8: Chinese and Japanese Religions

Chinese Religions
 “Syncretistic”
 “The attempted union of different principles or practices, as in philosophy or religion.”
 In Chinese religion, it is possible to be (for example) a Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian.
 Basic Concepts
 Early beliefs:
 Recognition of multiple gods and spirits
 Shen and Kuei
 Yin and Yang:
 Balancing forces
 Female and male
 Most everything is a combination of these two
 Desire harmony between them
 Ancestor Veneration
 Respect / veneration for aged members of family
At age 60
 Divination
 Prediction of future events
 I Ching (Book of Changes)
Presents patterns for predicting future via casting of coins or stalks of
 Shang Ti
 A monotheistic god
 Asserted by Chou Dynasty in 11th Century B.C.
 Rewarded good morality, punished bad
 Morality as a basis of government
 Chinese Philosophy-Religions
 Between 8th and 3rd Centuries BC:
 Feudal system had broken down
 Warlords; civil wars
 Confucians, Taoists, and Legalists each came forward with solutions
 Legalists
 (or “Realists”)
 Believed in strong leadership
 Human nature = wicked and lazy
 Leaders should take the hard steps needed,
 and not be affected by morality or pity.
 Had no room for religion in their system.
 Taoists
 Origins and founder are lost to history.
 Traditionally: Founded by Lao-tzu (“Old Master” or “Old Boy”)
 Based on the book, Tao Te Ching (the Way of Nature)
 Theme: All human achievements are folly, especially elaborate government
 Today: a philosophy of nature, a religion, and a system of magical practices.
 The Tao is the basic unity behind the universe:
 “The way.”
 Life is the greatest possession,
 and the only one that lasts.
 Ideally, individuals should turn their backs on the achievements of civilization—
 And live as simply and quietly as possible.
 The least government is the best government.
 Strive for the innocence of the child.
 Despise pomp and glory.
 Later Taoist developments:
 Own set of gods
 Focus on extension of life
 Appreciated by Chinese upper classes today as a philosophy
 But scorned as a religion for the ignorant masses.
 Confucianism
 Originally concerned only with society
 Not a religion
 No priests, no afterlife, no divine writings.
 Kung Fu Tzu: “Confucius”
 Born in 6th Century BC
 Teacher; traveled from place to place with followers.
 Taught about good government.
 Intended to develop not a religion, but:
 a system of ethics,
 a theory of government,
 and a set of personal and social goals.
 When society lives by “li,” it moves smoothly.
 Li = propriety; the way things should go.
 Works best in an idealized feudal state:
 All know their superiors and inferiors,
 Five relationships in life
And can behave properly.
 With li present in them, society is ideal:
 Father to son
 Elder brother to younger brother
 Husband to wife
 Elder to junior
 Ruler to subject
 During the 500 years after Confucius’s death,
 His followers spread his ideas among the rulers of China
 Became integral to Chinese culture.
 Feng Shui
 Wa
 Chinese New Year
 Celebrated late Jan/early Feb.
 Cleansing and renewal
 Autumn Harvest Festival
 (lantern festival?)
Japanese Religions
 Shinto
 Loosely organized, native Japanese religion
 Wide variety of beliefs and practices
 A religious form of Japanese nationalism
 Japan superior to other lands
 Includes aspects of animism and ancestor worship.
 Kami:
 Gods or humans with godlike powers.
 Also—anyone or anything possessed of superior power (awesome).
 Japan: was created by two kami.
All Japanese emperors are descended from them.
 4th Century: Chinese religions impacted Japan.
 Mahayana Buddhism especially.
 Shinto and Buddhism blurred together;
 Shinto became concerned with daily life;
 Buddhism with the afterlife.
 Zen Buddhism was developed in Japan.
 17th Century:
 Military dictators (Shogun) expel foreign influences from Japan;
 Support Shinto as native religion.
 Samurai and Bushido
 Three forms of Shinto:
 State Shinto
 Shrines dedicated to local deity or hero or event.
 Was supported financially by the government.
 Sectarian Shinto
 Worship of nature (mountains); faith healing; purification of the body.
 Domestic Shinto
 Worship in the home.
 Today:
 Shinto– no longer supported by state.
 Mostly secondary to Buddhism.