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Religion in China

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Did you ever wonder about what's happening in China's endless struggle with religion? This slideshow examines the current plight of religion in China.

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Religion in China

  1. 1. Religion & Spirituality in China by Donald C Menzel A Special Presentation 12 February 2015
  2. 2. Background & Approach • Don as a “China Watcher” • What this talk is not about – History – Philosophy – Economics • What this talk is about – The contemporary plight of religion in China – Spirituality and religion “born again” in the New China – The struggle ahead with the CCP
  3. 3. Chinese Religion and Spirituality
  4. 4. Chinese religion is not an organized, unified system of beliefs and practices. It has no leadership, headquarters, founder, or denominations. Instead, "Chinese religion" is a term describing the complex interaction of different religious and philosophical traditions that have been influential in China. Chinese religion is composed of four main traditions: Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/#sthash.JX3AoC4C.d puf Chinese religious rituals are especially based in Chinese folk religion and Confucianism but are influenced by Taoism and Buddhism as well. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/practices.htm#sthas h.Q6bv9cp9.dpuf
  5. 5. What is the story of the Chinese spirituality? China is one of the most ancient civilizations on earth, and Chinese religion is one of the oldest forms of religion. Evidence of burial practices has been dated to as early as 5000 BCE. Today, Chinese religion is a complex mix of Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Communist anti-religious sentiment. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/history.htm# sthash.WPnzHyru.dpuf
  6. 6. Culture, Customs, Superstition • 2008 Olympics • Pearl Buck in China • Ghost festival • Tomb sweeping Ancestor Worship Ancestor worship (also called ancestor veneration) is a ritual practice that is based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living.
  7. 7. The Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the fifteenth day of July with some similarities to Western culture’s Halloween. It is believed that the gates of hell are thrown open, releasing hungry ghosts to wander on the earth in search of food. A solemn holiday, the Ghost Festival represents the connections between the living and the dead, earth and heaven, body and soul.
  8. 8. Tomb Sweeping or Pure Brightness Festival A festival of commemoration that combines sadness and happiness— held in early April every year.
  9. 9. Religion in Chairman Mao’s China • 1949-1957—soon after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 the Communist Party launched political campaigns against religious organizations as the ideological enemy and subversive political forces.
  10. 10. Religious Affairs Department • Within the Commission of Culture and Education • With the main tasks of driving out the foreign missionaries, pressing Catholics and Protestants to cut off ties completely with foreign countries, and handling the transition of the educational institutions, charity organizations, and religious bodies that at one point received funding or subsidies from the US and other Western countries.
  11. 11. 1966-1979 Eradication The death of religion in China?
  12. 12. Cultural Revolution . . . Smash • Old customs • Old culture • Old habits • Old ideas Worship of Mao becomes a folk religion with dedicated temples and burning of incense sticks—authorities carry out waves of atheist propaganda, anti-superstition campaigns, and brutal crackdowns. The Mao personality cult or “political religion” had hundreds of millions of sincere worshippers.
  13. 13. Are religions thriving or dying? • “All kinds of religions are thriving in China today”—Genggand Yang • “To live in China in the early years of the 21st Century was to witness a spiritual revival that could be compared to America’s Great Awakening in the 19th Century.”—Evan Osnos
  14. 14. About 500,000 people are baptized as Protestants every year. – South China Morning Post, 7 August 2014
  15. 15. Enlightenment? • 1994—all religious groups required to register with the government and foreigners prohibited from proselytizing • Evil cults banned—Falun Gong 1999 • Non-Christian groups banned that originated in other countries such as the Unification Church, the Children of God, Mormonism, and others. • In December 2014, in China’s Jerusalem,Wenzhou officials banned schools from holding Christmas- related events.
  16. 16. Enlightenment? • Chinese Communist Party bans new Communist party members who practice religion. “Believing in communism and atheism is a basic requirement to become a party member.”– Li Yunlong, a professor at the Party School of the CCP central committee.
  17. 17. Chasing Faith in the New China? • Do you remember the prophecy by members of the Church of Almighty God that the world would end on December 21, 2012 as predicted by the ancient phase of the Mayan calendar? Chinese authorities responded by arresting 1,000 members of the church, asserting that group staged illegal protests and spun out of control.
  18. 18. Chasing Faith in the New China? • “The longer I lived in China, the more I worried about how people responded to rapid change. This wasn’t an issue of modernization . . . But from what I saw, the nation’s greatest turmoil was more personal and internal. Many people were searching; they longed for some kind of religious or philosophical truth, and they wanted a meaningful connection with others.”—Peter Hessler
  19. 19. Chasing Faith in the New China? • “Outsiders often saw the Chinese as pragmatists with little time for faith, but for thousands of years the country had been knitted together by beliefs and rituals.”—Evan Osnos • China is in the midst of a full-fledged revival. The ‘spiritual void’ is being filled by a religious universe, exploding centrifugal in all directions. • See Osnos, p. 281
  20. 20. The yin-yang (Taijitu) symbol 太極圖 is one of the most common Taoist symbols. Most of the time, this symbol represents two opposing and complementary forces that make up all phenomena of life. Most Taoist organizations display the yin-yang in some way. This symbol is also very common among all Chinese religious faiths. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/symbols.htm# sthash.5piC69az.dpuf
  21. 21. Taoism (also spelled Daoism) is a religion based on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching, a short tract written in the 6th century BC in China. The emphasis of the Tao Te Ching is on spiritual harmony within the individual, which complements Confucianism's focus on social duty. Today, there are 20 million followers of Taoism worldwide, most of whom live in China, Taiwan, or Southeast Asia. (See Confucianism) Many followers of Taoism are characterized by their use of the Taoism symbol, ying yang, reading books on Taoism, and living out their beliefs against the backdrop of Chinese culture. Taoism is also increasingly influential in the West, especially in the field of alternative medicine and in martial arts like Tai Chi. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/taoism/index.htm#sthash.YqElE13P.dpuf
  22. 22. Chinese folk religion is composed of a combination of religious practices, including Confucianist ceremonies, ancestor veneration, Buddhism and Taoism. Chinese folk religion also retains traces of some of its ancestral neolithic belief systems which include the veneration of (and communication with) the sun, moon, earth, the heaven, and various stars, as well as communication with animals. It has been practiced alongside Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism by Chinese people throughout the world for thousands of years. Ceremonies, veneration, legends, festivals and various devotions associated with different folk gods/deities and goddesses form an important part of Chinese culture even today. The veneration of secondary gods does not conflict with an individual's chosen religion, but is accepted as a complementary adjunct to Buddhism, Confucianism or Taoism. Some mythical figures in folk culture have even been integrated into Buddhism as in the case of Miao Shan who is generally thought of having evolved into the Buddhist bodhisattva Kuan Yin. Other folk deities may date back to pre-Buddhist eras of Chinese history. The Chinese dragon is one of the key religious icons in these beliefs.
  23. 23. Is there a heaven is Chinese Religion? The idea of Heaven (T'ien) plays a prominent role in indigenous Chinese religion. The term can refer to a god, an impersonal power, or both. The concept is not well-defined, and religious scholars have had a difficult time deciding whether T'ien was believed to be a force like fate or a personal deity. It is also unclear whether the ancient Chinese believed T'ien responded to human supplication or simply worked in accordance with the principles of T'ien. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/beliefs/heave n.htm#sthash.REqxIpJB.dpuf
  24. 24. Prayer Chinese Buddhism and Taoism both incorporate prayer into their daily religious rituals. In addition to the prayer accompanying offerings, the monastic prayer (mu-yu) is said morning, noon and night to the sound of a small bell. Longevity Practices Longevity practices - rituals and lifestyles aimed at gaining a long life or even immortality - have long been a part of Chinese religion. Even before the development of Taoism, several "hygiene schools" were teaching various techniques for achieving longevity. Divination, Prophecy and Astrology Divination was commonplace in ancient China. The famous "Classic of Changes" (composed before the third century BCE) involved divination. - See more at: http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/practices.htm#sthash.Q6bv9c p9.dpuf
  25. 25. Resources • “The New China: Contemporary Life & Governance” (2013) – Donald C Menzel • Go to Smashwords.com, search for Menzel • https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/3 52367 • A multi-touch Ipad version can be downloaded at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-new- china/id686948050?mt=11

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