It could be argued that religion has only played a ‘major’ role in Chinese Culture and Politics one time.
Even today, more than 800-million Chinese say they do not belong to any organized religion and the largest religion in China is Buddhism representing 18.2-percent of the total population, and less than 0.05-percent of China’s population are Christians, 0.015 are Muslims, and about five hundred are Jews.
Then there was the White Lotus Society that brought down the Mongols.
Persecution of the White Lotus Society started during the Mongol led Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368). Due to this persecution, the White Lotus Society changed from one of peace and tranquility and organized protests against the Mongol rulers, the first non-Han to rule China.
When the Mongols defeated the Song Dynasty, they broke the almost 1500-year progression of dynasties ruled by the ethnic Han Chinese … the fifteen hundred years when China was the most innovative country in the world.
The Han Chinese are bound together with a common genetic stock and a shared history inhabiting an ancient ancestral territory spanning more than four thousand years, deeply rooted with many different cultural traditions and customs. Even though the Mongol Kublai Khan practiced Confucianism, that did not make him think like the Han Chinese.
Since Yuan Imperial authorities distrusted the White Lotus Society, the Mongol led Dynasty banned them, and the White Lotus that were mostly Han Chinese went underground. The White Lotus also started to predict that a messianic Christ like figure would come and save them from persecution.
The White Lotus led revolution started in 1352 around Guangzhou. A Buddhist monk, Zhu Yuanzhang, joined the rebellion. Soon, he became the leader by forbidding his soldiers to pillage, in observance of White Lotus religious beliefs.
By 1355, the rebellion had spread through much of China. In 1356, Zhu Yuanzhang captured Nanjing and made it his capital. Then Confucian scholars issued pronouncements supporting Zhu’s claim of the Mandate of Heaven, the first step toward establishing a new dynasty.
Zhu Yuanzhang liberated China from the Mongols and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643), but this Chinese Han led Dynasty would break from the methods used by all the previous dynasties led by Han Chinese.
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