The chapter examines adherence and conversion in the Daoist religious tradition. In addition to discussing “conversion” as a comparative category and as a cultural phenomenon in China, this study investigates Daoist views on the subject and the ways in which Daoists have set parameters for religious affiliation. This is followed by an examination of domestic conversion, by people of both Chinese (“Han”) ethnic identity and ethnic minorities, to Daoism in Chinese history. The final section presents information on foreign conversion to Daoism. This includes brief discussions of Daoist conversion in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and the modern West. Here the chapter suggests that Daoism has become a global cultural and religious phenomenon. Throughout this chapter, specific attention is given to the ongoing process of voluntary conversion to Daoism as well as to the diverse motivations of potential converts.
This chapter discusses how one becomes a Confucian in Chinese society. Unlike the conversion process in religious traditions that have a clear initiation ritual such as baptism, there is no clear step in Confucianism that marks such transformation. The process of becoming a Confucian in most cases is a gradual process that involves social and religious rituals, education in the Confucian canon, moral self-cultivation, as well as participation in certain Confucian social institutions. Historically, to become a Confucian in China is not about the renunciation of other religious beliefs or the exclusion of other religious practices but rather a deepening of one’s bonds in a given community, and a consolidation of one’s multiple religious, social, and cultural identities. This chapter proposes a typology that identifies Confucian practices, including Confucius worship, ancestral rites, and what can be called “cultural Confucianism.”
Fan Lizhu and Chen Na
This study suggests that the term “conversion” is deeply embedded in the institutionalized Christian context and may not be an appropriate approach to understand China’s religious tradition shared by the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. This tradition is understood as China’s common spiritual heritage with elements from various origins including Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. In this tradition of diffused religion, membership is not a prerequisite for participation in religious practice. With evidence from current anthropological research, this study shows that there is a general revival of religious activities in China since the post-Mao reform and increasingly more Chinese would draw on their common spiritual heritage to enrich their spirituality and to face problems in their everyday life without a definite sense of being religious or being converted.