Timeline of Buddhist History
Major Events
World Figures and Events

 - 120*

6th Century B.C.E. *

• Life of Siddhartha Guatama, the historical Buddha: conventional dates: 566-486 B.C.E. (According to more recent research, revised dates are: 490-410 BCE).

• Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great (550 B.C.E.)
• Confucius (551-479)
• Zarathustra (630-553)
• Birth of Mahavira (550)

 - 20

5th Century

• First Buddhist Council at Rajagaha (486) after the Parinirvana*, under the patronage of King Ajatasattu.
The Buddhist Canon as it exist today was settled at this Council and preserved as an oral tradition.

• Socrates (469-399)
• Plato (427-347)
• Battle of Marathon (490)
• Greek-Persian Wars (490-479)
• Partheon Built (438)


4th Century

• Second Buddhist Council at Vesali (386) about 100 year after the Parinirvana.
• First schism of the Sangha occurs in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the Sthaviravadins and the Theravadins.
• Non-canonical Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (367)

• Aristotle (384-322)

• Alexander the Great (356-323)
invaded India (327)


3rd Century

• Reign of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231) who converts and establishes the Buddha's Dharma on a national level for the first time.
• Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (250) under the patronage of Emperor Asoka about 200 years after the Parinirvana. • The modern Pali Tipitaka now essentially complete.
• Asoka's son and missionary Mahinda established Buddhism in Sri Lanka (247)

• Great Wall of China (250)

• Hadrian's Wall circa 3rd Century AD

• Hannibal Barca (247?-183?)


2nd Century

• Beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism (20O).
• Composition of Prajnaparamita literature.
• Historical record has it that two Buddhist missionaries from India in 68 AD, arrived at the court of Emperor Ming (58-75) of Han Dynasty. They enjoyed imperial favour and stayed on to translate various Buddhist Texts, one of which, The 'Sutra of Forty-two Sections' continues to be popular even today.

• Buddhist monuments: Sanchi, Amaravati, Bodhi Gaya, India. (185-175)

• Han Dynasty in China


1st Century

• Entire scriptural canon of Theravada School was committed to writing on palm leaves in Pali at the Aloka Cave, near Matale, Sri Lanka (35-32)
• Milinda-paρha or Questions of King Milinda to Venerble Nagasena.

• 01BCE Mar 1, Start of the revised Julian calendar in Rome.

• Julius Caesar (100-44)

• Virgil, Latin poet (70-19)


1st Century C.E.*

• King Kaniska (78-101) convened the Fourth Buddhist Council at Jalandhar or in Kashmir around 100 C.E. (This is not recognized by the Theravadins).
• Buddhism established in Cambodia 100 C.E and in Vietnam 150 C.E.
• Composition of Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana Buddhist texts.
• Buddhism enters Central Asia and China.

• Jesus of Nazareth (0-33 C.E.)

• Destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple: (70 C.E.)

• The Buddha first represented in art as human form.


2nd Century

• The Age of Indian Buddhist philosopher Nargarjuna (150) founder of the school of Madhyamika ('the Middle Way').

• Roman Empire reaches the height of its power.
• In 185 C.E, Shunga a Brahman general became the ruler and the Shunga dynasty ruled for 112 years in India.


3rd Century

• Expansion of Buddhism to Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
The Yogacara (meditation) school was founded by Maitreyanatha (3rd century).
• Buddhist influence in Persia spreads through trade.

• Three Kingdoms dynasty (220–265) Division into three states: Wei, Shu, Wu. Many scientific advances adopted from India.
• The Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity (312)


4th Century

• Asanga (310-390) and his brother Vasubandhu (420-500) prominent teachers of the Yogacara school of Buddhism.
• Development of Vajrayana Buddhism in India.
• Translation of Buddhist texts into Chinese by Kumarajiva (344-413) and Hui-yόan (334-416).
• Buddhism enters Korea (372).

• Gupta dynasty exemplified by Chandra Gupta II (375-415) dominated North Central India.

• Saint Augustine (354-430)



5th Century

• Buddhist monastic university founded at Nalanda, India.
• Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga and major commentaries in Sri Lanka.
• Buddhism established in Burma and Korea.
• Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien visits India (399-414).
• Amitabha (Amida) Pure Land sect emerges in China.
• Sri lankan Theravadin nuns introduce full ordination lineage into China (433).
• Mahayana Buddhism was introduced into Java, Sumatra, Borneo, mainly by Indian immigrants.

• 5th Century Anglo-Saxon Invasion of England

• Earliest hospital in Sri Lanka (437)

• Fall of the Western Roman Empire (476)


6th Century

• Bodhidharma founder of Ch'an (Zen) arrives in China from India. (526)
• Sui Dynasty in Chinese History (589-617) beginning of Golden Age of Chinese Buddhism.
• Development of T'ien-tai, Hua-yen, Pure Land, and Ch'an schools of Chinese Buddhism.
• Buddhism enters Japan (538) becomes state religion (594).
• Buddhism flourishing in Indonesia.
• Jataka Tales translated into Persian by King Khusru (531-579).

• Prophet Mohammed (570-632)

• The Age of Islamic Expansion

• First pagoda built in China (600)


7th Century

• Construction of Potala Palace, Jokang and Ramoche temples to house Buddha images (641-650)
• Harsa-vardhana ruler of a large empire in northern India from 606 to 647. He was a Buddhist convert in a Hindu era.
• Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-Tsang (602-664) visits India.

• Islam sweeps across North Africa (700-800)

• Tang dynasty, China (618-906)


8th Century

• Academic schools (Jφjitsu, Kusha, Sanron, Hossφ, Ritsu, and Kegon) proliferate in Japan.
• Great debate between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist schools.
• Ch'an declared heretical in Tibet.
• Nyingma School of Tibet Buddhism established.
• Borobudur Temple complex built in Java.
• Jataka Tales translated into Syrian and Arabic under title: Kalilag and Damnag.

• Nara Period in Japanese history (710-784)

• First monastery built in Tibet (Sam-ye) (749)

• Moslem invasion of Central Asia (760)

• Charlemagne (742-814)


9th Century

• Khmer kings build Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument.

• Tendai School (founded by Saichφ (767-822) and Shingon School (founded by Kukai: (774-835) appear in Japan.
• Great Buddhist persecution in China (845)

• Biography of Buddha translated into Greek by Saint John of Damascus and distributed in Christianity as "Balaam" and "Josaphat".

• Heian Period in Japanese history (794-1185)

• First printed book, Diamond Sutra, China (868)


10th Century

• First complete printing of Chinese Buddhist Canon (983), known as the Szechuan edition.

• Buddhism in Thailand (900-1000)

• Islam replaces Buddhism in Central Asia (900-1000).

• Sung Dynasty in Chinese History (960-1279)

• 1000 C.E The population at this time was about 200 million people in the world.


11th Century

• Conversion of King Anawrahta of Pagan (Burma) (1044-1077) by Shin Arahan.

• Atisha (982-1054) arrives in Tibet from India (1042).
Marpa (1012-1097) begins Kargyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.
• Milarepa (1040-1123) becomes greatest poet and most popular saint in Tibetan Buddhism.

•The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni (monk and nun) communities at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, die out following invasions from South India.

• Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism established.
• Revival of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Burma. • Decline of Buddhism in India.

• 1000-1100 There was a Confucian revival in China.

• Edward the Confessor, English king (1042-1066)

• Great Schism between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches (1054)

• 1st Crusades (1096-1099)


12th Century

• Theravada Buddhism established in Burma.

• Hφnen (1133-1212) founded the Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.

• Eisai (1141-1215) founds the Rinzai Zen School of Japanese Buddhism.

• In 1193 the Moslems attacked and conquered Magadha, the heartland of Buddhism in India, and with the destruction of the Buddhist Monasteries and Universities (Valabhi and Nalanda) - in that area Buddhism was wiped out.

• Buddhism in Korea flourishes under the Koryo dynasty (1140-1390).

• Omar Khayyam, Persian poet and mathematician (1044-1123)

• 1119 Bologna University founded in Italy; Paris University, in France, is founded in 1150.

• Kamakura Period in Japanese history (1192-1338)


13th Century

• Shinran (1173-1263 ) founds True Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.
• Dogen (1200-1253) founds Soto Zen School of Japanese Buddhism.
• Nichiren (1222-1282) founds school of Japanese Buddhism named after him.
• Mongols converted to Vajrayana Buddhism.

• Theravada Buddhism spreads to Laos.
• Some Buddhist texts still being translated into Arabic, in Persia.

• Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
• Magna Carta (1215)
• Genghis Khan invades China (1215)
• Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
• Mongol conquest of China complete (1279)


14th Century

• Bu-ston collects and edits Tibetan Buddhist Canon.
• Rulers of the north (Chieng-mai) and northeast (Sukhothai) Thailand adopt Theravada Buddhism (becomes state religion in 1360).
• Theravada Buddhism adopted in Cambodia and Laos.
• Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419) Tibetan Buddhist reformer and founder of Dge-lugs-pa (or Gelugpa, or 'Yellow Hat') order.

• John Wycliffe (1328-1384) English theologian and biblical translator.

• China regains its independence from the Mongols under the Ming dynasty (1368)


15th Century

• Beginning of Dalai Lama lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. • In Cambodia, the Vishnuite temple, Angkor Wat, founded in the 12th century, becomes a Buddhist centre.

• Development of printing in Europe
• Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)
• Columbus "finds" the new world (1492)


16th Century

• Tibet's Gelugpa leader receives the title of "Dalai" from Altan Khan (1578).
• "Great Fifth" Dalai Lama meets Qing Emperor Shunzhi near Beijing.

• Martin Luther (1483-1546)
• Protestant Reformation
• Shakespeare, (1564-1616)
• Galileo (1564-1642)


17th Century

• Control of Japanese Buddhism by Tokugawa Shφgunate (the ruling feudal government) (I603-1867)
• Hakuin (1686-1769) monk, writer and artist who helped revive the Rinzai Zen Sect in Japanese Buddhism.

• Japan closes the door to foreigners (1639)
• Pilgrims reach America (1620)
• Galileo recants (1633)
• English Civil War (1642)


18th Century

• Colonial occupation of Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
• King Kirti Sri Rajasinha obtains bhikkhus from the Thai court to reinstate the bhikkhu ordination line which has died out in Sri Lanka.

• 1700s Age of Enlightenment introduces revolutionary new ideas to Europe.
• American independence (1776)
• French revolution (1789-1802)


19th Century

• New sects begin to emerge in Japanese Buddhism.
• Sri Lankan forest monks go to Burma for reordination (1862)
• First Western translation of the Dhammapada. (German-1862).
• German translation of Lotus Sutra, 1852 and pioneer Buddhist scholars: - Neumann and Odlenburg, first German monk, Nyanatiloka.

• First Chinese Temple in USA (San Francisco) (1853)
• 5th Buddhist Council in Mandalay, Burma (1868-1871) where the text of the Pali Canon was revised and inscribed on 729 marble slabs.

• Meiji Restoration in Japanese history 1868, marking end of military rule.

• 1833 Abolition of slavery in British empire.

• American Civil War (1861-1865)


20th Century

• Buddhist Society of Great Britain, founded (1907).
Buddhist Mission Society in Germany, founded (1903).
• Taishφ Shinshό Daizokyφ edition of Chinese Buddhist Canon printed in Tokyo (1924-1929).
• Chinese control of Tibetan Buddhism (1950).
• Founding of World Fellowship of Buddhists (1952).
• Buddha Jayanti Year, commemorating 2,500 years of Buddhism (1956).

• 6th Buddhist Council held at Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma) (1954-1956).
• Dalai Lama fleesTibet to India (1959).
• Tibetan Buddhism spreads to western countries.
• First Theravada Monastery established in USA (1966).
• First Tibetan (Sakya) Centre founded in USA (1971).
• Tibetan texts collected, translated and disseminated by Buddhist publishers 1960's.
• H.H. Dalai Lama receives Nobel Peace Prize (1989).

• Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

• WW I (1914-1918)

• Russian revolution (1917-1922)

• 1919 Ernest Rutherford splits atom for first time.

• WW II (1939-1945)

• Cultural Revolution (China) (1966)

• Pope John Paul II pardons Galileo (1995)

• The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War ends. (1989)


* The Buddhist calendar starts (year 1) from the Buddha's Parinirvana (death and final release) which occured in his eightieth year.
B.C.E. = Before Common Era (Equivalent to B.C.) * C.E. = Common Era (Equivalent to A.D.)

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