RELI 2372 A, March 15, 2012
The class needs another note taker, email them if interested.
She will continue to post lecture notes on WebCT for us. The second part she hopes to watch today.
The discussion board: the board is there to discuss the course content, post questions. It’s an academic
discussion. There is a summer study program in India, at U of O, it looks a Jainism. If you’re interested,
let her know, not through WebCT.
In general, Chinese religions reflect four strands of influence. Ancient indigenous beliefs, (spirits, triple
world of hell, earth, and Jade emperor), the three great religious traditions of china, Confucianism,
Buddhism, and Daoism.
Confucianism: interest in right and wrong, the proper way
Daoism: interest in mystical way of nature, dao, magic inherent in nature of things
Buddhism: karma, cause and effect, merit and demerit
Non exclusivity, people can be all at the same time, in general, religion is not what you believe, but what
you do. Orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy.
It’s hard to imagine being two at the same time, but eastern traditions emphasize the actions rather
than the beliefs you have. What is expected out of religious practice is a practical positive effect. It will
Chinese approach is practical; it’s a reciprocal relationship between people and the deities. If the people
fulfill obligations (offering and worship), and the god does not fulfill his, there is no point continuing the
Taiwan, 17 mill, Taipei capital. The most beautiful island. They may be all 3 religions at once. The
beginning is undifferentiated potential, the chaos, from which sprung the yin and yang. They spread to
the four corners and brought balance. Good and evil are not opposites, a balance of yin and yang is
good, an imbalance if evil.
Earth god’s birthday. Start with gods of the people, shrine under a tree, on a hill, by a river. All the gods
are organized in hierarchy, the jade emperor at top, and other gods are specific to that village. If he does
not do his job properly, a man of the town can dismiss him. You worship them as long as they do their
Modern medicine is alongside old medicine, the balance of yin and yang in the medicine will bring
balance in the body.
Perhaps we define a religion that makes us unable to see religion in china.
The temple is like a house for a human being. Every once in a while, you need to give them a new home.
The way to settle with a dangerous, unfulfilled spirit is to create a following for it, make it into a god.
Buddhism does not fit with yin/yang.
Spring festival, cleaning of graves, you will see some basic Confucius action. All the family must attend,
you bring your ancestors into being with your family, and you connect with your ancestors. Held 106
days after winter solstice, it signals the beginning of life. After the graves are cleaned, the rest of the
celebrations may continue, with the god being invited to attend an opera in the village.
The opera: the gods on stage appear to pay homage to their gods, prosperity first, then longevity, and
then posterity. And all three on at one.
When you hire a daoist priest, you hire all with him. Disciples, and the musicians, and the workers. Only
the mourners should show grief, anyone not directly in the family need not show grief. Cockerel
represents yin, and duck represents yang. They are not slaughtered because they were in the ritual.
Spirit money is burned for the dead, with a paper model of the dead. (20000 pounds is 31132.42
The way that can be talked about the no the absolute way. Wu Wei, non-action, do what you do the
Themes we should remember in Chinese religion:
1- the boundaries between a life and death are porous, life and death form a continuum, not a break,
there is a community of living, and a community of dead. High ancestor, god. The continuity of
community, living pay respects to the dead.
2-main religious issue is the health and wellbeing of the person in this life, and beyond this life. You have
a long life, a rich life, and many children to continue your line. Valid spiritual goals.
3-on going concern for the welfare of the person after death, the concern with the person does not end
at death. Spring cleaning ritual, and all the rituals with paper mansions, spirit money, to ensure they
continue in a good life after death
4-ideas of the end of time and eternal salvations are not prominent, and do not have much effect on
how religion is practiced. The emphasis is on practice of the religion, no the beliefs.
There is quite a complex funereal, it’s important to recognize the importance of death rituals in every
community. Death creates a great rupture in the community, but it’s so for other families and
communities, death rituals are part of the ways in which you can use a metaphor to heal the
community, but also make peace with those who have died. Death leaves families with sadness, guilt,
things left unsaid. Death rituals are a way to do the best for the person who has died, a way to express
all ones good wishes.
The soul theory.
you need to understand that all Chinese theory of being and existence is based on yin/yang. There are
different theories on the origin of these terms. Originally indicated the sunny side of the mountain
(yang) and the shaded side (yin). (White yang, black yin) every existing thing balances a yin and yang. All
is understood with these complimentary qualities.
Yang: highness, brightness, hotness, expansiveness
yin: lowness, darkness, coolness, passivity
There is not existent that is entirely yin, or entirely yang. Midnight height of
yin, the yang forces grow till noon, height of the day. They are not good and
evil, there are both. A balance is good, and unbalance is evil.
The Hun-yang soul. Life force, vitality, weakened when sick, leaves body in death. This soul goes up to
heaven to become an ancestor, or a god/ deity. It is associated with the spirit tablet.
The p’o-yin soul. It is associated with the physical aspect, and the grave. If not buried properly, it would
become a ghost to disturb the family.
The yellow springs, the ancient Chinese underworld. When people died, it would be the place of the
dead. After Buddhism, 3rd-5th cent CE, thought was influenced by heaven and hell cosmology. The
underworld becomes a place ruled over by the ten gods of hell. They look at the soul and decide where
you go. Heaven and hell were set up like the bureaucracy, the ruling power. The spirit world is a direct
counterpart to the living world. Heaven is the home of the Jade emperor.
People send spirit money to help with contingencies of the next world. If you go to heaven or hell, they
are not permanent places you go to.
Strongly influenced by doaist ideas. There are two forms: philosophical, or religious.
Religious: death rituals, the same theoretical basis, an understanding of the Dao as the source of
everything. Associated with alchemy, and the magical arts, the search for the key to immortality. It
turned from richness, to the secret that could transform the mortal body, into the immortal. Those who
achieved this were known as the immortals. The isles of the blessed, island in the South China Sea, but
also western mountains of china.
Paradise of the immortals is the best place to be when you die. In the spirit world, there are gods,
ghosts, and ancestors. Gods and ancestors are yang phenomenon. Ghosts are yin phenomenon. To
become an ancestor, you must follow the proper actions in the ritual. A ‘drink of immortality’ is given to
effigy to promote the chance of the immortal. The spirit is asked to stay in the home, with the family in
the spirit tablet.
The yin soul, they become ghosts, those lost at sea, or those with no family. Bandits and beggars in
human society. Offering would be made on a table outside, like cooked food, in hopes that the ghost
will pass by. Gods are offered uncooked food, or fruit (they’re above you). The division between these