Chinese Traditions

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					 Philosophy &
Religion in China

Chinese   Folk Religion

          Religion in Asia
   In China and Japan philosophy and
    religion are not two separate pursuits
    – People are more than one religion without
      any conflicts
    – Oriental religions are complementary
    – A person might be both Buddhist and
      Confucian or Taoist and Confucian or all
      three, each serving a different function in
      one‘s life.
           China‘s Concerns
   China‘s concerns are practical & down to earth
    – Concerns are: How can we achieve longevity?
    – How can we get along better in our relationships
      with others?
    – How should a good ruler lead the people?
   Emphasis on harmony, social relationships and
    practical application of underlying
    metaphysical concepts
                Chinese Folk Religion
   Belief in spirits
    – Polytheistic and animistic
 Reverence for ancestors
 Yin and yang
    – Balance of the universe
 Astrology
 Divination
    – Future telling
      Chinese metaphysics is
 Energy
 Change

 Balance

 Harmony

 Inter-relationships
Chinese Metaphysics
  Movement of cosmic energies:
  Represented by and expressed in
  the “five elements” of nature…
          The ―Five Elements‖
Productive cycle


          Wood                   Earth

          The ―Five Elements‖
Destructive cycle
                       Fire      X

                X             X
           Chinese Metaphysics
 Chi – life force, life energy (―ultimate‖)
 Yin-Yang

 Tao – the “way” of the cosmos, of nature
Heaven (t’ien) and Earth

“Mandate   of Heaven”
Practical applications: I-Ching and Feng Shui
          Yin and Yang

YIN                        YANG
 Negative force in         Positive force
  nature                    Light, bright,
 Dark, cool, damp           warmth, dryness
 Femaleness                Maleness

 Earth, moon,              Sun, Heaven
               Everything (other than a few objects)
                 is a combination of both forces.
                When they work in harmony, life is
The Way of Harmony with Nature
   Very hard to define: can be described by
    Chinese history or thru its effects on the
    people, but not as a ‗religion‘ with rituals
    and doctrines

   Originated in 6th century BCE China

               Nature knows best
   Lao-tzu (or Laozi)
    – 6th century BCE
    – Means ―Old Master‖ or ―Old Boy‖
    —given by his disciples as title of respect
 We know less about him than any other
  founder of a world religion
 Lao-tzu wished to leave China but was
  required to write down his teachings first.
  He then left and was never seen again
    – Truth of story has not been verified
   Primary text: Tao Te Ching (the ―Classic of
    the Way and its Power or Virtue‖)
    – 81 short ―chapters‖ containing the basic
      philosophy of living in harmony and balance
    – All human achievements are frivolous
   Chuang Tzu (4th century BCE)
    – Author of companion text: The Chuang Tzu
    – Collection of stories exemplifying the wisdom
      and nature of the Taoist sage
             Taoist Teachings
1. The unity behind the universe is
    mysterious, indefinable force calledTao
  – The way of the universe or nature‘s way
  – Impossible to define: Best achievement in
    life is to understand it
2. Life is the greatest of all possessions
  – Fame, wealth, power, education are
    illusions and distract from the Tao
3. Life is to be lived simply
  – Innocence is ideal state
  – Focus on little govt and civilization
4. Pomp and glory are to be despised
  – These cause strife & discord in life
    The Problem for Humans
   Problem: disharmony with the universe
    – When humans depart from the simple,
      natural way of the universe, they are
      alienated from the Tao
    – Suffering comes from trying to conquer
      nature, altering the universe, & establishing
      artificial human organizations
   Solution: simple life, live in harmony
The Secret to the Good Life
   Inaction is the secret of good life
    – Trying to do good only leads to trouble
 Live and let live
 By doing nothing, humans have a
  positive influence on society
A political and social philosophy seeking social
  harmony on all levels:
   Within the self
   …the family
   …the community
   ...the state
   …the nation
   …the world
   …the cosmos

     Learning from the past to improve the future
     Confucianism vs. Taoism
 Confucianism has influenced Chinese
  society more than anything else
 Confucians disagree with some aspects of
    – Is govt really bad?
    – Do social organizations really disrupt the
      harmony of the universe?
    – There can be exceptions to the principles
               Confucius‘ Life
Kung Fu-tzu or Kunfuzi ―Master Kung‖
   551 - 479 BCE
   Became an accountant to a family at age 17
    – Opened his eyes to the system‘s injustices—taxes
      paid by the peasants to support the small wealthy
   Studied & loved art, literature, music…
   Married and had a son
    – Became a teacher for noble families
                   Life, cont…
   Later worked for the govt (believed he could
    influence social change)
    – Political aspirations unfulfilled—rejected by many
    – Experienced imprisonment and an assassination
   Eventually worked as an advisor and edited the
    classic texts. Died 5 years later.
   Now revered in China as the ―greatest teacher
    who ever lived‖
    – Although rejected in his own day, became the
      model for Chinese culture for over 2000 years
   The ―Five Classics‖ (of the past, revised by
    –   I-Ching (Book of Changes)
    –   The Book of History (Shu Ching)
    –   The Book of Poems (Shih Ching)
    –   The Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch‘un Ch‘iu)
    –   The Book of Rituals (Li Chi)
   The ―Four Books‖ (Confucian teachings from
    his disciples)
    –   Analects (Lun Yu)
    –   Doctrine of the Mean
    –   The Great Learning
    –   The Book of Mencius (Meng-Tzu)
         Goal of Confucianism
   Humans are naturally good
    – What happened?
    – Must lead by example
   To develop one‘s Ren/Jen: Humaneness
    – the innate goodness of humanity, deep empathy, compassion
   You can become a Junzi/chun-tzu: the model
    person or ―Gentle Man‖

Jen is developed through intentional living by
    Confucian virtues…
         Confucian Virtues

   Li: principle of harmony that rules everything
    – Rites/Ritual/the correct way to behave
   The Five Relationships
    –   Parent & child              The partners of each
    –   Husband & wife              relationship are
                                    unequal, but have
    –   Older & younger sibling     formal responsibilities
    –   Older & younger friend      to each other
    –   Ruler & subject

                                    Symbol of harmony
       More Confucian Virtues
   Rectification of names – a
    person or thing should be true
    to its name
   Reciprocity (shu) – the
    Golden Rule:
    – ―Do not do to others what
      you would not want others
      to do to you‖
     The Problem for Humans
   Disharmony
    – Comes when humans think of themselves
      before others—sets a bad example and
      harms society
    – Forget their responsibilities to others

   The Solution?
    – reciprocity
    Confucianism as a Religion
   Deification of Confucius - statues
   Confucian Temples – honoring Confucius
   Veneration of the ancestors
   Rituals within…
    –   the household
    –   the village
    –   the state
    –   the nation
                  The I-Ching
               ―Book of Changes‖
   Ancient divination technique (at least 3000
    years old)
   Intended to guide humans in decision making
   Based on combinations of lines representing
    the ever changing relationship between passive
    (yin) and active (yang) energy flow of heaven,
    human, and earth

                                        = yin
                                        = yang
              The Tri-grams
Eight combinations of three lines each:

                            wind /

Fire                            water

   thunder                  mountain

             Using the I-Ching Tool
   Symbolism of the lines:
    –   Upper line = energy state of heaven      #31
    –   Middle line = energy state of human
    –   Lower line = energy state of earth
   Two sets of trigrams are divined to create a
   Use coins or sticks to divine one of 64 hexagrams
   Use I-Ching text to discern meaning of the
    hexagram and any additional meaning for
    ―changing lines‖ (energies on the verge of
   A skilled interpreter is needed to apply the
    generic meaning of the hexagram
                 Feng Shui
   The Chinese art of placement (geomancy)
   Means ―wind water‖– symbolically, the constant
    flow of wind and water that creates constant
    change in the world also affects us
   Uses the five elements and the eight directions
    of the I-Ching as the Bagua tool
   Seeks to maintain constant and balanced flow of
    energies (chi) in a space for improved flow of
    energy in the people who use the space
          Learn more on the Web
  Learn more about Yin-Yang and the Five Elements:
I-ching sites:
 I-Ching Resources includes history of the I-Ching and details
   about the trigrams:
 How to use the I-ching:

Feng Shui sites:
 Series of pages on Feng Shui theory and application:
 Feng Shui products and tips from MJG Designs:
          Explore more on the Web
   Taoist sites:
    – The True Tao Homepage: a pleasant place to visit and
      learn more
    – Taoism and the Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan: informative
      on both origins and religious Taoism
    – About the Tao:
   Confucian sites:
    – an academic review of
      basic Confucian teachings
    – The Lun Yu (Analects), an English translation online: