general to stop the wonton killing and exercise the rule of virtue. Shi Le obliged, and as a result the lives of many people slated for decapitation were spared. She Le became the founder of the Kingdom of Posterior Zhao (319-351). His reign lasted for 14 years, and after his death he was succeeded by his son, Hong, but shortly thereafter the power was usurped by Shi Hu.
The new king, however, had great faith in Fo Tucheng, and never made a decision without consulting him. Thanks to Fo's effort, Buddhism flourished during the reign of Shi Hu, and construction of Buddhist monasteries became something of a fad. It is said that Fo alone had tens of thousands of followers, and more than eight hundred temples were built under his influence.