RELI 2732 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Buddhist Cosmology, Tzu, Jade Emperor
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RELI 2732 : Lecture 11
Four areas of influence related to the development of religion in China
1. Ancient indigenous beliefs – concerned with spirits
2. Confucianism – concerned with proper behaviour towards the living and the dead.
3. Daoism – concerned with the natural way of things
4. Buddhism – concerned with karma and rebirth, merit and demerit
People can be Taoists, Confucianists, and Buddhist all at the same time. In this sense religion is
not so much what you believe, it's what you do. It's the ritual way. For example, Christianity is a
creed based religion (a belief based religion), matters of belief are very important in Christianity,
that's what unites Christian sects. It is also what separates different sects.
There was a time where the priest would not be able to tell if the temple was a Daoist temple or a
Buddhist temple. What is expected from religious activity is that it will have a practical positive
effect, illness would be cleared up, problems will be solved, economic conditions improved.
Chinese approach to religion is practical. It is also a reciprocal relationship. If the people of the
village fulfill their obligation to make offerings and to worship the village god, and the village
god doesn't fulfill his obligations to protect the people from bad crops and disease, then there is
no point continuing that relationship. The village can fire the god and get someone new.
Themes in Chinese Religion
• Life and death form a continuum. When you are alive you belong to community of the
living and when you die you go to the community of the dead.
•The main religious issue is the health and well-being of the person in this life and beyond
this life – longevity, prosperity, posterity(children to carry on)
•On-going concern for the welfare of the person after death
•Ideas of the end of time and eternal salvation do not have much effect on how religion is
The first thing is to remember is that all of the Chinese theories of being and existing kind is
based on those principles of yang and yin.