Which religion has had the greatest impact on the state, culture, society and politics of China is not yet a completely resolved question. Each of the religions or philosophical and moral teachings has played a role in history. Still, getting to know them is very interesting. All ancient religions contributed to the formation of a special Chinese civilization, which in turn had an impact on neighboring states: Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Russia.
When it comes to the Middle Kingdom, it is important to take into account that some believers may profess several religions at once .
There are three main religious teachings for China:
buddhism Confucianism Taoism.
According to various sources, about 40% of the country’s population considers themselves atheists.
Buddhism: the formation of the Chinese tradition.
Buddhism, which originated in India in the 5th century BC, based on the teachings of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, penetrates into China in the 2nd century AD, during the reign of Emperor Ming-di. The construction of the first Buddhist temples dates back to this time. There is nothing surprising in the fact that Buddhism has found fertile ground on Chinese soil. The Chinese recognized Taoism in Buddhism. The same principle is non-action, detachment from the real world and self-contemplation. As a religion of ancient China, Buddhism played an extremely important role in the education and humility of people.
The formation of the Chinese tradition of Buddhism is considered to be the monk An Shigao, who first translated Buddhist writings into Chinese. Thanks to the efforts of Chinese and Indian monks who worked on Buddhist treatises and built datsans, Buddhism is becoming very popular and relevant. As a rule, such religions or philosophical teachings, as well as appeals to morality, appear in an era of troubles and crises. So it is in this case, when in the 4th century the Chinese state was experiencing a crisis.
In the 6th century, Buddhism became the dominant religion of China under the Emperor Wu-di. The development of the teaching underwent changes, but still remained a religion for everyone. The decline of Buddhism has been taking place since the beginning of the 20th century, when China experienced revolutions and the construction of a new state. In the 60 — 70s, Buddhism was banned, and the monks were sent for “re-education”.
Buddhism is one of the main religions for modern China, today about 18% of the population follows this teaching.
Confucianism: or how to become a “noble husband”
Of all the religious and philosophical teachings, Confucianism (or Lun Yu) experienced a rise and fall, ascension to the rank of religion and violent persecution by the authorities. Originating in the 5th-6th centuries BC, this teaching, which was initially considered a socio-ethical direction, aimed at forming a “noble husband”, a devoted servant of the state. Turning to the nature of man, Confucianism called the latter to the knowledge of heavenly predestination, humanity. Based on the knowledge of the “heavenly” in man, Confucianism already acquires religious features, becoming the main religion of the Chinese state. The teachings about the spirit, the hidden and secret, about heaven or the supernatural, determined the religious component of Confucianism.
Confucianism gets the greatest fame and recognition 300 years after the death of the founder. This determined the entire history of China for 2 thousand years. No sphere, be it culture, politics, economics or social relations, has not been without the strong influence of the teachings of Confucius.
History dictated its own conditions and, of course, the teaching was subject to changes. There were various schools, whole trends that interpreted Confucius differently according to the time. There is neo – Confucianism and, most recently, post-Confucianism. When the People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949, Confucianism was completely criticized and replaced by communist ideology.
Today, Communist China is considering the possibility of returning the ideas of Confucius. Surely, this will be the right decision, since the moral code of the builder of communism in many positions coincides with the idea of a “noble husband”.
According to various sources, about 12% of Chinese adhere to Confucianism.
Taoism: an alternative to Confucianism or the basis of life.
About 20% of Chinese people believe in Taoism.
According to historical sources, the founder of Taoism in China was Lao Tzu. There are suggestions that the founder of the Tao (or Tao te Ching), which originated in parallel with Confucianism, is the Huangdi Emperor. Given the fact that the Chinese emperors were well acquainted with various philosophical teachings, it can be assumed that Huangdi made some additions or clarifications to the teaching of the Tao. This religion found its supporters in China and at one time successfully developed. Again, it is necessary to clarify that Taoism is more a philosophical and moral teaching than a religion.
Taoism or the” Way of Things ” represented man as a part of nature or a microcosm, a substance. The Tao is the universal law or absolute, the beginning of everything and the end point. The happiness of a person lies in the knowledge of the Tao. The purpose of a person’s life is to understand himself through contemplation and meditation. It is immersion in one’s “I” that is the meaning of the power of human consciousness.
Taoism has become the meaning of the activities of the masses or hermits. From time to time, various ideas were born in Taoism, which inspired scientists and politicians, religious figures and philosophers.
Taoism was supposed to be an alternative to Confucianism. After all, in the first case, we are talking about internal contemplation, and in the second – service to the state. Based on the historical assessment, Taoism could not resist Confucianism with its teaching, since it separated the individual from the world, from society. But still, the merit of the Tao teaching is an attempt to deeply ascend into the world of consciousness. In this respect, Taoism is similar to the teachings of Buddhism.
Christianity and Islam in China.
Christianity penetrated into China during the reign of the Tang Dynasty, in the 7-8 century AD. But it became most widespread during the activity of Catholics (the 13th century). Then the first Christian communities appear and the first churches are built. The Orthodox current appears when the first Russian prisoners appear.
In general, Christianity has not become widespread in China and today there are only 5% of Christians in the Middle Kingdom.
Islam appeared in China in the Middle Ages. The percentage of Muslims in China is no more than 2%.
It should be noted that the 20th century was in many ways a turning point for many religions that exist in China. Some were banned, then restored. Christianity and Islam have often been persecuted or at least are under strict control.
Modern China, despite the declared freedom of conscience, still tries to maintain its traditions in religion, culture and philosophy.