Religions of china
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Religions of China. Confucianism Daoism Buddhism Folk religions Islam Judaism Christianity. Confucianism. Founded by Confucius (551-479 B.C.) Ideas compiled by followers in the Analects Emphasized man improving himself Teachings reinforced patriarchal system and centralized government

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Religions of China

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Religions of China




Folk religions





  • Founded by Confucius (551-479 B.C.)

  • Ideas compiled by followers in the Analects

  • Emphasized man improving himself

  • Teachings reinforced patriarchal system and centralized government

  • Used rituals to the state & ancestors to promote / enhance this order

The Confucian Ethic

Emphasis on Family

Five Relationships


Emphasis on education to become a fully realized human being





Moral Dimension

“Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire”

The Analects, XII, 17

Political Dimension

“To govern is to correct. If you set an example by being correct, who would dare to remain incorrect”.

The Analects, XII:17

Spiritual Dimension

“You do not understand even life. How can you understand death?”

The Analects, XI;12

Yan Liben (ca. 650)

Emperor Taizong giving audience ambassador from Tibet


  • Founded by Laotzu (“Old Master”)

  • Ideas compiled by followers in Daodejing

  • Emphasized happiness by conforming with the way (Dao) of nature

  • Desire to escape social obligations

  • Promoted life especially through intuitive methods, not logic, reason and study

Taoist Values

  • Nature befriended, not conquered

  • Eschews dichotomies

  • Pacifism

  • Spontaneity & naturalness

Types of Taoists

  • Philosophical or Literati Taoists

    (Wu Wei)

  • Medical/self-cultivating Taoists

    (Maximize Qi with Qigong

  • Religious/communal Taoists

    (Harnessing higher powers for humane ends in monasteries and temples)

Incense burner from tomb of Prince Liu Sheng, Han dynasty, (113 BCE) bronze inlaid with gold, 10 &1/2" high

Rubbing from Wu Family Tomb, Han dynasty

(ca. 147-151 CE) Shandong province

Model of a House

1st century CE

In Nelson-Atkins

Folk Religions

Kitchen God & Wife

Understanding Buddhism

Buddhist Values

  • Compassion

  • Suppression of ego

  • Living for others

Buddhists Avoid

  • Delusion

  • Craving

  • Hostility

5 precepts of Buddhism

  • Do not kill

  • Do not steal

  • Do not lie

  • Do not be unchaste

  • Do not do drugs or drink

Other Axial Age Responses

  • Hinduism developed by Brahmin priests in northern India - 500 BCE

  • Caste system in place

  • Based on the Upanishads:

    • promoted asceticism as the way

    • gave central concepts

Central Hindu Concepts

  • Brahman: the universal spiritual reality behind all perceptions

  • Atman: the human soul

  • Karma: “actions have consequences” and affect the rate of enlightenment and is different from the idea of “sin”

Goals of the Ascetics

  • Control bodily desires leading to mystic ecstasy

  • Increase good reduce bad karma

  • Unify Atman and the Brahman =

  • Enlightenment

Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, 1645-652

Further developments: Buddhism

Siddhartha Gautama (563 – 483 BCE)

  • Searched for enlightenment

  • Found life clouded by suffering

  • Suffering ended and salvation attained / cycle of souls ended by moderation = Four Noble Truths

Four Noble Truths

  • Life is suffering

  • Desire causes suffering

  • Suffering stopped by non-desiring

  • Desire can be stopped by meditation and following the Eightfold Path

TheEightfold Path

  • Right views, Right aspirations

  • Right speech, Right conduct

  • Right livelihood, Right effort

  • Right mindedness, Right rapture

    So knowledge and good habits ends suffering and rebirth

Early Buddhist Society

  • No fixed hierarchies or priests, but individual responsibility

  • Buddha did not write things down

  • His students spread his teachings on:

    • Transmigration of souls

    • Effects of Karma

    • Four Noble Truths & Eight Fold Path

    • Nirvana: “blowing out” of the “ego”

Innovative Doctrine

  • Favored individual self-examination

  • Appealed to those outside of the aristocracy

  • Promoted education to all wanting it

  • No caste system / “gender-less”

  • Brahmans hostile to egalitarian and de-emphasis of rituals

Buddhist Schools Develop

  • Hinayana: “The Lesser Vehicle” no works after 480 B.C. accepted in Ceylon, Indo-China

  • Mahayana: “The Greater Vehicle”

    • Tibetan Buddhism, Chan, Zen, etc. in East Asia



Buddhist Popularity

  • Declined in India because lost imperial patronage in 400 CE

  • Successful at times in China, Nepal, Indo-China, Korea and Japan from 1st century CE onward

  • Followers increasing in the West now

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