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Early Developments

The early Mahayana is marked by, among other things, a profound emphasis on the importance of the book; hundreds of new texts were written, copied, disseminated, and often worshipped. This may have been intended to counter the dominance of stupa veneration in other Buddhist schools.

Schisms and Sects

The Mahayana itself is often understood as a schismatic movement. After the initial emergence of the Mahayana, a number of important subschools emerged in India and then in China—among them Madhyamaka, Yogacara, the Pure Land Schools, and Ch'an.

Missions and Expansion

The Mahayana spread throughout the Indian subcontinent through the missionary activities of monks and the patronage of kings. By the 2nd century C.E. it had made its way to China. It also spread to both east and southeast Asia.

Exploration and Conquest

A variety of kings in both India and east and southeast Asia supported the Mahayana, among them: the Kushanas, Guptas, and Palas in India; the Han and Tang in China; the Srivijaya and Sailendra in Indonesia.

Modern Age

Mahayana Buddhism has adapted to tremendous change in its 2000-year history, and the tradition has continued to evolve in the modern world. In Asia, Europe, and North America the Mahayana has thrived, often by integrating seeming secular aspects of political and social-welfare activities into its practices.