Hui-ch’ang Persecution ［会昌の廃仏］ ( Kaishō-no-haibutsu): Also, Hui-ch’ang Era Persecution. In general, the wholesale suppression of Buddhism carried out by Wu-tsung (r. 840–846), the fifteenth emperor of the T’ang dynasty, that took place from 842 through 845 during the Hui-ch’ang era (841–846). In particular, the Hui-ch’ang Persecution refers to the persecution of 845 that involved the destruction of Buddhist temples. A Taoist named Chao Kuei-chen won special favor from the emperor and incited the emperor to abolish Buddhism. The emperor complied because he regarded the increase of nonproductive Buddhist priests and nuns and their temples and lands, which were exempt from taxation, as economic problems. He also recognized corruption among Buddhist priests and nuns.
In 845 he issued a decree calling for the destruction of all Buddhist temples except four temples each in Ch’ang-an and Lo-yang and one temple in each province. Priests and nuns were ordered to return to the laity except for a small number of priests who were permitted to serve the remaining temples. Jikaku, later the third chief priest of Enryaku-ji, the head temple of the Japanese Tendai school, happened to be in China during the Hui-ch’ang Persecution and recorded these events in his work The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law. The Hui-ch’ang Persecution of Buddhism is counted as one of the four imperial persecutions of Buddhism in China. The other three were carried out by Emperor T’ai-wu (r. 423–452) of the Northern Wei dynasty, Emperor Wu (r. 560–578) of the Northern Chou dynasty, and Emperor Shih-tsung (r. 954–959) of the Later Chou dynasty. Among these four persecutions, the Hui-ch’ang Persecution included all of T’ang-dynasty China. The other three persecutions were limited to northern China. See also four imperial persecutions of Buddhism in China.