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4 - Mongols, Missionaries, and the Chief of the Idols

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2023

Philip C. Almond
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
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Summary

Chapter 4 deals with the encounter of Buddhism and the West during the period of the Mongol Empire. It locates any mention of the Buddha and his religion within a general view of the mediaeval East as a place of wonders – of unicorns, of dog-headed men, and of the mythical kingdom of Prester John. It demonstrates how the West came to see the Buddha as chief among idols. This chapter explores the encounter between Mongols and Franciscan missionaries sent by the West to explore the intentions of the Mongols: of John of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck and of other travellers – Marco Polo, Andrew of Perugia, and King Hethum of Cilicia. It focuses not only on their often inchoate awareness of Buddhism, but also on Marco Polo’s first account in the West of the life of the Buddha, of the relics of the Buddha in Sri Lanka, and of various hints of Buddhist doctrines.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Buddha
Life and Afterlife Between East and West
, pp. 131 - 168
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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