four imperial persecutions of Buddhism in China ［三武一宗の法難］ ( Sambu-issō-no-hōnan): The wholesale suppression of Buddhism carried out on four occasions from the fifth through the tenth century by four Chinese emperors. They are (1) the persecution by Emperor T’ai-wu (r. 423–452) of the Northern Wei dynasty, a believer in Taoism; it lasted for seven years, beginning in 446; (2) the persecution by Emperor Wu (r. 560–578) of the Northern Chou dynasty, enacted twice, in 574 and 577; Wu also abolished Taoism, and this event prompted Buddhists to define this time as marking the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law in China; (3) the persecution in 845 by Emperor Wu-tsung (r. 840–846) of the T’ang dynasty, which was instigated by Taoists; and (4) the persecution in 955 by Emperor Shih-tsung (r. 954–959) of the Later Chou dynasty, in which a total of 3,336 temples were destroyed (with 2,694 temples surviving). In these persecutions, priests and nuns were killed or made to return to secular life, and Buddhist temples, statues, and sutras destroyed. In addition to the conflict between Taoists and Buddhists, moral decline in the clergy also contributed to the persecutions. Moreover, from around the time of Emperor Wu-tsung of the T’ang dynasty, the increase in the number of temples and priests and nuns put financial pressure on the state, which prompted the successive dynasties to regulate Buddhism. Finally Emperor Shih-tsung of the Later Chou dynasty carried out one of the greatest destructions.