CHINESE POPULAR RELIGION ESSAY 6
A popular religion can be defined as a system of beliefs that isfollowed by a huge number of people regardless of class, gender, orreligious beliefs. It is important to state that the Chinese popularreligion cannot be restricted to particular religions since itspractices are common among various religions. Even though Buddhism ispracticed by numerous people in China, it cannot be termed as theChinese popular religion (DeBernardi, 2016). This is because thereare some practices that are observed by people across the divide. Thedefinition of Chinese popular culture is based on the beliefs,practices and festivals that are uniformly observed by the Chinesepeople. The religious practices of a popular religion do not have anyorganized structures. Confucianism and Taoism are also majorreligions in China whose beliefs and practices are not significantlydifferent from those of Buddhism. Therefore, the three most commonreligions in China share some common aspects hence leading to apopular religion that is practiced by almost every person in China.
The Chinese popular religion has some specific features. One aspectthat is common among all the Chinese religions is the belief inheaven. In other words, most of the Chinese people believe that theywill go to heaven after death. Notably, Chinese depict the aspect ofheaven in human form in the person of Jade Emperor who is popularlyknown as the emperor of heaven. In popular religion, the belief infate and its controller, Ssu Ming is prevalent (DeBernardi, 2016).Furthermore, the popular religion subscribes to the philosophy of Yinand Yang. This is a traditional cultural belief in China where peoplebelieve in the opposites and argue that they complement and attracteach other. For example, males and females, light and darkness, fireand water, as well as expanding and contracting are described asopposites that attract and complement each other. Another primaryfeature of Chinese popular religion is the belief in the praise ofthe ancestors. Since time immemorial, Chinese people have honored andrespected the dead and they demonstrate this through praising them.It is essential to note that the worship of the dead is associatedwith the soul in the spirit of yin and yang. These are two sectionsof the soul with the Yin having the potential of becoming a ghost andthe Yang being responsible for the family (Feuchtwang, 2012).Therefore, when the rituals of worshiping the ancestors are donecorrectly, Yang takes care of the family and the Yin rests.Documented research has shown that the continuation of these ritualsrequires a family to a bear a son. This explains the feature ofpopular religion where every family in China seeks to have a son.Last but not least, the Chinese popular religion asserts that peoplebelieve in exorcising ghosts, conducting funerals, consulting fortunetellers and construing gods as government officials. Moreover,Chinese popular religion has the element holding festivals such asNew Year festivals.
There are various primary religious practices observed by adherentsof Chinese popular religion. Firstly, the adherents believe in godswhere each god serves a particular purpose. Notably, some of thesegods are kept in specific places in the house. For example, thekitchen god is placed on top of the stove. Furthermore, the domesticalter is placed in a specific place in the house. Secondly, theadherents of Chinese popular religion believe in the existence ofheaven. Just like the political territories, adherents of thisreligion believe that heaven is divided into regions with each parthaving a spiritual leader (DeBernardi, 2016). Another religiousbelief that is common among the popular religion is the aspect ofsacrifices, which were mainly offered during the summer and wintersolstices. There are some festivals that are religious and commonamong the popular religion. The belief to hold funerals for the deadis a religious practice that has been observed in China for numerousyears.
The traditional Chinese religion or what is largely known as thefolk religion has tremendous effects on the contemporary society.Even though historians argue that the folk religion was eroded inChina and replaced with modern practices, documented research hasshown that it is only the physical aspects such as temples that werebrought down, but the people remained intrinsically inclined towardsthe folk religion beliefs and practices. The contemporary societycontinues to practice some of the beliefs that were common intraditional Chinese religions. For example, temples are increasinglybeing built in China (Chau, 2015). Furthermore, Chinese incontemporary society are starting to practice the farmer’s almanacwhere they can determine auspicious days to perform important taskssuch as weddings. The Chinese folk religion placed immense value onfamily, deities and respect for the ancestors. These aspects canclearly be seen in the contemporary society. Chinese authoritiesvalue the family and the presence of deities is common.
The development of Christianity in China has had tremendous effectson the contemporary society. The advent of the religion in Chinasignaled the freedom of expression. The Chinese people who embracedthe Christianity believed it was the religion responsible for thesocial, political and economic progress in the western countries suchas the United States (Feuchtwang, 2012). Christianity made theChinese people aware of their rights and even in some places in thecountry there have been people who build churches against thegovernment’s orders. The social and economic growth in China hasbeen attributed to Christianity. Furthermore, Christianity is said tohave brought unity among the contemporary society in China. Chinesepeople have been more acquitted with their constitutional rights andthis religion has ensured that the Chinese are politically free.
Considering that the three major religions in China are theBuddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, Christianity might not penetratethe society easily. However, through the use of examples of countriesthat have progressed as a result of Christianity will enhance theinteraction between the Chinese society and Christians (Chau, 2015).It is clear that China has lagged behind for centuries due to theretrogressive cultures and religious practices such as worshippingthe dead and having more than one God. Examples of America andEurope, which are countries that have made tremendous social andeconomic progress, will offer excellent examples that will enhancethe interaction between Christians and the Chinese society. The maingoal would be to ensure that the Chinese society does not view thereligion as an enemy of progress.
While concluding, Chinese popular religion should not be confusedwith some of the famous religions in the country such as Buddhism.Popular religion constitutes a collection of unstructured beliefsthat are subscribed by most of the citizens. There are certainfeatures that are common with a particular popular religion. Forinstance, the Chinese popular religion observes some rituals such asfunerals, festivals and the worship of the ancestors. Christianityhas penetrated into the Chinese society since the 1980s and it isassumed that by the 2030s, Christianity will be the largest religion.
Chau, A. Y. (2015). Miraculous Response: Doing PopularReligion in Contemporary China. Palo Alto: Stanford UniversityPress.
DeBernardi, J. E. (2016). The way that lives in the heart:Chinese popular religion and spirit mediums in Penang,Malaysia. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Univ. Press.
Feuchtwang, S. (2012). The imperial metaphor: Popularreligion in China. London: Routledge.