Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is the oldest continually Buddhist
country, Buddhism being the major religion in the island
since its introduction in the 2nd century BC. Monks
from Sri Lanka have an important role in spreading both
Theravada and Mahayana throughout
South-east Asia. It was Sri Lankan nuns who introduced
the Sangha of nuns into China in 433AD. In the 16th century the Portuguese
conquered Sri Lanka and savagely persecuted Buddhism as
did the Dutch who followed them.
the British won control at the beginning of the 19th century
Buddhism was well into decline, a situation that encouraged
the English missionaries that then began to flood the
island. But against all expectations the monastic and
lay community brought about a major revival from about
1860 onwards, a movement that went hand in hand with growing
nationalism. Since then Sri Lankan monks and expatriate
lay people have been prominent in spreading Theravada
in Asia, the West and even in Africa.
Rahula, History of Buddhism in Ceylon. Colombo,
R.F. Gombrich, Precept and Practice. Oxford, 1971.
K. Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900.