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Chinese Religions.docx

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Andre Maintenay

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Chinese Religions Chinese history- linked to series of dynasties Earliest archaeological evidence – from Shang dynasty (c. 17 -11 c. BCE)  Belief in Supreme Being (Shangdi)  The dominant religions were often determined by the family in rule or dynasty, because of this dominant religion vary in Chinese history (varying between Confucianism and Daoism for example)  A lack of distinction between divinity and higher power such as that in royalty is seen throughout their history, the belief in whether god is transcendent or not Zhou Dynasty (c. 1100-256 BCE) – concept of Tian (general translated “Heaven”  Can also be in reference to a force rather than a thing or a place, a force in the universe  Can also be a moral principle, roughly similar to what the Greeks called the “Good”, a moral principle that everyone tries to strive towards  A common issue brought up is where to draw the line between philosophy and religion? Characteristics of ancient Chinese belief:  Many spirits/deities  Tyler (anthropologist) argues that many religions can trace their roots back to ancient animism  Veneration of ancestors – are integrated in Confucianism and Daoism, more than just remembering your ancestors, it is believing that they are powerful forces deserving of veneration  Discerning patterns in the natural world including divination  The idea that nature can be read like a book and if read correctly can guide one in their life, trying to come up with answers to questions about life and such  Oracles used bones to answer question (similar to using tea leaves) Manual of divination – Yijing (I Ching)  Designed around 64 sets of hexagrams  Each has a principle associated with it (earth, mountain, water, wind, thunder, fire, lake, heaven, etc.) ­ Used by oracles using sticks that were strewn on the floor and used to answer questions based on their resemblance to trigrams.  Complementary forces of the universe – yang and yin ­ Light/dark, hot/cold, male/female, etc. (complementary pairs) ­ Daoism and Confucianism are described as yin and yang in that they are different but complement each other. ­ Is associated with Daoism but is actually much older ­ They are not opposites, not in conflict with one another, they are necessarily in combination Emphasis on balance and harmony ­ One can argue that the purpose of many Chinese religions is to achieve balance and harmony (unlike that of Hinduism which is to achieve a higher reality) Emphasis on figure of the wise sage ­ Similar to gurus, prophets, yogis. However, sages are not people who will become ascetics or to foretell of what consequences are to come. Sages are very wise figures Emphasis on syncretism ­ Positively combining/blending of different religions ­ Prevalent everywhere, there isn’t a religion that has all their concepts and beliefs unique to themselves ­ Is especially true in the Chinese and Japanese religions. Within China, there is syncretism between Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism – the ‘three philosophies’ (or doctrines) – were all roughly contemporary to what is called the Axial age. Confucius – Latinised form of Kongfuzi (“Master Kong”) th ­ Actual name – Kong Qiu (6 c. BCE) ­ Worked in civil service, teacher/lecturer. He himself did not actually write anything down, instead his followers wrote down his sayings and there is much debate as to how much later these sayings were recorded ­ Included saying on how to be good civil servants, however, the one thing he did not write about is religion which adds to the idea that Confucianism is not what we would consider a conventional religion ­ Ideal of scholar-sage-gentleman – for him, being well
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