China were varied widely
since the beginning of Chinese history although most people have
no religions. Many temples, mosques and Christian churches were
built in China. The most popular religions in China are Taoism,
Buddhism (mainly Mahayana Buddhism), Lamaism, Islam, Catholicism,
and Christianity. At the same time quite a lot of people believe
deities and ghosts that were superstitions which cannot be seriously
regarded as religions.
Many Chinese belief systems have concepts of a sacred and spiritual
world yet do not invoke a concept of God. To classify a Chinese
belief system as religion, philosophy or superstition can be problematic
and complicated. For instance Confucianism was the main belief,
pursuit and philosophy of most intellectuals in China rather than
a religion. However, it had some influence on the Chinese Heaven
Moreover, the Chinese religions, unlike many Western religions,
are not organizations that demand the exclusive adherence of members.
Chinese people may visit Buddhist temples while living according
to Taoist principles, practicing Confucian thought and participating
in ancestral worshiping rituals.
Major forms of religion that developed within China include ancestor
veneration, deities and ghost’s veneration, Shamanism and Taoism.
Most Chinese have a conception of heaven, Yinyang, Fengshui, geomancy,
astrology and numerology.
Daoism is the native-born religion of China. It
is based on the belief of supernatural being, which prevailed in
the Warring State Period, it absorbed ancient wizardry, taboo, sacrifice,
and mythology. Through personal cultivating, it can reach to release
souls from purgatory and save people. At last Taoists can become
immortal. Daoism is different with the other three main religions
in the world. It attached great importance to realistic benefits
in this world. Taoists denied death. They valued today’s life and
they believe time flies quickly and people should cultivate themselves
as soon as possible so as to become immortal. The founder was Laozi
who was born in around 6thCentury BC. He was a great philosopher
with his famous 5,000 words book: Daodejing, which expressed his
view about cosmos, society and human being. Dao means the “way”
which may also be explained as the “principle”. Laozi believed the
Dao of universe was vast and boundless; Dao was the mother of all
things in nature; Dao was eternal and moved without stopping and
disappearing; Dao never did but through it things were done. Laozi’s
life view and political view were reflected in his thought “wuwei”
(no-action). Actually “wuwei” means to let things develop in their
own way and to avoid actions against the nature. Laozi and Zhunagzi
were against contesting but insisted discarding all contrivances
and returning to a simple state of life. These ideas were negative
to some extent but they became the origin of the thought of the
hermits in the late dynasties.
Daoism became a religion at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25AD-220AD).
An alchemist called Zhangdoaling founded Tianshi Dao, which is regarded
the earliest sect of Daoism. Daoism achieved great developments
during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589AD) and the Tang
Dynasty (618-907AD) after it absorbed some contents from other religions
and traditional Chinese culture.
Daoism has many gods and deities. Laozi and the Heavenly Jade Emperor
were the two most important gods. Daoism pursued immortality by
self-cultivation and taking elixir. So alchemy was very popular
among the Taoists in ancient China.
Daoism had great influence on Chinese social life and culture. The
ideas of Daoism were always practiced by feudal rulers to handle
state affairs at the beginning of a newly established dynasty. It
can help the people to restore production and relax themselves after
turmoil of previous dynasty.
Confucianism was initiated by Confucius (Kong Zi),
who was born to an official family in 551BC in the state of Lu (in
modem Shan Dong province) was a great philosopher, educator. He
was the most influential thinker in Chinese history. His main thoughts
were reflected in the Analects. He sorted out the Book of Songs,
the Book of History and compiled the Spring and Autumn Annals in
his late years. He devoted himself in teaching. He believed that
there should be no class distinction in education. He also suggested
teaching people according to their aptitudes. According to some
stories, he had 3,000 disciples and 72 of them were very outstanding,
who mastered the six skills such as rites, music, shooting, driving,
writing and mathematics.
Ren (benevolence, kind) was the main idea of Confucianism. Righteousness,
propriety, faith and filial piety are also important virtues of
Confucianism. For the political view Confucius advocated that the
sovereign should be benevolent and the subjects should be obedient
so that the harmony was achieved. When treating people Confucius
proposed, “Don’t do to others what you don not want done to yourself”.
This is really a golden rule even till today.
Confucianism was succeeded and further developed by Mencius (372BC-289BC)
and Xun Zi. It was in the reign of Emperor Wu during the Han Dynasty
that Confucianism was promoted to be the orthodox doctrine. In the
coming Wei and Jin Dynasties, Confucianism coexisted with Buddhism
and Taoism. Up to the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the struggle for dominance
between the three became heated. The Song Dynasty witnessed a vital
period of the development of Confucianism. But a renaissance came
during the Song Dynasty when Confucianism responded to the challenge
and developed its own metaphysics. This new trend is known as New-Confucianism,
and its main exponent was Zhu Xi (1130-1200). It subsequently became
the main orthodox doctrine of the scholar officials again until
the collapse of the imperial system in 1911.
To some extent, Confucianism is not a religion but a doctrine and
philosophy of life. It still influences Chinese people’s daily life.
Buddhism was originated from India with the founder of Sakyamuni
(born in 6th century BC) but it witnessed its blossom in China after
it was introduced to China in 1st Century AD.
Buddhism believes the universal sufferings are
birth, aging, illness and death and that life is full of sorrows.
The origin of sufferings lies in desires of our sense. We suffer
these sorrows until deliverance is achieved. So we should eliminate
these desires through mental cultivation so that we can overcome
these sufferings and become enlightened.
For Mental cultivation the Buddhists follow the 8-fold Path, Which
is a sacred path with eight principles. They are called right views
of understanding, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct
or action, right livelihood, right effort or endeavor, right mind
control or concentration, and right mindfulness. These eight principles
are not in succession or isolation from one another. They are different
aspects of the way of life. By following the 8 principles Buddhists
aim to attain “nirvana” which is a realm beyond the limits of mind,
thoughts, feelings, desires and the will. It is a state of ecstasy.
After Buddhism was introduced to china, it spread very quickly in
the successive dynasties. It reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty.
So many Buddhist temples were built, Buddha’s images were carved
and many sutras were translated. There were many schools of Buddhism
in China such as Tiantai sect, Sanlun sect, Huayan sect, Chan (Zen)
sect, Jingtu sect, Mi sect, Lu sect and Faxiang sect. These different
sects belong to the Mahayana. Among them Chan sect became most powerful
and influential because its meditative techniques are quite close
to Chinese thought. Buddhism is still popular among Chinese people.
There are around 75 million Buddhists in China.
Islam was derived from the world "salaam" which means
“peace which comes by surrendering to God”. It was founded by Arab
prophet, Mohammed. Islam believed there was only one God, Allah.
Islam was introduced into China via the Silk Road in the 7th century
by Arabian envoys. Islam was later spread by merchants and craftsmen
via Silk Road. Many Persians migrated to China and they married
Chinese. Their descendants preserved the faith of Islam. During
the Yuan Dynasty, many Mosques and Islam learning centers were constructed.
Chinese Moslems lived mostly in the area of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous
Regions, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in China. There are around
20 million Muslims in China.
Some consider the first entry of Christianity into China was the
introduction of Nestorianism spread by Middle-Eastern travelers
who came to China in AD635, as documented by the Nestorian stone
in Xi’an. In 1582 Jesuits once again initiated mission work in China,
introducing Western science, mathematics, and astronomy. One of
these missionaries was Matteo Ricci.
During the 1840s, Western missionaries spread Christianity rapidly
through the coastal cities that were open to foreign trade. Missionaries
in China established schools, hospitals, orphanages, and as well
as churches. Quite a lot of people follow Christianity.
After the P.R.C was founded, the Three-self Patriotic Movement,
China Christian Council and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association
were founded. Christianity in China was not controlled by foreigners.
Chinese Christianity disavowed the Pope and became independent.
There 16 millions Christians and Catholics in China.
Chinese Religion Policy
Self-government, self-foster and self-spread are basic policies
of the government for managing religious affairs in China. Everybody
in china has the freedom to choose his own religion. Religious activities
should not break Chinese constitutions and laws. Foreign force can
not interfere with Chinese religious affairs. Due to these favorable
policies, Chinese religions are flourishing. Different religious
groups can get along on with each other harmoniously.
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