Taoism and Religion in Communist China – Part 3/3

March 29, 2012

Until Communism arrived, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org says, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions — they were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else…

However, under Deng Xiaoping, in 1978, the ban on religious teaching was lifted. In fact, since the mid-1980s there has been a massive program to rebuild Buddhist and Taoist temples.

Then in December 2004, China’s government in Beijing announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily: “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens. Even so, worship outside designated religion remains forbidden. Source: Facts and Details – Religion in China

There are five religions recognized by the state, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Return to Taoism – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Taoism – Part 1/3

March 27, 2012

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” –Lao-tzu

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised as a Christian in a Christian culture.  For this reason, Jean Delumeau, the narrator of the video and an honorary professor of the College de France, will tell you something about this religion.

Delumeau says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth serving to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Continued on February 26, 2012 in Taoism – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on December 5, 2010


Water — the Democracy versus the Authoritarian Republic

January 10, 2012

The question should be, “Is freedom of expression and of religion more important than water?”

Survival Topics.com says, “People have survived without food for weeks or even months, but go without water for even just one day and the survivor will be in desperate straights indeed.”

However, how long can one go without total freedom of political expression and to join any global religion? The choices of world religions are many. According to Religious Tolerance.org, “There are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world.”

One of the most common complains outside China is that its citizens do not have these two abstract freedoms and all of those religions to choose from—China offers seven approved choices.

This post explores which country is doing a better job of supplying water to its people—China or India.  When you finish reading and watching the two videos, you decide which country you would rather live in if you had to make a choice between them.

The National Geographic special issue, “Water, Our Thirsty World” (April 2007) compares the world’s largest democracy, India, with China. In “The Big Melt” by Brook Larmer, we see a convincing reason why China’s mix of socialism and capitalism may be the world’s answer to avoid future calamities. Where Western style democracies stall due to partisanship, special interests, religious beliefs and political agendas, China’s government, ruled by engineers and scientists, appears to be planning decades ahead.

The claims of Tibetan separatists and their supporters that China rules over Tibet with an iron dictatorial fist also appears to be wrong when Larmer visits a family of Tibetan nomads. He writes, “There is no sign of human life on the 14,000 foot high prairie that seems to extend to the end of the world.” Larmer sees “the NOMADS’ tent as a pinprick of white against a canvas of brown.”

We meet Ba O, a Tibetan nomad. In Ba O’s tent, “there is a small Buddhist Shrine: a red prayer wheel and a couple of smudged Tibetan texts…” A few years earlier, Ba O had several hundred sheep and the grass was plentiful. Now the Tibetan nomad has about a hundred left and fears this way of life is ending.

Ba O says, “This is the way we’ve always done things. And we don’t want that to change.”

But no matter what Ba O wants, change is coming, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. The change is not from China’s government. It is from global warming. The Tibetan grasslands are dying and a way of life that has existed for thousands of years may be dying too.

To insure that the Tibetan nomads will have a place to live, China’s government has been building resettlement villages. The “solid built” houses are subsidized. When the Tibetan nomads can no longer survive on the open Tibetan prairie, it is the nomad’s choice to move into the new villages. The government does not force them to give up their old way of life. Nature does that.

Along with the house comes a small annual stipend for each family so they can eat as they find another way to earn a living. The home Larmer visited had a Buddhist shrine and a free satellite dish for a TV and maybe an Internet connection. In addition, the one child policy does not apply to the Tibetan people since they are a minority in China.

To make sure there will continue to be water to drink, China is planning to build 59 reservoirs in Tibet to capture and save glacial runoff.

In India, by comparison, the young wife of a fortuneteller spends hours each day searching for water. She lives with her husband and five children in Delhi, India‘s capital. There are fights over water. In a nearby slum, a teenage boy was beaten to death for cutting into a water line. The demand for water in Delhi exceeds the supply by more than 300 million gallons a day.

What happens to life when there is no water?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note—This revised and edited post first appeared April 19, 2010 as Water – Two Countries Tell a Tale


Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 4/5

October 24, 2011

Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism had deeper roots in the culture since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight centuries after Buddhism and only a decade before Islam), when a Nestorian monk named Aluoben entered the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’ an.

Then in 629 AD, the Buddhist monk Xuanzang left Chang’ an against the emperor’s orders to travel the world in search of enlightenment. He went west toward India along the Silk Road with a goal to find original Buddhist scriptures.  He traveled 10,000 miles over three of the highest mountain ranges in Asia and was gone 16 years.

When Xuanzang returned in 645 AD, he had 1,300 scrolls of Buddhist Sutras, and requested the building of a pagoda, which became the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda—nearly 65 meters tall (more than 213 feet).  It was made of rammed earth, and the pagoda would collapse more than once and be rebuilt.  No one knows exactly how the Tang Dynasty engineers managed to build a structure that tall of rammed earth.

Neville Gishford‘s Discovery Channel documentary, China’s Most Honourable City, reveals the answer to a mystery when a hidden crypt beneath the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is discovered using ground based radar. When The Tang Dynasty collapsed due to rebellion, the city was destroyed, but the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was left untouched.

Gishford reveals that even though Tang Chang’ an was destroyed, the city was copied throughout Asia and one city in Japan, Kyoto (formally the imperial capital of Japan – 794 to 1869 AD), was a scaled replica of Tang Chang’ an.

In fact, in 1974, the modern city of Xi’an and Kyoto formally established a sister-city relationship.

However, this was not the end of Chang’ an (Xi’an). It would be rebuilt a third time.  In 1368, nearly five hundred years after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD) would rebuild the Great Wall in addition to Xi’an as a defense against the Mongols that had conquered and ruled China during the  Yuan Dynasty (1277 – 1367 AD).

Continued on October 21, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 5 or return to Part 3

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The State of Religion in Today’s China

December 19, 2010

The U.S. Department of State reports that China is officially atheist (and has been for thousands of years). However, Taoist, Buddhist, Christian and Muslims are allowed to worship in China and these religions have a significant role in the lives of many Chinese.

A February 2007 survey conducted by East China Normal University and reported in China’s state-run media concluded that 31.4% of Chinese citizens ages 16 and over are religious believers.

While the Chinese constitution affirms “freedom of religious belief,” the Chinese Government places restrictions on religious practice outside officially recognized organizations. The five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

Singapore, another nation in Asia, has similar restrictions.

Historically, China has not been accepting of cults, and there is a difference between a religion and a cult.

Princeton.edu says, cult members are “followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

All one has to do is study China’s history to understand the Middle Kingdom’s sensitivity toward cults and political activists. China’s struggle with pagan cults reaches back almost a thousand years. Source: The Millennium Cult

There are no official statistics confirming the number of Taoists in China.


Fascinating discussion of how Chinese culture interacts with religions.

Official figures indicate there are 20 million Muslims, 20 million Protestants, and 5.3 million Catholics; unofficial estimates are much higher.

According to About Chinese Culture.com, there are more than 85,000 sites for religious activities, some 300,000 clergy and over 3,000 religious organizations throughout China. In addition, there are 74 religious schools and colleges run by religious organizations for training clerical personnel.

Buddhism, the most popular religion in China with about a 100 million followers, has a 2,000-year history in the Middle Kingdom and there are about 13,000 Buddhist temples.

Taoism, native to China, has a history of more than 1,700 years with over 1,500 temples.

Islam, which was introduced into China in the seventh century has more than 30,000 mosques.

At present, China has about 4,600 Catholic churches and meetinghouses.

Protestantism first arrived in China in the early 19th century. Today there are more than 12,000 churches and 25,000 meeting places.

Although Judaism is not listed as one of the officially recognized religions in China, there are Jewish synagogues in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Jews first settled in Kaifeng, Henan Province in 960 AD after arriving along the Silk Road. The Jews were welcomed by the Imperial government, which encouraged them to retain their cultural identity by building the Kaifeng synagogue, which was finished in 1163 AD.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


The Origins and Meaning of Taoism – Part 1/2

December 5, 2010

Jean Delumeau, that narrator of the video, is an honorary professor of the College de France. He says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth, which serve to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Learn more of Yin Yang

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 3/4

November 10, 2010

After the death of Emperor Taizong, Wu’s first husband, she lived in a Buddhist monastery as a nun and was a faithful follower of Buddhism.

Some scholars claim that she became a Buddhist for political reasons.

In fact, she did have many Buddhist temples built and sculptures of Buddha made.  This cost a great deal.

However, as far as affairs of state were concerned, she made good decisions without hesitation.

She did not allow her Buddhist beliefs to influence her decisions.

For example, she only promoted officials who earned the right to be promoted. There is no evidence of favoritism.


Mandarin with English Subtitles

She also did not rule as a tyrant. Before making decisions, she listened to all views. Today, historians study her ruling style, and the evidence says her political decisions were wise ones.

During the fifty years that Wu ruled the Tang Dynasty, China’s borders expanded north, south and west and she did not lose any of the territory won.

Wu understood that with the people’s support, political stability was guaranteed. When there were tragedies such as floods, the dynasty offered relief so the people recovered.

Although imperial family members attempted to restore the Tang Dynasty, most of the rebellions were suppressed in two or three months.

Officials who were convicted of failing in their duties to the people were punished and often beheaded.

While Wu ruled China, the role of women in Chinese society changed drastically. Women didn’t have to worry about the clothing they wore. Women wrote poetry, rode horses, played Chinese chess, made music and practiced archery as men did.

Even after Wu was forced to retire at eighty, there were officials that called for her to return. The historical records show that the Tang emperors that followed here were not as open as she was.

Return to Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 2 or continue to Part 4

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______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.