The term Fǎxiàng itself was first applied to this tradition by the Huayan teacher Fazang (Chinese: 法藏), who used it to characterize Consciousness Only teachings as provisional, dealing with the phenomenal appearances of the dharmas, in contrast to Huayan, which deals with the underlying nature on which such phenomenal appearances were based. However, Chinese proponents preferred the title Wéishí (唯識), meaning "Consciousness Only" (Sanskrit Vijñaptimātra).
This school may also be called Wéishí Yújiāxíng Pài (唯識瑜伽行派 "Consciousness-Only Yogācāra School") or Yǒu Zōng (有宗 "School of Existence"). Yin Shun also introduced a threefold classification for Buddhist teachings which designates this school as Xūwàng Wéishí Xì (虛妄唯識系 "False Imagination Mere Consciousness System").</ref>
Like the parent Yogācāra school, the Faxiang school teaches that our understanding of reality comes from our own mind, rather than actual empirical experience. The mind distorts reality and projects it as reality itself. In keeping with Yogācāra tradition, the mind is divided into the Eight Consciousnesses and the Four Aspects of Cognition, which produce what we view as reality.
Translations of Indian Yogācāra texts were first introduced to China in the early fifth century. Among these was Guṇabhadra's translation of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra in four fascicles, which would also become important in the early history of Chan Buddhism.
During the sixth century CE, the Indian monk and translator Paramārtha widely propagated Yogācāra teachings in China. His translations include the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, the Madhyāntavibhāga-kārikā, the Triṃśikā-vijñaptimātratā, and the Mahāyānasaṃgraha. Paramārtha also taught widely on the principles of Consciousness Only, and developed a large following in southern China. Many monks and laypeople traveled long distances to hear his teachings, especially those on the Mahāyānasaṃgraha.