Buddhism entered China a few centuries after the passing away of the Buddha, at a time when Confucianism and Taoism were the predominant religions in a country that was as a big as a continent and rivaled India in historical antiquity and cultural pluralism. In the early phases of its entry, Buddhism did not find many adherents in China. But by the 2nd Century AD, aided to some extent by the simplicity of its approach and some similarities with Taoism, it managed to gain a firm foothold and acquired a sizeable following.
The arrival of many new Buddhist scholars from the Indian subcontinent and central Asia, like An Shih-Kao, a Parthinian monk, and Lokakshema, a Kushana monk from Central Asia gave an impetus to the new religion that had many attractive features besides an inbuilt organizational approach to the study and pursuit of religion. During the same period many Buddhist texts were translated from Pali and Sanskrit into Chinese.
The collapse of Han dynasty around 220 AD, was followed by a period of confusion which continued to trouble Chinese society for the next 350 years. During this period Confucianism and Taoism gradually yielded place to Buddhism. The new Mongolian rulers of China from the Northern Wei dynasty and some rulers in the south like Emperor Wu found in Buddhism a great opportunity to demolish the old order and establish a new one. As a result by 6th Century AD, China was teaming with millions of Buddhist monks and thousands of monasteries.
During this turbulent period in China, two major developments took place in Buddhism. One group consisting mostly of the sophisticated gentry dwelled on the philosophical and mystical aspects of Buddhism, while the other group dominated by rural folk followed Buddhism in their own superstitious and simple ways imparting to it in the process a peculiar Chinese Character.