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.
Uighurs, a religiously and ethnically distinct Chinese Muslim community who are largely Sunni Muslims, share more in common with their Central Asian neighbors, ethnically and culturally, than their Chinese rulers. They speak a different language, possess different physical characteristics, and maintain their own distinct way of life and traditions. Eight million Uighurs are found in Xinjiang, which sits in remote northwestern China. Despite similarities to a well-known beleaguered Chinese community, Tibetan Buddhists, the Uighurs' plight has received very little media attention. Indeed, when their story has been told, it has been linked, however tenuously, to the specter of international Islamic terrorism. This article explores American news coverage of the Uighurs before and after 9/11. By looking at how and why this happened, the article illuminates American press practices regarding the coverage both of religion in China and of Islam.
Scott W. Sunquist
Asian ecumenism began as a pragmatic concern of Western mission agencies, but was catalysed under the pressure of Japanese imperialism early in the twentieth century. National ecumenical organizations were promoted in the wake of the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, but with the dismantling of imperialism in Asia after the Pacific War, national and regional cooperation became the sole work of younger Asian leaders. Organic church unions occurred between the 1930s and 1960s, but this has not been a major theme of ecumenism in Asia. China is unique in the ecumenical movement in Asia because of the formation of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement as a way to negotiate a new place for the church in Chinese society. Ecumenism has once again become more pragmatic, and major ecumenical bodies (e.g. the Christian Conference of Asia) have become more focused on issues such as public health, disaster relief, and the environment.
John H. Berthrong
This article on Chinese philosophical theology discusses the following topics: Confucian religiosity, the Confucian way of being religious, classical Confucianism, the Zhongyong, the new Confucian Mou Zongsan's religious thought, and the future of the Confucian task of being religious.
Dru C. Gladney
There are almost twenty million Muslims in China, constituting a diverse community that is both multi-ethnic and, within Islam, multi-religious. There are ten official Muslim nationalities of China, namely, Uyghur, Kazak, Dongxiang, Kyrgyz, Salar, Tadjik, Uzbek, Bonan, and Tatar. With the exception of the Hui, all these Muslim nationalities do not speak Chinese as their native language and are derived more from Central Asian than Chinese origins. The Hui are spread across the length and breadth of the country, but they often share nothing in common with each other except Islam, or the memory of it as handed down to them by their ancestors. While it also might be argued that most of the other Muslim minorities are on the borders of China proper and are historically and culturally more attuned to the regions and peoples outside of China, the Hui are unique in that they inhabit every city, town, and 97 percent of all counties in China. This article examines Islamic communities in China, focusing on Islam among Muslims classified by the state as Hui.
Class apathy and a selective process of record keeping created fertile grounds for uprise in China. This article throws light on two of the earliest millennialist movements in China, namely, the Taiping Dao and the Wudoumi Dao movements that emerged from havoc, intending to create millennial commonwealth and practiced healing through confession. The Chinese Buddhist millennialism synthesized a modified version of the Indian concept of “kalpa” and the Buddhist teaching of the three ages where each age ends with the demise of a “Bodhisattva” and marks a decline based on the degeneration of Buddha's teachings. It states that the dark age graced by superhuman saviors shall witness the arrival of the Maitreya, the next Buddha incarnate. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) rhetoric about “a thousand years of prosperity” is also considered reflective of millennial views.
In China, there is a strong underlying philosophy that explicitly recognizes religious diversity and diversification as a way of extension and duration, even though diversity can be seen as a manifestation of the same principle or truth of the original and hence to contain ultimate principles of unity. The unity in diversity is what actually gives itself the momentum toward diversification as a way of realizing the unity. This can be seen in the first development of the philosophy of the Yi (change) in the Yijing, which transforms the ancient religion of tian (heaven) into a moral consciousness of self-discipline and cultivation of moral reason in individual human beings. This article discusses religious diversity in China and shows how the three Chinese religions—Confucianism, Daoism, and Chinese Buddhism—have worked basically under the paradigm of creative harmony of the Yijing. It also examines diversity as a principle of religious development and considers religious conscience in Confucianism, Daoism, and Chinese Buddhism.
Christianity in China is a relatively new import from the West. During the seventeenth century, European missionary orders, especially the Jesuits and Dominicans, entered China and began impressive missionary efforts. However, a bitter “rites controversy” emerged between the Jesuits and the Dominicans over how much the Christian faith could be adapted to correspond to Chinese culture. In the early eighteenth century, the pope sided with the Dominicans, who rejected any compromise with Chinese religious practices. As a result, the emperor expelled missionaries and proscribed Christianity. The legacy of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century imperialism still affects Chinese Christian churches. A second important legacy of Christianity in contemporary China is the history of persecution under the Communist regime. Since Catholicism is heavily dependent on an ordained clergy, its growth in China is inhibited by the shortage of clergy. Various forms of Protestantism grow much more rapidly because they can depend on lay preachers.
Deborah A. Sommer
In this chapter, the term “Confucian” refers to East Asian beliefs and practices influenced by a corpus of historical, ritual, and philosophical literature compiled by the fourth century BCE in China. “Being religious” includes such phenomena as personal self-cultivation, interpersonal human relations, participation in family rites, governance of the state, and the quest for sagehood. These activities were expressed artistically through the creation of imaged forms, the construction of sacred spaces, and ritual performance.
Erin M. Cline
This article discusses Confucian views on childhood moral development, focusing especially on accounts of moral cultivation in the classical and Han periods. Beginning very early, Confucians exhibited an understanding of the unique influence that parent–child relationships have on children’s moral development during the earliest stages of development, which led them to argue for the importance of moral cultivation and moral education not only during infancy and childhood, but even during the prenatal period. Through an examination of texts, including the Analects, Mengzi, Discourse on the States, Record of Ritual, Collected Biographies of Women and Protecting and Tutoring, as well as secondary literature on this topic, this article focuses on how we should understand Confucian accounts of the roles of parents, the family, ritual, and filial piety in the moral development of children.
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.
The sciences of evolution, ecology, and environment are ushering in a new understanding of the time, place, and responsibilities of human beings within nature. Evolution tells us that humans share the same genetic roots as other animals; ecology tells us that human life depends on plants, trees, and bacteria in a whole host of interlocking ecosystems; and environmental science makes it abundantly clear why we owe ethical obligations to the nonhuman world. This article examines the ways in which the religious and philosophical thinking of Daoism intersects more fruitfully than monotheistic religion or liberal secular humanism with the sciences of evolution, ecology, and environment. It demonstrates the possibility for a radically alternative worldview that can help human beings symbolize their time, place, and obligations in a way that accords more closely with science and can help nurture a sustainable future. The article concludes by discussing Daoism and nature in contemporary China.
Early Chinese writers rose above particular descriptions of spirits and sacrifices to a meta-discourse about the nature of spirits and the meaning of sacrifices. That is, they themselves mused about the broader meaning of religious phenomena. They recognized diverse ideas about spirits (e.g. whether they possessed agency); they theorized on dependency relationships between spirits and humans (e.g. the nature of reciprocity); they identified secular justifications behind religious discourses (e.g. the orthopraxy of affirming community or sanctioning ethics); they justified religious pluralism (e.g. by recognizing one’s own tradition as the trunk tradition and others as merely branch traditions); and they even permitted personal religious diversity (e.g. the same person could explain away immortals in one setting and yet glorify them in another). Because they themselves theorized about the nature of religious phenomena, we should become cognizant of those theories before projecting our own understandings of religion onto their spirits and sacrifices.
What does it mean to be an atheist in Japan and what do the Japanese understand to be the difference between being non-religious and being atheist? When and under what conditions do such questions become relevant for the Japanese to consider? In order to answer such questions, one must go back to a time and place where the Japanese begin to consider atheism as a cultural concept. This work explores the topic of intellectual atheism as both product and agent of sweeping cultural changes in a rapidly modernizing Meiji Era Japan. It considers the influences of various social forces upon traditional modes of living and thinking as well as the response of these forces to challenges presented by modernization and by the enduring aspects of traditional Japanese life. The essay addresses these historic events through the lens of the agents of these social forces and examines their influence and legacies with regard to various aspects and institutions of Japanese life including politics, education, research, economics, and religious traditions in modern Japan.
Benoît Vermander SJ
Arriving in China at the end of the sixteenth century, Jesuit missionaries experimented with an inventive policy of accommodation that relied on the support and insights of converted literati. The viewpoints and information they forwarded to Europe had profound religious, cultural, and political repercussions. The resulting controversies proved divisive to the point of almost destroying the nascent Church. After 1842, the Second Jesuit Mission in China had to deal with the results of the semicolonial context in which it had developed. From 1949 onward, Jesuits of Chinese nationality—present since the beginning of the mission—had to take the lead at the very time when the country’s political and religious conditions were undergoing radical transformation. Present-day scholarship has engaged in a hermeneutical analysis of the relationship that developed between the Jesuits, on the one hand, and Chinese culture and society, on the other.
Early Chinese religions consist of individual religious components, on one hand, and the systems uniting those components, on the other, but the systems get lost over time. Hence, when we study early Chinese religions, we tend to superimpose our own templates on the surviving components. To better navigate these religions, we must analyze our situatedness relative to theirs, be wary of how we play “dot-to-dot” with the components, and ultimately adopt a polythetic approach to defining religion. Part one addresses both the scope of individual religious components (i.e. their temporal longevity, geographic spread and degree of representativeness among the people) and their significance (i.e. from influential belief to banal flourish). Part two considers how we interconnect those components within a “religion” as well as connect them to non-religious components such as contemporaneous social and political forces. Part three discusses our projection of modern religious categories and theories onto early China.
Philosophy and religious studies are becoming more global in scope, and therefore projects constructing comparative philosophy and theology are emerging as thinkers from the historic cultural regions of the North Atlantic world and west, south, and east Asia become aware of each others' histories and concerns. If Confucianism is to play an active role in the intellectual life of China and the world, it must learn how to address new as well as traditional issues that go beyond traditional concerns for conservation, though this is a good place to start. While it is hard to conceive of any form of New Confucianism that does not take personal self-cultivation and social ethics seriously, it is also now impossible to envision a New Confucianism that does not deal with questions of international human rights and responsibilities, the changing roles of women, and the ecological crisis. Any future Confucian ecology must be based on acceptable elements or motifs of the tradition, ideal types that are amenable to the search for a Confucian method for constructing a responsible ecology.
In China, much of religious activity has been practiced outside the institutional forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and other major religions. This activity has been characterized as “diffused,” rather than institutional, in the sense that it permeates existing social units (family, village, state) instead of having its own specifically religious forms. Its leaders have been family patriarchs, members of village temple committees, mediums, astrologers, geomancers, and so forth. To these we must add those who have led syncretic lay sects in recent centuries, providing religious alternatives to the major religions. These popular forms of religion have created tensions within mainland China where the state attempts to maintain a tight control on social order. In general, the story of folk religion in China has been one of state suppression followed by popular revival. This article focuses on popular religion in mainland China and discusses family rituals as well as divination (fengshui), deity worship and village temples, and popular lay sects (Falun Gong).
Deborah A. Sommer
In this chapter, the term Daoist refers to beliefs and practices associated with the apprehension of the Dao, a term that literally means way, ways, road, or path. At the cosmic level, the Dao is the way the cosmos operates; at the level of the individual human being, it is the way a person lives their best life within that cosmos. Understandings of the Dao might be expressed artistically in many ways, from imaged forms to constructed spaces to lived performance. Daoist ways of being artistic here include such diverse phenomena as painting, calligraphy, talismans, diagrams, sculpture, architecture, constructions of sacred space, ritual performance, body movement, and visualization.