III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > A. Global and Comparative Dimensions > 1. Periodization, 500–1000 > d. Continued Spread of Religions
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
d. Continued Spread of Religions
The communities identified by the major religions expanded far beyond the boundaries of the classical regional civilizations.  1
BUDDHISM became firmly established in both the mainland and island societies of Southeast Asia, receiving support from rulers in Srivijaya on Sumatra, a major maritime power from the 7th to the 13th century. Central Asian societies, like that of the Uighars, also saw an increasing Buddhist influence. During the SUI and TANG DYNASTIES in China, Buddhism became a significant part of the broad synthesis of popular Chinese religion, enabling Buddhism to survive periods of official opposition (See Political, Social, and Cultural Patterns). In JAPAN, the emerging centralized monarchy in the 6th and 7th centuries supported Buddhism, which became an important part of Japanese life.  2
CHINESE WORLDVIEW as a combination of cultural patterns, political concepts, and religion spread significantly in the postclassical era. Chinese interactions with central Asian societies continued, and peoples like the Khitans created effective political systems combining Chinese and local traditions. In JAPAN during the Taika period (645–710) (See 646–784), major efforts were made to shape the developing centralized monarchy into one governed by a Confucian-style emperor. Aristocratic and warrior families and Buddhist leaders were able to limit the impact of Confucian political models, but the Chinese worldview in political, literary, and religious terms became a major component of Japanese society in the postclassical era. KOREA was unified as a centralized monarchy by the Silla dynasty (668–935) following Confucian models, and Korean society and culture became strongly Sinified. VIETNAM had been conquered by the Han Empire and later by the Tang. The LE DYNASTY (980–1009) (See 980) brought independence, but the state was influenced by Chinese models, which provided a basis for expansion. Chinese commercial involvement in the whole Southeast Asian region as well as in central Asia in the postclassical era meant that Chinese influences on culture and worldview were very strong in a vast part of Asia.  3
CHRISTIANITY spread significantly in the postclassical era. CATHOLIC CHRISTIANITY emerged as the major unifying force in western Europe after competition with other forms of Christianity, overcoming Arian Christianity among the Franks and Celtic Christianity in the British Isles in the 6th and 7th centuries. Spreading north and east, Catholic Christianity was adopted by rulers of Bohemia (9th century) and, in the 10th and 11th centuries, rulers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland, and Hungary. ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY spread beyond the borders of the Byzantine Empire, with rulers of the Bulgars and early Serbs converting in the 9th and 10th centuries. The conversion of King VLADIMIR I (r. 980–1015) of Kiev (See 980–1015) brought Russia into the Orthodox Christian world. NESTORIAN CHRISTIANITY (See 1315) spread through a diaspora of traders and missionaries in central Asia and as far as China. It was an intellectual force in the ruling courts but did not succeed in winning mass support, and it lost many followers in the Middle East to Islam after the 7th century.  4
ISLAM was the major new religious force in the postclassical era. Although the Muslim community was identified in many ways with the Umayyad and Abbasid empires, social institutions of learned scholars, or ulama, and pious devotional teachers, as well as widely traveling Muslim merchants, provided vehicles for the expansion of Islam beyond the military boundaries of the Muslim Empires. By 1000, the majority of the populations throughout the Middle East were Muslims, having been converted by a long process of social and religious transformation (See Overview). Muslims represented diaspora communities of teachers, preachers, and merchants throughout Central, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as in many parts of Africa.  5
ABSORBED WORLDVIEWS. Some of the major classical worldviews ceased to have a separate existence by 1000 C.E., although they were still influential, as their major themes were absorbed into other religious traditions. HELLENISM disappeared as an independent worldview, but its concepts strongly influenced the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. ZOROASTRIANISM all but disappeared following the end of the Sassanid Empire, but many of its major themes influenced Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thought. MANICHAEISM declined after the fall of the classical empires (See 841–45) but had some missionary success in central Asia and China, being declared the state religion for a time in the 8th century by the Uighars. Even though it disappeared as a separate religion, its concepts of conflict between good and evil shaped later thought, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and occasionally provided the foundations for counterestablishment religions.  6
RELIGIOUS CONTEXT. The great classical empires had been replaced as the dominant features of the major societies in the Eastern Hemisphere by major interregional religious communities. In the Far West, there were the two emerging Christian worlds of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity; the Islamic world extended from Spain to central Asia and south into Africa; in central and eastern Asia, Buddhism, either by itself or in conjunction with the Confucian-based Chinese worldview dominated the societies from Japan to Southeast Asia. Hinduism established itself as the culturally dominant force within the broad complexity of South Asian society.  7
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.