religion in china
religion in china
This paper should be 14-18 pages long. I wrote a paper on Religion in China and this new paper is an expansion on the original paper. my last paper topic is: How does China accommodate different religions and unifies its people at the same time? Basically, it is saying that there is not a dominant religion in China (like Christianity in the US). In last paper, I found out that although Chinese do not have a religion, they are taught since childhood of Chinese Traditional Culture that teaches morals and unifies the country. I attach my last paper under this and you can use things in my paper. But you cannot copy the whole paragraph to the new paper. There should be some rephrase. The new paper should be an expansion on Qin (221-207 BCE)and Han (202 BCE – 220 CE) dynasties. How can Qin dynasty become the first empire that unifies China? It should include different aspects (religion and other changes) Han is when Confucianism first emerged. Then you can talk a little about how religions mix and exist at the same time in later empires. (should not be too long)
Religion in China
Throughout centuries, rulers keep looking for a method that can unify its people together and forms a coherent empire. Then there is the appearance of the code of Hammurabi. It is a huge stone carved with rules on it, which says every detail that tells its people what to do and not to do. There are two hundred and eighty rules including marriage, trade, inherent, and punishment. However, there are some places that written down rules cannot reach. At this point, religion arose. Religion helps rulers to unify its people on a different level, which is a spiritual level. Mann mentioned in his book The Sources of Social Power, there are four sources of social power: ideology, economy, military, and political. Religion plays an important role in ideology power. It offers a spiritual belief and helps the nation to unite its people. However, unlike the United States and rest of the world, China remains its own way of dealing religion and unifies its people together. “China solved the contradictions of empire by splitting salvationist currents into several distinct philosophies or religions and using the most important one, Confucianism, to legitimate its own power structure” (Mann, 342) How does China accommodate different religions and unifies its people at the same time?
Most of the western countries, like the United States, there are few mainstream religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The most popular religion in the United States is Christianity. About seventy-five percent of American population identify themselves as Christian. Before American Revolutionary War, United States is a country that is close to a Christianity country. Virginia government even declared the death penalty for a person that denies the Trinity during that age. However, after the Revolutionary War, American founding fathers, especially Jefferson, realized the importance to separate the religion and politics. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion”. Nevertheless, Christianity plays an important role in American culture. Even people do not believe it, it is permeate in corners of the United States. We are now using dollar printing “In God, We Trust” on it and we say “bless you” every time when someone sneezes.
So how do younger generation react on Christianity? I started my life in the United States when I was fourteen. I went to a private high school in Gainesville, Florida. It is neither a Christian nor a Catholic school. However, most of my friends are Christian, but they do not go to church every single Sunday. Also, as I know, not all of them reject sex before marriage. When we talked about religion in class, as an international student, I am always asked if I am a Buddhist or Confucian. I tried to explain that few Chinese are religious and they all looked confused. It is rare to be an Atheist in western country that is such common phenomenon in China.
“Not believing in God is not an option in Saudi Arabia.” Reported by Carol Kuruvilla on New York Daily News, “ Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdui Aziz Al Saud has labeled all atheists as terrorists and threats to the unity of the country.” How does China accommodate different religions and unifies its people at the same time? China has compatible several different religions in one country and most people in China do not believe in any religions. But is not believing in any religion as same as not having faith? The answer is no. So what is hidden under the Chinese culture that unifies all Chinese together and makes China a coherent country?
That is because we share the same ideology that we believe on our ancestors. Since primary school, we are taught that we are “descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors”. Who are Yan and Yellow? They are the earliest emperors of China. In the legend, Yan and Yellow came from the same tribe, and then they became leaders of two opponent tribes. After three times of battles, Yellow invaded Yan and entered Central China. Yan emperor is good at agriculture. He invented clothes, food, trade and medicine in ancient China. Meanwhile, Yellow emperor is skilled in training for the military. He found the bureaucracy and the etiquette system. He also united more tribes and ended the barbaric conflict. This promoted exchange and cooperation among tribes. Both emperors pull together and created ancient Chinese culture. And this marked the beginning of Chinese Civilization.
People who believe in God maybe feel that being an Atheist is hollow since there seems to lack of a spiritual belief. Throughout five thousand years’ deposit, China forms a special ideology called the traditional culture of China. It evolves from Chinese Civilization and reflects special style and feature of a nation. It is a generic term that represents civilizations, customs, and spirit of different ethic nationalism through different culture types. It passes from generation to generation and differs with any other culture in the world.
Not believing in religion is not same as not having belief. Chinese people’s belief is our ancestors. What is the meaning of believing in our ancestors? That is our family, our country and the land.
Zhuge Liang wrote his famous former and later Chu Shi Biao before his Northern Expeditions. Zhuge Liang, courtesy named Kongming, is a prime minister, diplomat, and logistics officer during Three Kingdom period. He is now a symbol of intelligence and royalty. Liu Bei founded the state of Shu Han and became the first ruler during Three Kingdom period. Liu Bei went to Zhuge Liang’s house and invited Zhuge Liang to come out from the mountain and assisting him ruling the state. Chu Shi Biao also named Memorial to Embark on the Campaign is Zhuge Liang’s personal advice to Liu bei’s son, Liu Chan, about ruling the state. He wrote: “The Former Han dynasty prospered because the rulers favored virtuous ministers and alienated petty and corrupt officials; the Later Han dynasty declined because the rulers favored petty and corrupt officials and alienated virtuous ministers.” It warns Liu Chan to choose whomever to trust. This sentence is still used today for leaders and bosses. He also wrote in Former Chu Shi Biao: “I am going to leave Your Majesty soon. Now, as I read this memorial, I am unable to hold back my tears, and I do not know what to say.” He loves his country, which is the place he belongs to. But now he has to leave, for his country and his people. The most famous sentence in whole Chu Shi Biao is in the Later Chu Shi Biao. He wrote: “I can only strive to do my best until I die.” This is the integrity and patriotism of being a Chinese. Middle schools in China are required to teach this famous Chu Shi Biao.
Another famous national hero is Wen Tianxiang. He was arrested by Yuan Dynasty during the end of Southern Song Dynasty. He was captured and tortured for three years. He resisted not surrendering to Kublai Khan’s invasion of the Song and refusal to yield to Yuan Dynasty. He is a symbol of patriotism and righteousness. During his three years of jail life, he chose to fast for eight days. Then he wrote the famous Zheng Qi Ge. “The vapors are seven and my spirit is one; I fight off seven with one – I need not worry! Moreover, honor and fearlessness is the spirit of the righteousness of the universe.” Seven vapors in his poem are water, soil, the sun, fire, rice, people, and dirt. He was fighting against them and showed royalty to his country. He also mentioned Chu Shi Biao in his poem. “Or it is Memorials to Embark on the Campaign, the courage and fierce loyalty make immortals and spirits weep.” Wen Tianxiang compared himself to Zhuge Liang that both of them are facing the death for the sake of protecting their beloved country. He is showing his brave and heroic patriotism via his actions.
Zhang Zai’s “to build up the manifestations of Heaven and Earth’s spirit, to build up the good life for the populace, to develop past sages’ endangered scholarship, and to open up eternal peace” set the ambitions and goals for intellectuals. That was the goal of ancient Chinese heroes. They would rather lay down their lives in order to save the country. By knowing these by heart as a Chinese, we will appreciate the accomplishment of our ancestors, which is now the nation we belong to.
Different than Chu Shi Biao and Zheng Qi Ge, which teaches us patriotism and gives us advice to later life, San Zi Jing teaches children how to behave.San Zi Jing is also called Three Character Classic. It is written by Wang Yinglin and usually read by younger children. The text is written in the triplet of characters arranged in three hundred and fifty-six alternately rhyming lines for the sake of easy memorization. It includes literature, history, philosophy, and ethic of Chinese traditional culture. The core of San Zi Jing contains benevolence, righteousness, earnestness, respect, and filial piety. This makes it become a perfect beginning reading material for children. Rather saying to memorize it, children are asked to repeat a certain amount each day until known by heart. “If the child does not learn, this is not as it should be. If he does not learn while young, what will he be when old?” The famous sentence is: “If jade is not polished, it cannot become a thing of use.” These sentences teach children the importance of learning and knowledge. The famous metaphor to compare a child with jade is saying that if an intelligent child does not study, he or she will waste his or her talent and “cannot become a thing of use”. San Zi Jing also teaches children of ethic. “Affection between father and child, harmony between husband and wife, friendliness on the part of elder brothers, respectfulness on the part of younger brothers, precedence between elders and youngers, as between friends, respect on the part of the sovereign, loyalty on the part of the subject. These ten obligations are common to all men.” The ethic that is told in some religions is taught in those readings as we grow up.
Why are most of the Chinese atheists? That is because three dominate religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are atheism. Buddhism is atheism and egalitarian. Buddhism attaches importance to spiritual consciousness and awareness. It only teaches method toward awakening, but the rest of “Enlightenment” is left for the followers to comprehend. Also, everyone is equal. Buddha and the poor are at the same level in essence. Taoism pursues becoming immortal. Immortality in Taoism is a way of living: free. Buddhism and Taoism are compatible is because they do not recognize the god, they only believe in the supernatural power that can be reached by awakening. That is an ability that is not inherent. It will disappear if there are distracting thoughts and rascality in you. Let alone Confucianism, it tells its followers to “stay away from supernatural beings”. Confucianism also emphasize awakening, but different than Buddhism and Taoism, it pays attention to virtue and morality. In these three religions, those spiritual leaders are not recognized as the god by their followers even themselves, they are teachers. Christianity is totally different than all three religions. People who believe in Christian believe there is God. God is the core of Christianity. Followers who do not believe God will be punished.
From Spring and Autumn period to Warring State period of ancient China, the appearance of “Bai Jia Zheng Ming” (also called Contention of Hundred Schools of Thought) lays the foundation for current open-minded religion situation in China. Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, School of Yin-yang, and logicians are representations of these “Hundred Schools”. That was a golden age of Chinese philosophy because the freedom of discussing and debating thoughts and ideas. This was a huge movement of ideological emancipation in China and acted as a catalyst to the development of Chinese history. It is also a millstone for the phylogeny of Chinese culture and ideology. All schools debated over each other and influenced each other at the same time. They overcame one’s weaknesses by acquiring other’s strong points. “The Chinese way of thinking is good at understanding the world in a comprehensive way through the study of opposites, changes, and the processes of moving. It contrasts sharply with that of western philosophers who attach great importance to detailed analysis of the objective world and who are good at deduction and reasoning.” (Zi, 444) The Contention of Hundred Schools of Thought shows the primary form of accommodating several religions in one unified country.
The biggest festival in the United States is Christmas, which commemorating the birth of Jesus. In China, we celebrate the Spring Festival, which is the first day of Chinese Lunar New Year. This is the largest migrating event of Chinese throughout the country. Spring Festival is the spiritual ballast of every single Chinese because there is a place called home, that always holds your back whenever you are depressed or tried. After a year of working or studying alone outside, Spring Festival becomes the day that we can go back home and be the child of our parents again. There is a familiar taste of “Nian” in every Chinese’s impression. In my memory, “Nian” is the smell of braised fish, mixed with the smoke of fireworks in the air. When I was little, we always have the family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve at my grandmother’s house. She cooked great food and we all sat on the round table and talked. After dinner, I would rush back home, because my friends were all coming to my home. (That is the tradition of my friends and me) My friends and I played games and our fathers played cards and our mothers talked (probably gossip). The television was always playing CCTV Spring Festival Evening Party that no one was watching, until the counting down for Chinese New Year, we all gathered in the living room and counted down together. I loved to help my father to set off the fireworks and that is my memory of “Nian” before I came to study in the United States. After three years of spending my Spring Festival in the different country, I decided to ask to leave to go back home for this exciting holiday. The minute I land at the airport, I finally feel like being part of migrating and understand the meaning of family and country. It is so hard to find a word to describe my mood that that time. It is like the relaxation of putting your feet into warm water after a whole day of walking. There is nothing else you have to worry about because you have reached a place called home country.
Tomb-Sweeping Day is also another unique and traditional festival in China. On Tomb-Sweeping Day, we go back to our hometown and sweep for the grave and worship ancestors. Ask them to protect the safety of whole family and success of work and study for every family member. “In Chinese society, ancestor worship is one of the most important cultural traditions, with its rituals, scripts, beliefs, and courtesies penetrating in almost every aspect of an individual’s daily life.” (Hu, 170) In our mind, the ancestor is like an existence of sky and soil, like the immortals. We believe that they will see us after death in the sky above and protect us from any bad luck in an unseen world. “Unlike Christianity and Buddhism, which advocate freeing oneself from the sins or sufferings of this world and pursuing ultimate happiness in another, Chinese traditional culture takes a positive attitude toward both nature and existence and believes that a state of supreme happiness sans souci can be reached in this world” (Zi, 447)
All these mentioned above gather together from Chinese Traditional Culture. “‘Chinese traditional culture’ means, in general, the culture that prevailed in China from the pre-Qin Shi Huang days until the Opium War, a culture with Confucianism at its core, mixed first with Taoism and later with Buddhism” (443) Zi Zhongyun offers such definition of Chinese traditional culture. Chinese Traditional Culture is a special form of belief of all Chinese. It is deeply rooted in every single one’s heart. It may be as small as a train ticket during the Chinese Lunar New Year, or a stick of incense during Tomb-Sweeping Day. It can be as big as the mindset of “taking the responsibility of the world as one’s own duty”, or being a descendant of Chinese traditional culture. This spirit is not given by any gods, it is the influence of ancestors.
Actually, regardless of Buddhism, Confucianism, or Christianity, religion in the mind of most Chinese citizen is a blurry concept. All of them are compatible and not repelling each other. It will not bring wars to the country, in sharp contrast, they will peacefully exist at the same time. The five thousands years of Chinese history forms the unique and influential Chinese Traditional Culture that becomes a belief system that is deeply rooted on every Chinese heart. It teaches us how to love our families, how to be a useful person to the society, and how to protect our beloved country.