The three main Chinese religions and philosophical teachings are Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Buddhism, however, is currently the most widespread. While Buddhism primarily deals with life afterlife, and Confucianism with man, Taoism mainly concentrates on nature and the natural order and therefore had the most significant influence on the development of feng shui.
Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism in China
Taoism is philosophical and religious teaching based on a metaphysical interpretation of the Chinese sign Tao. This sign can be a path, a way, a principle, a truth, a skill in different contexts. The Tao, also known as Dao, is the Taoist term for the “path of nature and the universe” the founder, according to tradition, is Lao Tze. Laozi was born in the kingdom of Chu. His original name is Li Er, and his descendants named him Laozi out of respect. He was an archivist of ritual books and documents by profession.
Although Buddhism played an essential role in the history of China, it founded this religion in northern India in the 6th century BC by Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as Buddha (Awakened). However, there are several branches of Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is the one with the most significant influence in China.
The Buddhist belief is based on the Four Tribal Truths:
- all living beings suffer
- desire causes suffering
- attaining nirvana (enlightenment) interrupts suffering
- you can achieve nirvana through meditation and proper action, thoughts, and attitudes.
Kong Fu Zi founded Confucianism in the 6th century BC
He emphasized the importance of three principles:
- proper behavior
- respect for ancestors
As such, it is known as a religion that highly values an individual’s responsibility towards the emperor, the state, and his neighbors. Confucianism has been considered the state religion for many dynasties, and from the very beginning, it has been closely associated with Taoism.
Confucianism continued to mark Chinese thinking until the 20th century. With the founding of the Republic of China and the rise of Chinese Communism in the mid-20th century, fundamental Confucian values such as family importance, ritual, and ability fell out of favor. Because Confucianism was a symbol of the ancient Chinese feudal system, it was violently suppressed by the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.
Although it experienced a renaissance after the end of the Cultural Revolution, it is unlikely that it will ever directly impact Chinese political life again. Nonetheless, Confucian ideals, such as social responsibility, the pursuit of the common good, and filial obedience, still profoundly affect modern Chinese society.
The legacy of Confucianism in China is enormous. Its influence extends beyond China’s borders to East and South Asia. The revival of Confucianism after the Cultural Revolution in 1990 also brought about the reintroduction of a spectacular annual ceremony in honor of Confucius’ birth and other rites and ceremonies. Pupils in some Chinese primary schools are once again reading aloud from Confucius’ work Analect every day, and the teaching of Confucianism is being reintroduced at universities across the country. Confucianism is the religion of about six million people. Most of them live in China, Vietnam, Japan, and in the diasporas of people from South Asia scattered around the world.
A Visit to Confucianism Temple
Confucian temples are without priests and do not provide spiritual guidance. Today, they are more repositories of historical Confucian works of art than shrines. The first worshipers brought sacrificial offerings to Confucius and performed rites in his honor, and today visitors come to the temples only to honor the memory of the great sage. The oldest Confucian temple was built soon after Confucius ’death and stood in his hometown of Qufu in Shandong Province. Many new buildings were added to the original building, and today it is the largest Confucian temple in the world. It is preserved as a place of Chinese national heritage and is visited by three million people worldwide every year. Outside of China, most of the temples dedicated to Confucius are in Korea.