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Religious Sectarianism and Violence
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  1. Religious Sectarianism and Violence • Religious sectarianism was responsible for a substantial portion of violence occurred in traditional China • Sectarians were antisocial • Seditious, combative, militant, and violent • Religious sectarian movement was one of the factors in the fall of the Yuan dynasty, established by Khubilai Khan • The leader of the sectarian movement, Han Shantong, combined two sectarian traditions into a hybrid sectarian eschatology and turned his organization into the White Lotus Sect

  2. The White Lotus Sect • Han Shantong’s incorporation of two sectarian traditions • The unorthodox White Lotus faith • Manichaeanism’s ideas • Slogan used in his anti-Mongol rebellion: “the empire is in utter chaos. Maitreya Buddha has incarnated, and the Manichaean King of Light has appeared in this world.” • The messianic view had great appeal to the peasants, who were victims of regional exploitation and social inequalities

  3. The Development of the White Lotus • Zhu Yuanzhang used the White Lotus to build his power base and eventually made himself the first emperor of the Ming dynasty • Once becoming the emperor, he turned against this sectarian tradition • The White Lotus was suppressed and driven underground • It continued to haunt Ming government and developed into a highly mature form of messianic sectarian religion

  4. The Legacy of the White Lotus • The emergence of the White Lotus Society • The White Lotus turned into a secret society • The Qing Dynasty witnessed the White Lotus Rebellion • It was extinguished in 1806, but its embers continued to smolder. • It spread its influence among the aborigines of central and southwest China • The Nian Rebellion (1830s), the Triads (1853)

  5. The Meaning of Religious Sectarianism • A dissenting religious group outside of the mainstream or established clerical traditions • Possesses an acute sense of eschatology, which sees the imminent coming of cosmic calamity • Believes the salvation of the world relies on the creation of a new community or world, which is to be ruled by a messianic figure identified as the reincarnation of a deity

  6. Sources of Sectarian Eschatology • Taoism, Buddhism and Manichaeism • Taoism • Taoist notion of cosmic crisis that occurred at a nodal point of periodic cycle of physical world • humans inherited sins that had been accumulated several generations before them and had begun to bear disastrous outcome • Buddhism • Great/large Kalpa-disasters destroyed physical world • Physical world reached the point of the end of the dharma • The anticipated points of cosmic destruction are perceived as opportunities for starting afresh and creating a new world order

  7. Influence of Manichaeism • Introduced to China in the 7th century from Persia • Central tenet: • Two forces, Light and Darkness, exist in physical world and engage in a fierce struggle, the final result of which is the triumph of the force of light • Cosmic disaster is a necessary step toward the creation of new cosmic order

  8. Earlier Sectarian Movements • The Yellow Turbans • 184 AD • Associated text: the Taiping Jing (the Classic of Highest Peace) • Slogan: “The azure heaven is dead; the yellow heaven is about to be established” • The Li Hong Cults • 5th century • Associated text: the Taishang dongyuan shenzhou jing (Sacred Incantation from the Deep Vault of the Most Exalted One) • Slogan: “the Venerable Lord should reign, and Li Hong should appear”

  9. Pre-Maitreyan Cults • Antecedents: • The “Prince Moonlight” (Yueguang tongzi) Cult • Fifth century • Associated text: the Shouluo biqiu jing (Scripture of the Monk Shouluo) • Slogan: “Prince Moonlight will soon appearl there will be terrible disaster” • 516-17 AD, the monk Faquan attracted a large following by using this this cult

  10. Notable Maitreyan Rebellions • From 515 AD to 1047 AD • 515 AD: The monk Faqing rebelled • Slogan: “the New Buddha has appeared; the Old Devil will be eliminated” • Slaughtered monks and nuns and burnt temples • 610 AD: involved Maitreyan believer • 613 AD: involved Maitreyan believer; also a monk named Xiang Haiming claiming to be the Maitreya Buddha adopted imperial title • 710 AD: Wang Huaigu declared “the Sakyamuni Buddha has declined; a new Buddha is about to appear. The House of Li is ending, and the house of Liu is about to rise • 1047 AD: Wang Ze claimed “the Sakyamuni Buddha has declined; the Maitreya Buddha should rule the world”

  11. Characteristics of sectarian eschatology • Chiliastic militancy • Hostile to the existing authorities • Wanted to change the status quo by using militant and violent actions • Engaged in violence against the state, the established church, and all nonbelievers outside of their religious sect. • Sense of closeness: the importance of membership • Believers (we) are to be admitted into the millennium; nonbelievers (they) are to be destroyed without mercy • The member assumes a new identity which sets him apart from his family • Violent sacrifice • Members have little fear of death and are willing to die for their religious sect

  12. Sectarian Justification for killings • Fang La Rebellion in 1120 AD • Killings were acts of compassion, being intended to allow the masses to be delivered from their sufferings • Zhong Xiang and Yang Yao Rebellions in 1130 AD • The killing of people is the carrying out the dharma, and the plundering of properties is the act of equalization • Rebellions in the end of the Yuan • Heaven sends the demon armies to slaughter the unjust….only when the unjust are completely exterminated can the Highest Peace be realized