Chinese Religion

December 2, 2009 belledotcom

Growing up as a child in America, I was introduced to only one religion. Throughout my life I’ve heard about many different religions from other cultures. These religions sparked my interest so much that I chose to study them. The religions I enjoyed most were Chinese religions. Of these I chose to focus on Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, each of which is a significant part of Chinese religion.

Buddhism is a religion or spiritual philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha. Concepts of Buddhism include Karma: Cause and Effect and Rebirth. In Buddhism, Karma specifically refers to those actions (of body, speech, and mind) that spring from mental intent, and which bring about a consequence or result. Every time a person acts there is some quality of intention at the base of the mind and it is that quality rather than the outward appearance of the action that determines its effect. Rebirth refers to a process whereby beings go through a succession of lifetimes as one of many possible forms of sentient life, each running from conception to death. It is important to note, however, that Buddhism rejects concepts of a permanent self or an unchanging, eternal soul.


Taoism is based on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching, a short tract written in the 6th century BC in China. Its emphasis on spiritual harmony within the individual complements Confucianism’s focus on social duty. Tao is usually translated as road, channel, path, way, doctrine, or line. Wing-tsit Chan stated that Tao meant system of morality to Confucianists, but the natural, eternal, spontaneous, indescribable way things began and pursued their course to Taoists. Some disagree that these were separate meanings and attributes. Tao can be roughly stated to be the flow of the universe, or the force behind the natural order, equating it with the influence that keeps the universe balanced and ordered. Many believe that Tao is associated with nature, due to a belief that nature demonstrates the Tao. The flow of qi, as the essential energy of action and existence, is often compared to the universal order of Tao.


Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious thought that has had tremendous influence on the culture and history of East Africa. It might be considered a state religion of some East Asian countries, because of governmental promotion of Confucian philosophies. Another key Confucian concept is that in order to govern others one must first govern oneself. Concepts include Jen: Return to Virtue. Humanity, Love. Tao: Moral way ordained by heaven, and Filial Piety: Reverence of young for old. Relationships are central to Confucianism. The 5 Basic Relationships include:

  • Ruler to Minister
  • Father to Son
  • Husband to Wife
  • Older Brother to Younger Brother
  • Friend to Friend

Chinese folk religion is composed of a syncretistic combination of religious practices, including  Confucianist ceremonies, ancestor worship, Buddhism and Taoism. Chinese folk religion also retains traces of some of its neolithic belief systems, which include the veneration of (and communication with) the sun, moon, earth, the heaven, and various stars, as well as communication with animals. It has been practiced by Chinese people for thousands of years, for much of that time alongside Buddhism Confucianism, and Taoism.

Chinese religion is not an organized, unified system of beliefs and practices. It has no leadership, no headquarters, no founder, and no denominations. Instead, “Chinese religion” is a general term used to describe the interaction of different religious and philosophical traditions that have been especially influential in China. Although other religious traditions have been influential in China, Chinese religion is primarily composed of four main traditions: Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The religious outlook of most Chinese people consists of some combination of beliefs and practices from these four traditions. It is very rare for only one to be practiced.

TravelChinaGuide.com. “Chinese Religions, Beliefs: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism”, 1998-2009

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/religion/

Religion Facts. “Taoism- Religion Facts” 2004-2009

http://www.religionfacts.com/taoism/index.htm


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Entry Filed under: History WS 201

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