The Info List - Chinese Folk Religion

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* Xian * Zhenren

* Wen and wu


* Fenxiang * Jingxiang

* Feng shui * Miaohui

* Wu shamanism

* Jitong mediumship

* Precious scrolls

Institutions and temples

* Associations of good-doing

* Lineage associations or churches

* Chinese temple * Ancestral shrine

* Chinese Folk Temples\' Association


* Qingming * Zhongyuan * Zhongqiu * Jiuhuangye * Qixi * Duanwu * Nian

Internal traditions MAJOR CULTURAL FORMS

* Chinese ancestral religion

* Chinese communal deity religion

* Chinese mother goddess worship

* Northeast China folk religion


* Confucianism (state rites ) * Taoism

* Other schools


* Folk ritual masters\' orders

* Jitong mediumship

* Nuo folk religion

* Chinese shamanism


* Mazuism

* Wang Ye worship


* De teaching * Jiugongdao

* Luo teaching * Maitreya teachings

* Tiandi teachings * Tianxian miaodao

* Xia teaching * Xiantiandao

* Zaili teaching * Qigong


* Holy Confucian Church

* Indonesian Confucian Church

* Universal Church of the Way and its Virtue

* Phoenix churches * Xuanyuanism

* Taigu school

Related religions

* Benzhuism * Bimoism

* Bon * Dongbaism

* Miao folk religion

* Vietnamese folk religion

* Qiang folk religion

* Yao folk religion

* Zhuang folk religion

Chinese folk religion\'s portal

* v * t * e

Xuanyuan Temple in Huangling , Shaanxi , dedicated to the worship of the Yellow Emperor . The Temple of the Town God of Wenao, Magong , Taiwan . Temple of Hebo ("River Lord"), the god (Heshen, "River God") of the sacred Yellow River , in Hequ , Xinzhou , Shanxi . Altar to the Five Officials worshipped inside the Temple of the Five Lords in Haikou , Hainan .

CHINESE FOLK RELIGION (CHINESE POPULAR RELIGION) or HAN FOLK RELIGION is the religious tradition of the Han people , including veneration of forces of nature and ancestors, exorcism of harmful forces, and a belief in the rational order of nature which can be influenced by human beings and their rulers. Worship is devoted to a multiplicity of gods and immortals (神 _shén_), who can be deities of phenomena, of human behaviour, or progenitors of lineages. Stories regarding some of these gods are collected into the body of Chinese mythology . By the eleventh century (Song period ) these practices had been blended with Buddhist ideas of karma (one's own doing) and rebirth, and Taoist teachings about hierarchies of gods, to form the popular religious system which has lasted in many ways until the present day.

Chinese religions have a variety of sources, local forms, founder backgrounds, and ritual and philosophical traditions. Despite this diversity, there is a common core that can be summarised as four theological, cosmological, and moral concepts: _ Tian _ (天), Heaven, the transcendent source of moral meaning; _qi _ (气), the breath or energy that animates the universe; _jingzu _ (敬祖), the veneration of ancestors; and _bao ying _ (报应), moral reciprocity; together with two traditional concepts of fate and meaning: _ming yun _ (命运), the personal destiny or burgeoning; and _yuan fen _ (缘分), "fateful coincidence ", good and bad chances and potential relationships. Yin and yang (阴阳) is the polarity that describes the order of the universe, held in balance by the interaction of principles of growth (_shen_) and principles of waning (_gui_), with _yang_ ("act") usually preferred over _yin_ ("receptiveness") in common religion. _Ling _ (灵), "numen " or "sacred ", is the "medium" of the two states and the inchoate order of creation.

Both the present day government of China and the imperial dynasties of the Ming and Qing tolerated village popular religious cults if they bolstered social stability but suppressed or persecuted those that they feared would undermine it. After the fall of the empire in 1911, governments and elites opposed or attempted to eradicate folk religion in order to promote "modern" values, and many condemned "feudal superstition". These conceptions of folk religion began to change in Taiwan in the late 20th century and in mainland China in the 21st. Many scholars now view folk religion in a positive light. In recent times Chinese folk religions are experiencing a revival in both mainland China and Taiwan. Some forms have received official understanding or recognition as a preservation of traditional Chinese culture, such as Mazuism and the Sanyi teaching in Fujian , Huangdi worship, and other forms of local worship, for example the Longwang , Pangu or Caishen worship.


* 1 Terminology

* 1.1 Attributes

* 2 Overview

* 2.1 Diversity and unity

* 2.2 History

* 2.2.1 Imperial China * 2.2.2 19th–20th century

* 2.3 Texts

* 3 Core concepts of theology and cosmology

* 3.1 _Tian_, its _li_ and _qi_ * 3.2 _Yin_ and _yang_—_gui_ and _shen_ * 3.3 _Hun_ and _po_, and _zu_ and _xian_ * 3.4 _Bao ying_ and _ming yun_ * 3.5 _Ling_ and _xianling_—holy and numen

* 4 Sociological typology

* 4.1 Types of indigenous—ethnic religion

* 4.1.1 Worship of local and national deities * 4.1.2 Lineage religion

* 4.2 Philosophical and ritual modalities

* 4.2.1 Wuism and shamanic traditions * 4.2.2 Confucianism, Taoism and orders of ritual masters

* 4.3 Organised folk religious sects

* 4.3.1 Tiandi teachings * 4.3.2 Weixinism

* 4.4 Geographic and ethnic variations

* 4.4.1 North and south divides * 4.4.2 "Taoised" indigenous religions of ethnic minorities

* 5 Features

* 5.1 Theory of hierarchy and divinity

* 5.1.1 Deities and immortals * 5.1.2 Mother goddess worship

* 5.2 Worship and modalities of religious practice

* 5.2.1 Sacrifices * 5.2.2 Thanksgiving and redeeming * 5.2.3 Rites of passage

* 5.3 Places of worship

* 5.3.1 Temple networks and gatherings

* 6 Demographics

* 6.1 Mainland China and Taiwan

* 6.1.1 Economy of temples and rituals

* 6.2 Overseas Chinese

* 7 See also * 8 Notes

* 9 References

* 9.1 Citations * 9.2 Sources

* 10 External links


Temple of the City God of Dongmen, in Xiangshan , Ningbo , Zhejiang .

While in the English language academic literature Chinese "popular religion" or "folk religion" or "folk belief" have long been used to indicate the local and communal religious life and complex of Han local indigenous cults of China, the Chinese language historically has not had a concept or overarching name for this. In Chinese academic literature and common usage "folk religion" (民間宗教 _mínjiān zōngjiào_) refers to specific organised folk religious sects . "Folk beliefs" (民間信仰 _mínjiān xìnyǎng_) is a technical term with little usage outside the academia, in which it entered into usage at first among Taiwanese scholars from Japanese language during Japan\'s occupation (1895–1945), and later between the 1990s and the early 21st century among mainland Chinese scholars.

With the rise of the study of traditional cults and the creation of a government agency to give legal status to this religion, intellectuals and philosophers in China have proposed the adoption of a formal name in order to solve the terminological problems of confusion with folk religious sects and conceptualise a definite field for research and administration. The terms that have been proposed include "Chinese native religion" or "Chinese indigenous religion" (民俗宗教 _mínsú zōngjiào_), "Chinese ethnic religion" (民族宗教 _mínzú zōngjiào_), or also simply "Chinese religion" (中華教 _Zhōnghuájiào_) viewed as comparable to the usage of the term " Hinduism " for Indian religion, and "Shenxianism" (神仙教 _Shénxiānjiào_, "religion of deities and immortals "), partly inspired by the term "Shenism" (神教 _Shénjiào_) that was used in the 1950s by the anthropologist Allan J. A. Elliott. The Qing dynasty scholars Yao Wendong and Chen Jialin used the term _shenjiao_ not referring to Shinto as a definite religious system, but to local _shin _ beliefs in Japan. Other definitions that have been used are "folk cults" (民間崇拜 _mínjiān chóngbài_),"spontaneous religion" (自發宗教 _zìfā zōngjiào_), "lived (or living) religion" (生活宗教 _shēnghuó zōngjiào_), "local religion" (地方宗教 _dìfāng zōngjiào_), and "diffused religion" (分散性宗教 _fēnsàn xìng zōngjiào_).

"Shendao" (神道 _Shéndào_, the "Way of the Gods") is a term already used in the _ Yijing _ referring to the divine order of nature. Around the time of the spread of Buddhism in the Han period (206 BCE–220 CE), it was used to distinguish the indigenous religion from the imported religion. Ge Hong used it in his _ Baopuzi _ as a synonym for Taoism . The term was subsequently adopted in Japan in the 6th century as _Shindo_, later _Shinto_, with the same purpose of identification of the Japanese indigenous religion. In the 14th century, the Hongwu Emperor (Taizu of the Ming dynasty , 1328–1398) used the term "Shendao" clearly identifying the indigenous cults, which he strengthened and systematised.

"Chinese Universism", not in the sense of "universalism ", that is a system of universal application, that is Tian in Chinese thought, is a coinage of Jan Jakob Maria de Groot that refers to the metaphysical perspective that lies behind the Chinese religious tradition. De Groot calls Chinese Universism "the ancient metaphysical view that serves as the basis of all classical Chinese thought. In Universism, the three components of integrated universe — understood epistemologically, "heaven, earth and man", and understood ontologically, "Taiji (the great beginning, the highest ultimate), yin and yang" — are formed".


Contemporary Chinese scholars have identified what they find to be the essential features of the folk (or indigenous—ethnic) religion of China. According to Chen Xiaoyi 陳曉毅 local indigenous religion is the crucial factor for a harmonious "religious ecology" (_zongjiao shengtai_ 宗教生態), that is the balance of forces in a given community. Professor Han Bingfang 韓秉芳 has called for a rectification of distorted names (_zhengming_ 正名). Distorted names are "superstitious activities" (_mixin huodong_ 迷信活動) or "feudal superstition" (_fengjian mixin_ 封建迷信), that were derogatorily applied to the indigenous religion by leftist policies. Christian missionaries also used the label "feudal superstition" in order to undermine their religious competitor. Han calls for the acknowledgment of folk religion for what it really is, the "core and soul of popular culture" (_suwenhua de hexin yu linghun_ 俗文化的核心與靈魂).

According to Chen Jinguo 陳進國, folk religion is a core element of Chinese cultural and religious self-awareness (_wenhua zijue_ 文化自覺, _xinyang zijue_ 信仰自覺). He has proposed a theoretical definition of Chinese indigenous religion in "three inseparable attributes" (_sanwei yiti_ 三位一體), apparently inspired to Tang Junyi 's thought:

* substance (_ti_ 體): religiousness (_zongjiaoxing_ 宗教性); * function (_yong_ 用): folkloricity (_minsuxing_ 民俗性); * quality (_xiang_ 相): Chineseness (_zhonghuaxing_ 中華性).


See also: Chinese creation myth and Chinese spiritual world concepts _ Communal ceremony at the Great Temple of Yandi Shennong (炎帝神農大殿 Yándì Shénnóng dàdiàn_) in Suizhou , Hubei . Statue of Mazu at a temple in Chiayi , Taiwan .


Chinese religious practices are diverse, varying from province to province and even from one village to another, for religious behaviour is bound to local communities, kinship, and environments. In each setting, institution and ritual behaviour assumes highly organised forms. Temples and the gods in them acquire symbolic character and perform specific functions involved in the everyday life of the local community. Local religion preserves aspects of natural beliefs such as totemism , animism and shamanism .

Chinese folk religion pervades all aspects of social life. Many scholars, following the lead of sociologist C. K. Yang , see Chinese religion deeply embedded in family and civic life, rather than expressed in a separate organisational structure like a "church," as in the West.

Deity or temple associations and lineage associations , pilgrimage associations and formalised prayers, rituals and expressions of virtues, are the common forms of organisation of Chinese religion on the local level. Neither initiation rituals nor official membership into a church organisation separate from one person's native identity are mandatory in order to be involved in religious activities. Contrary to institutional religions, Chinese religion does not require "conversion" for participation.

The prime criterion for participation in Chinese folk religion is not "to believe" in an official doctrine or dogma , but "to belong" to the local unit of Chinese religion, that is the "association", the "village" or the "kinship", with their gods and rituals. Scholar Richard Madsen describes Chinese religion, adopting the definition of Tu Weiming , as characterised by "immanent transcendence" grounded in a devotion to "concrete humanity", focused on building moral community within concrete humanity.

Inextricably linked to the aforementioned question to find an appropriate "name" for Chinese religion, is the difficulty to define it or clearly outline its boundaries. Old sinology , especially Western, tried to distinguish "popular" and "élite" traditions (the latter being Confucianism and Taoism conceived as independent systems). Chinese sinology later adopted another dichotomy which continues in contemporary studies, distinguishing "folk beliefs" (_minjian xinyang_) and "folk religion" (_minjian zongjiao_), the latter referring to the doctrinal sects.

Many studies have pointed out that it is impossible to draw clear distinctions, and since the 1970s several sinologists swung to the idea of a unified "Chinese religion" that would define the Chinese national identity, similarly to Hinduism for India and Shinto for Japan . Other sinologists who have not espoused the idea of a unified "national religion" have studied Chinese religion as a system of meaning, or have brought further development in C. K. Yang's distinction between "institutional religion" and "diffused religion", the former functioning as a separate body from other social institutions, and the latter intimately part of secular social institutions.


Imperial China

By the Han dynasty , Chinese religion mostly consisted of people organising into _shè_ 社 ("group", "body", local community altars) who worshipped their godly principle. In many cases the "lord of the _she_" was the god of the earth, and in others a deified virtuous person (_xiān _ 仙, "immortal"). Some cults such as that of Liu Zhang, a king in what is today Shandong , date back to this period.

From the 3rd century on by the Northern Wei , accompaining the spread of Buddhism in China, strong influences from the Indian subcontinent penetrated the Chinese indigenous religion. A cult of Ganesha (象頭神 _Xiàngtóushén_, "Elephant-Head God") is attested in the year 531. Pollination from Indian religions included processions of carts with images of gods or floats borne on shoulders, with musicians and chanting.

19th–20th Century

Altar inside a Tudigong temple in Quanzhou , Fujian . The back statue represents Tudigong (土地公 "Lord of the Local Land"), the one on the right Kuixing .

The Chinese folk religion was subject to persecution in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many local temples were destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion in the late 1800s. After the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 "most temples were turned to other uses or were destroyed, with a few changed into schools". During the Japanese invasion of China between 1937 and 1945 many temples were used as barracks by soldiers and destroyed in warfare.

In the past, popular cults were regulated by imperial government policies, promoting certain deities while suppressing other ones. In the 20th century, with the decline of the empire, increasing urbanisation and Western influence, the issue for the new intellectual class was no longer controlling unauthorised worship of unregistered gods, but became the delegitimisation of folk religion as a superstitious obstacle to modernisation.

In 1904 a government regulation of the late empire approved for schools to be built through the confiscation of temple property. Various "anti-superstition" campaigns followed. The Guomindang government of the early republic intensified the suppression of local religion with the 1928 "Standards for retaining or abolishing gods and shrines"; the policy abolished all cults of gods with the exception of human heroes such as Yu the Great, Guan Yu and Confucius.

These policies were the background of those that were implemented in communist China after 1949. The Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 of the Maoist period was the last systematic effort to destroy the folk religion.

After 1978 Chinese folk religion started to rapidly revive in China, with millions of temples being rebuilt or built from scratch. Since the 1980s the central government moved to a policy of benign neglect or _wu wei _ (無為) in regard to rural community life, and the local government's new regulatory relationship with local society is characterized by practical mutual dependence; these factors have given much space for popular religion to develop. In recent years, in some cases, local governments have taken an even positive and supportive attitude towards indigenous religion in the name of promoting cultural heritage.

Instead of signaling the demise of traditional religion, China's economic development has brought a spiritual renewal. As its images and practices integrate the codes of Chinese culture, Chinese folk religion provides the Chinese people a means to face the challenges of modernisation.


Further information: Chinese classics Eastern Han (25-220 AD) Chinese stone-carved que pillar gates of Dingfang, Zhong County , Chongqing that once belonged to a temple dedicated to the Warring States era general Ba Manzi

Chinese religion draws from a vast heritage of sacred books, which according to the general worldview treat cosmology , history and mythology, mysticism and philosophy, as aspects of the same thing. Historically, the revolutionary shift toward a preference for textual transmission and text-based knowledge over long-standing oral traditions first becomes detectable in the 1st century CE. The spoken word, however, never lost its power. Rather than writing replacing the power of the spoken word, both existed side by side. Scriptures had to be recited and heard in order to be efficacious, and the limitations of written texts were acknowledged particularly in Taoism and folk religion.

There are the classic books (經 _jīng_, "warp ") such as the Confucian canon including the " Four Books and Five Classics " (四書五經 _Sìshū wǔjīng_) and the " Classic of Filial Piety " (孝經 _Xiàojīng_), then there are the _Mozi _ ( Mohism ), the _ Huainanzi _, the _Shizi _ and the _Xunzi _. The "Interactions Between Heaven and Mankind " (天人感應 _Tiānrén Gǎnyìng_) is a set of Confucianised doctrines compiled in the Han dynasty by Dong Zhongshu , discussing politics in accordance with a personal _ Tian _ of whom mankind is viewed as the incarnation.

Taoism has a separate body of philosophical, theological and ritual literature, including the fundamental _ Daodejing _ (道德經 "Book of the Way and its Virtue"), the _ Daozang _ (Taoist Canon), the _ Liezi _ and the _Zhuangzi _, and a great number of other texts either included or not within the Taoist Canon. Vernacular literature and the folk religious sects have produced a great body of popular mythological and theological literature, the _baojuan _ (寶卷 "precious scrolls").

Recent discovery of ancient books, such as the "Guodian texts " in the 1990s and the _ Huangdi sijing _ (黃帝四經 "Four Books of the Yellow Emperor") in the 1970s, has given rise to new interpretations of Chinese religion and new directions in its post-Maoist renewal. Many of these books overcome the dichotomy between Confucian and Taoist traditions. The Guodian texts include, among others, the _ Taiyi Shengshui _ (太一生水 "The Great One Gives Birth to Water"). Another book attributed to the Yellow Emperor is the _Huangdi yinfujing _ (黃帝陰符經 "Yellow Emperor's Book of the Hidden Symbol").

Classical books of mythology include the "Classic of Mountains and Seas " (山海經 _Shānhǎijīng_), the "Record of Heretofore Lost Works " (拾遺記 _Shíyíjì_), " The Peach Blossom Spring " (桃花源記 _Táohuāyuánjì_), the " Investiture of the Gods " (封神演義 _Fēngshén yǎnyì_), and the " Journey to the West " (西遊記 _Xīyóujì_) among others.


See also: Chinese theology and Chinese philosophy

Fan and Chen summarise four spiritual, cosmological, and moral concepts: _ Tian _ (天), Heaven, the source of moral meaning; _qi _ (氣), the breath or substance of which all things are made; the practice of _jingzu _ (敬祖), the veneration of ancestors; _bao ying _ (報應), moral reciprocity.


Tian or Di as the square of the north astral pole . "_ Tian is_ dian 顛 _("top"), the highest and unexceeded. It derives from the characters_ yi 一_, "one", and_ da 大_, "big"_." Main articles: Tian and Qi

Confucians, Taoists, and other schools of thought share basic concepts of _Tian_. _Tian_ is both the physical heavens, the home of the sun, moon, and stars, and also the home of the gods and ancestors. _Tian_ by extension is source of moral meaning, as seen in the political principal, Mandate of Heaven , which holds that _Tian_, responding to human virtue, grants the imperial family the right to rule and withdraws it when the dynasty declines in virtue. This creativity or virtue (_de _), in humans is the potentiality to transcend the given conditions and act wisely and morally. _Tian_ is therefore both transcendent and immanent .

_Tian_ is defined in many ways, with many names, the most widely known being _Tàidì_ 太帝 (the "Great Deity") and _Shàngdì _ 上帝 (the "Primordial Deity"). The concept of _Shangdi_ is especially rooted in the tradition of the Shang dynasty , which gave prominence to the worship of ancestral gods and cultural heroes . The "Primordial Deity" or "Primordial Emperor" was considered to be embodied in the human realm as the lineage of imperial power. _Di_ (帝) is a term meaning "deity" or "emperor" (Latin : _imperator _, verb _im-perare_; "making from within"), used either as a name of the primordial god or as a title of natural gods, describing a principle that exerts a fatherly dominance over what it produces. With the Zhou dynasty , that preferred a religion focused on gods of nature , _Tian_ became a more abstract and impersonal idea of God. A popular representation is the Jade Deity (玉帝 _Yùdì_) or Jade Emperor (玉皇 _Yùhuáng_) originally formulated by Taoists. According to classical theology he manifests in five primary forms (五方上帝 _Wǔfāng Shàngdì_, "Five Forms of the Highest Deity").

The _qi_ 气 is the breath or substance of which all things are made, including inanimate matter, the living beings, thought and gods. It is the continuum energy—matter. Teiser (1996) translates it in English as "stuff" of "psychophysical stuff". Neo-Confucian thinkers such as Zhu Xi developed the idea of _li _ 理, the "reason", "order" of Heaven, that is to say the pattern through which the _qi_ develops, that is the polarity of _yin_ and _yang_. In Taoism the _ Tao _ 道 ("Way") denotes in one concept both the impersonal absolute _Tian_ and its order of manifestation (_li_).




Yin and yang naturally formed in a log in Germany , and ② in a cosmological diagram as 地 Dì _ (a mountain growing to Heaven and a square as its order) and _Tiān _ as the Big Dipper .

_ 泉郡溪靈宮 Quánjùnxī línggōng_, the "Numinous Palace by the Brook in the Land of Springs", in Quanzhou , Fujian . Main articles: Yin and yang and Shen (Chinese religion)

_Yin_ 陰 and _yang_ 陽, whose root meanings respectively are "shady" and "sunny", or "dark" and "light", are modes of manifestation of the _qi_, not material things in themselves. Yin is the _qi_ in its dense, dark, sinking, wet, condensing mode; yang denotes the light, and the bright, rising, dry, expanding modality. Described as _Taiji _ (the "Great Pole"), they represent the polarity and complementarity that enlivens the cosmos . They can also be conceived as "disorder" and "order", "activity" or "passivity", with act (_yang_) usually preferred over receptiveness (_yin_).

The concept 神 "_shén_" (cognate of 申 _shēn_, "extending, expanding" ) is translated as "gods" or "spirits". There are _shén_ of nature; gods who were once people, such as the warrior Guan Gong ; household gods, such as the Stove God ; as well as ancestral gods (_zu_ or _zuxian_). In the domain of humanity the _shen_ is the "psyche", or the power or agency within humans. They are intimately involved in the life of this world. As spirits of stars, mountains and streams, _shen_ exert a direct influence on things, making phenomena appear and things grow or extend themselves. An early Chinese dictionary, the _ Shuowen jiezi _ by Xu Shen , explains that they "are the spirits of Heaven" and they "draw out the ten thousand things". As forces of growth the gods are regarded as _yang_, opposed to a _yin_ class of entities called 鬼 "_guǐ _" (cognate of 歸 _guī_, "return, contraction"), chaotic beings. A disciple of Zhu Xi noted that "between Heaven and Earth there is no thing that does not consist of yin and yang, and there is no place where yin and yang are not found. Therefore there is no place where gods and spirits do not exist". The dragon is a symbol of _yang_, the principle of generation.

In Taoist and Confucian thought, the supreme God and its order and the multiplicity of _shen_ are identified as one and the same. In the _Yizhuan_, a commentary to the _ Yijing _, it is written that "one _yin_ and one _yang_ are called the Tao the unfathomable change of _yin_ and _yang_ is called _shen_". In other texts, with a tradition going back to the Han period , the gods and spirits are explained to be names of _yin_ and _yang_, forces of contraction and forces of growth.

While in popular thought they have conscience and personality, Neo-Confucian scholars tended to rationalise them. Zhu Xi wrote that they act according to the _li_. Zhang Zai wrote that they are "the inherent potential (_liang neng_) of the two ways of _qi_". Cheng Yi said that they are "traces of the creative process". Chen Chun wrote that _shen_ and _gui_ are expansions and contractions, going and coming, of _yin_ and _yang_—_qi_.


_ Temple of the Filial Blessing (孝佑宮 Xiàoyòugōng_) in Ouhai , Wenzhou , Zhejiang . It is a place for the worship of ancestors.

Like all things in matter, also humans have a soul that is a dialectic of _hun_ and _po_ (魂魄), respectively the _yang_ spirit or mind, and the _yin_ animal soul that is the body. _Hun_ (mind) is the _shen_ (that gives a form to the _qi_) of humans, and it develops through the _po_, stretching and moving intelligently in order to grasp things. The _po_ is the "feminine" soul which controls the physiological and psychological activities of man, while the _hun_, the god attached to the vital breath, is the "masculine" soul that is totally independent of corporeal substance. The _hun_ is virile, independent and perpetual, and as such it never allows itself to be limited in matter. Otherwise said, the _po_ is the "earthly" (_di_) soul that goes downward, while the _hun_ is the "heavenly" (_tian_) soul that moves upward.

To extend life to its full potential the human _shen_ must be cultivated, resulting in ever clearer, more luminous states of being. It can transform in the pure intelligent breath of deities. In man there's no distinction between rationality and intuition, thinking and feeling: the human being is _xin_ (心), mind-heart. With death, while the _po_ returns to the earth and disappears, the _hun_ is thought to be pure awareness or _qi_, and is the _shen_ to whom ancestral sacrifices are dedicated.

The _shen_ of men who are properly cultivated and honoured after their death are upheld ancestors and progenitors (_zuxian_ 祖先 or simply _zu_ 祖). When ancestries aren't properly cultivated the world falls into disruption, and they become _gui_. Ancestral worship is intertwined with totemism , as the earliest ancestors of an ethnic lineage are often represented as animals or associated to them.

Ancestors are means of connection with the _ Tian _, the primordial god which does not have form. As ancestors have form, they shape the destiny of humans. Ancestors who have had a significant impact in shaping the destiny of large groups of people, creators of genetic lineages or spiritual traditions, and historical leaders who have invented crafts and institutions for the wealth of the Chinese nation (culture heroes ), are exalted among the highest divine manifestations or immortal beings (_xian _ 仙).

In fact, in the Chinese tradition there is no distinction between gods (_shen_) and immortal beings (_xian_), transcendental principles and their bodily manifestations. Gods can incarnate with a human form and human beings can reach higher spiritual states by the right way of action, that is to say by emulating the order of Heaven. Humans are considered one of the three aspects of a trinity (三才 _Sāncái_, "Three Powers"), the three foundations of all being; specifically, men are the medium between Heaven that engenders order and forms and Earth which receives and nourishes them. Men are endowed with the role of completing creation.


Altar to the Stone Generals, protective deities, at the Kantai Tianhou Temple in Anping , Tainan , Taiwan . Main articles: Bao ying and Ming yun

The Chinese traditional concept of _bao ying_ ("reciprocity", "retribution" or "judgement"), is inscribed in the cosmological view of an ordered world, in which all manifestations of being have an allotted span (_shu_) and destiny , and are rewarded according to the moral-cosmic quality of their actions. It determines fate , as written in Zhou texts: "on the doer of good, heaven sends down all blessings, and on the doer of evil, he sends down all calamities" (《書經•湯誥》).

The cosmic significance of _bao ying_ is better understood by exploring other two traditional concepts of fate and meaning:

* _ Ming yun _ (命運), the personal destiny or given condition of a being in his world, in which _ming_ is "life" or "right", the given status of life, and _yun_ defines both "circumstance" and "individual choice"; _ming_ is given and influenced by the transcendent force _Tian_ (天), that is the same as the "divine right" (_tianming_) of ancient rulers as identified by Mencius . Personal destiny (_ming yun_) is thus perceived as both fixed (as life itself) and flexible, open-ended (since the individual can choose how to behave in _bao ying_). * _ Yuan fen _ (緣分), "fateful coincidence ", describing good and bad chances and potential relationships. Scholars K. S. Yang and D. Ho have analysed the psychological advantages of this belief: assigning causality of both negative and positive events to _yuan fen_ reduces the conflictual potential of guilt and pride, and preserves social harmony.

_Ming yun_ and _yuan fen_ are linked, because what appears on the surface to be chance (either positive or negative), is part of the deeper rhythm that shapes personal life based on how destiny is directed. Recognising this connection has the result of making a person responsible for his or her actions: doing good for others spiritually improves oneself and contributes to the harmony between men and environmental gods and thus to the wealth of a human community.

These three themes of the Chinese tradition—moral reciprocity, personal destiny, fateful coincidence—are completed by a fourth notion:

* _Wu _ (悟), "awareness" of _bao ying_. The awareness of one's own given condition inscribed in the ordered world produces responsibility towards oneself and others; awareness of _yuan fen_ stirs to respond to events rather than resigning. Awareness may arrive as a gift, often unbidden, and then it evolves into a practice that the person intentionally follows.

As part of the trinity of being (the Three Powers), humans are not totally submissive to spiritual force. While under the sway of spiritual forces, humans can actively engage with them, striving to change their own fate to prove the worth of their earthly life. In the Chinese traditional view of human destiny, the dichotomy between "fatalism" and "optimism" is overcome; human beings can shape their personal destiny to grasp their real worth in the transformation of the universe, seeing their place in the alliance with the gods and with Heaven to surpass the constraints of the physical body and mind.


Temple of Brahma , or Simianshen (四面神 "Four-Faced God") in Chinese, in Changhua , Taiwan . The Thai-style worship of Simianshen, from its origins among Thai Chinese , has spread over the latest decades among mainland Chinese and other overseas Chinese populations. A shrine dedicated to Zhenwu in Wuqi , Taichung , Taiwan. Main articles: Ling (Chinese religion) and Xian ling

In Chinese religion the concept of _ling _ (靈) is the equivalent of holy and numen . _Shen_ in the meaning of "spiritual" is a synonym. The _ Yijing _ states that "spiritual means not measured by yin and yang". _Ling_ is the state of the "medium" of the bivalency (_yin_-_yang_), and thus it is identical with the inchoate order of creation. Things inspiring awe or wonder because they can't be fathomed as either _yin_ or _yang_, because they cross or disrupt the polarity and therefore can't be conceptualised, are regarded as numinous. Entities possessing unusual spiritual characteristics, such as albino members of a species, beings that are part-animal part-human, or people who die in unusual ways such as suicide or on battlefields, are considered numinous.

The notion of _xian ling_ (顯靈), variously translated as "divine efficacy, virtue" or simply the "numen", is important for the relationship between men and gods. It describes the manifestation, activity, of the power of a god (靈氣 _ling qi_, "divine energy" or "effervescence"), the evidence of the holy.

The term _xian ling_ may be interpreted as the god revealing his presence in a particular area and temple, through events that are perceived as extraordinary, miraculous . Divine power usually manifests in the presence of a wide public. The "value" of human deities (_xian_) is judged according to his or her efficacy. The perceived effectiveness of a deity to protect or bless also determines how much he or she should be worshipped, how big a temple should be built in his or her dedication, and what position in the pantheon he or her would gain.

Zavidovskaya (2012) has studied how the incentive of temples restoration since the 1980s in northern China was triggered by numerous instances of gods becoming "active", "returning", and claiming back their temples and place in society. She brings the example of a Chenghuang Temple in Yulin , in Shaanxi , that during the Cultural Revolution was turned into a granary ; in the 1980s the temple was restored to its original function because the seeds kept into the temple always rotted, and this event was recognized as god Chenghuang giving signs to empty his residence of grain and let him back in. The _ling qi_, divine energy, is believed to accumulate in certain places, temples, making them holy . Temples with a longer history are considered holier than newly built ones, which still need to be filled by divine energy.

Another example of Zavidovskaya is that of the cult of god Zhenwu in Congluo Yu, Shanxi ; the god's temples were in ruins and the cult inactive until the mid 1990s, when a man with a serious cancer, in his last hope prayed (_bai_ 拜) Zhenwu. The man began to miraculously recover day after day, and after a year he was completely healed. To thank the god, he organised an opera performance in his honour. A temporary altar with a statue of Zhenwu and a stage for performances was set up in an open space at the foot of a mountain. While the opera was being played, large white snakes appeared, not afraid of people and not attacking them, seemingly watching the opera; the snakes were considered by locals as incarnations of Zhenwu, who came to watch the opera held in his honour.

Within temples, it is common to see banners bearing the phrase "if the heart is sincere, the god will reveal his power" (心誠神靈 _xin cheng shen ling_). The relationship between men and gods is an exchange of favour. This implies the belief that gods respond to the entreaties of the believer, if his or her religious fervor is sincere (_cheng xin_ 誠心). If a person believes in the god's power with all his heart and expresses piety, the gods are confident in his faith and reveal their efficacious power. At the same time, for faith to strengthen in the devout's heart, the deity has to prove his or her efficacy. In exchange for divine favours, a faithful honours the deity with vows (_huan yuan_ 還願 or _xu yuan_ 許願), through individual worship, reverence and respect (_jing shen_ 敬神).

The most common display of divine power is the cure of diseases after a faithful asks for aid. Another manifestation is the fulfillment of a request of children. The deity may also manifest through mediumship, entering the body of a shaman-medium and speaking through his or her lips. There have been cases of people curing illnesses "on behalf of a god" (_ti shen zhi bing_ 替神治病). Gods may also speak to people when they are asleep (_tuomeng_ 託夢).


Wu Hsin-Chao (2014) distinguishes four kinds of Chinese traditional religious organisation: ① ancestry worship ; ② deity worship ; ③ secret societies ; and ④ folk religious sects .


Worship Of Local And National Deities

_ 浦頭大廟 Pǔtóu dàmiào_, the "First Great Temple by the Riverside", in Zhangzhou , Fujian .

Chinese religion in its communal expression involves the worship of gods that are the generative power and tutelary spirit (_genius loci _) of a locality or a certain aspect of nature (for example water gods , river gods , fire gods , mountain gods ), or of gods that are common ancestors of a village, a larger identity, or the Chinese nation ( Shennong , Huangdi , Pangu ).

The social structure of this religion is the _shénshè_ 神社 (literally "society of a god"), synonymous with _shehui_ 社會, in which _shè_ 社 originally meant the altar of a community's earth god, while 會 _huì_ means "association", "assembly", "church" or "gathering". This type of religious trusts can be dedicated to a god which is bound to a single village or temple or to a god which has a wider following, in multiple villages, provinces or even a national importance. Mao Zedong distinguished "god associations", "village communities" and "temple associations" in his analysis of religious trusts. In his words: "every kind and type of god can have an association ", for example the Zhaogong Association, the Guanyin Association, the Guangong Association, the Dashen Association, the Bogong Association, the Wenchang Association, and the like. Within the category of _hui_ Mao also distinguished the sacrifice associations (_jiàohuì_ 醮會) which make sacrifices in honour of gods.

These societies organise gatherings and festivals (_miaohui _ 廟會) participated by members of the whole village or larger community on the occasions of what are believed to be the birthdays of the gods or other events, or to seek protection from droughts, epidemics, and other disasters. Such festivals invoke the power of the gods for practical goals to "summon blessings and drive away harm". Special devotional currents within this framework can be identified by specific names such as Mazuism (媽祖教 _Māzǔjiào_), Wang Ye worship , or the cult of the Silkworm Mother.

This type of religion is prevalent in north China, where lineage religion is absent, private, or historically present only within families of southern origin, and patrilineal ties are based on seniority , and villages are composed of people with different surnames. In this context, the deity societies or temple societies function as poles of the civil organism. Often deity societies incorporate entire villages; this is the reason why in north China can be found many villages which are named after deities and their temples, for example _Léishénmiào_ village (雷神廟 " Temple of the Thunder God") or _Mǎshénmiàocūn_ (馬神廟村 "Village of the Temple of the Horse God").

Lineage Religion

Guanji temple (left) and Huang ancestral shrine (right) in Wenzhou , Zhejiang . People forgather for a worship ceremony at an ancestral shrine in Hong\'an , Hubei . Main article: Chinese ancestral religion

Another dimension of the Chinese folk religion is based on family or genealogical worship of deities and ancestors in family altars or private temples (_simiao_ 私廟 or _jiamiao_ 家廟), or ancestral shrines (_citang_ 祠堂 or _zongci_ 宗祠, or also _zumiao_ 祖廟). Kinship associations or churches (_zōngzú xiéhuì_ 宗族協會), congregating people with the same surname and belonging to the same kin , are the social expression of this religion: these lineage societies build temples where the deified ancestors of a certain group (for example the _Chens _ or the _Lins _) are enshrined and worshiped. These temples serve as centres of aggregation for people belonging to the same lineage, and the lineage body may provide a context of identification and mutual assistance for individual persons.

The construction of large and elaborate ancestral temples traditionally represents a kin's wealth, influence and achievement. Scholar K. S. Yang has explored the ethno-political dynamism of this form of religion, through which people who become distinguished for their value and virtue are considered immortal and receive posthumous divine titles, and are believed to protect their descendants, inspiring a mythological lore for the collective memory of a family or kin.

If their temples and their deities enshrined acquire popularity they are considered worthy of the virtue of _ling_, "efficacy". Worship of ancestors (_jingzu _ 敬祖) is observed nationally with large-scale rituals on Qingming Festival and other holidays.

This type of religion prevails in south China, where lineage bonds are stronger and the patrilineal hierarchy is not based upon seniority, and access to corporate resources held by a lineage is based upon the equality of all the lines of descent.


Wuism And Shamanic Traditions

Main articles: Chinese shamanism and Nuo folk religion Temple of the White Sulde of Genghis Khan in the town of Uxin in Inner Mongolia , in the Mu Us Desert . The worship of Genghis is shared by Chinese and Mongolian folk religion .

"The extent to which shamanism pervaded ancient Chinese society", says scholar Paul R. Goldin (2005), "is a matter of scholarly dispute, but there can be no doubt that many communities relied upon the unique talents of shamans for their quotidian spiritual needs". The Chinese usage distinguishes the Chinese _wu_ tradition or "Wuism" as it was called by Jan Jakob Maria de Groot (巫教 _wūjiào_; properly shamanic, with control over the gods) from the _tongji_ tradition (童乩; mediumship, without control of the godly movement), and from non- Han Chinese Altaic shamanisms (薩滿教 _sàmǎnjiào_) that are practiced in northern provinces.

According to Andreea Chirita (2014), Confucianism itself, with its emphasis on hierarchy and ancestral rituals, derived from the shamanic discourse of the Shang dynasty . What Confucianism did was to marginalise the "dysfunctional" features of old shamanism. However, shamanic traditions continued uninterrupted within the folk religion and found precise and functional forms within Taoism.

In the Shang and Zhou dynasty , shamans had a role in the political hierarchy, and were represented institutionally by the Ministry of Rites (大宗拍). The emperor was considered the supreme shaman, intermediating between the three realms of heaven, earth and man. The mission of a shaman (巫 _wu _) is "to repair the dis-functionalities occurred in nature and generated after the sky had been separated from earth": «The female shamans called _wu_ as well as the male shamans called _xi_ represent the voice of spirits, repair the natural dis-functions, foretell the future based on dreams and the art of divination ... "a historical science of the future", whereas shamans are able to observe the yin and the yang ...»

Since the 1980s the practice and study of shamanism has undergone a massive revival in Chinese religion as a means to repair the world to a harmonious whole after industrialisation. Shamanism is viewed by many scholars as the foundation for the emergence of civilisation, and the shaman as "teacher and spirit" of peoples. The Chinese Society for Shamanic Studies was founded in Jilin City in 1988.

Nuo folk religion is a system of the Chinese folk religion with distinct institutions and cosmology present especially in central-southern China. It arose as an exorcistic religious movement, and it is interethnic but also intimately connected to the Tujia people .

Confucianism, Taoism And Orders Of Ritual Masters

_ Temple of Fortune and Longevity, at the Heavenly Lake of Tianshan in Fukang , Changji , Xinjiang . It is an example of Taoist temple which hosts various chapels dedicated to popular gods. Folk ritual masters conducting a ceremony. The Temple of the God of Culture (文廟 wénmiào_) of Jiangyin , Wuxi , Jiangsu . In this temple the _Wéndì_ (文帝, " God of Culture") enshrined is Confucius . Main articles: Confucianism , Taoism , and Chinese ritual mastery traditions

Confucianism and Taoism—which are formalised, ritual, doctrinal or philosophical traditions—can be considered both as embedded within the larger category of Chinese religion, or as separate religions. In fact, one can practice certain folk cults and espouse the tenets of Confucianism as a philosophical framework, Confucian theology instructing to uphold the moral order through the worship of gods and ancestors that is the way of connecting to the Tian and awakening to its harmony (_li _, "rite ").

Folk temples and ancestral shrines on special occasions may choose Confucian liturgy (that is called 儒 _rú_, or sometimes 正統 _zhèngtǒng_, meaning "orthoprax " ritual style) led by Confucian "sages of rites" (禮生 _lǐshēng_) who in many cases are the elders of a local community. Confucian liturgies are alternated with Taoist liturgies and popular ritual styles.

There are many organised groups of the folk religion that adopt Confucian liturgy and identity, for example the Way of the Gods according to the Confucian Tradition or phoenix churches (Luanism), or the Confucian churches , schools and fellowships such as the _Yīdān xuétáng_ (一耽學堂) of Beijing , the _Mèngmǔtáng_ (孟母堂) of Shanghai , the Confucian Fellowship (儒教道壇 _Rújiào Dàotán_) in northern Fujian, and ancestral temples of the Kong (Confucius) lineage operating as well as Confucian-teaching churches. In November 2015 a national Holy Confucian Church was established with the contribution of many Confucian leaders.

Scholar and Taoist priest Kristofer Schipper defines Taoism as a "liturgical framework" for the development of local religion. Some currents of Taoism are deeply interwoven with the Chinese folk religion, especially the Zhengyi school, developing aspects of local cults within their doctrines; however Taoists always highlight the distinction between their traditions and those which aren't Taoist. Priests of Taoism are called _daoshi _ (道士), literally meaning "masters of the Tao ", otherwise commonly translated simply the "Taoists", as common followers and folk believers who are not part of Taoist orders are not identified as such.

Taoists of the Zhengyi school, who are called _sǎnjū dàoshi_ (散居道士) or _huǒjū dàoshi_ (火居道士), respectively meaning "scattered daoshi" and "daoshi living at home (hearth)", because they can get married and perform the profession of priests as a part-time occupation, may perform rituals of offering (_jiao_), thanks-giving, propitiation, exorcism and rites of passage for local communities' temples and private homes. Local gods of local cultures are often incorporated into their altars. The Zhengyi Taoists are trained by other priests of the same sect, and historically received formal ordination by the Celestial Master , although the 63rd Celestial Master Zhang Enpu fled to Taiwan in the 1940s during the Chinese Civil War .

Lineages of ritual masters (法師 _fashi_), also referred to as practitioners of "Faism", also called "Folk Taoism" or (in southeast China) "Red Taoism", operate within the Chinese folk religion but outside any institution of official Taoism. The ritual masters, who have the same role of the _sanju daoshi_ within the fabric of society, aren't considered Taoist priests by the _daoshi_ of Taoism who trace their lineage to the Celestial Masters and by Taoists officially registered with the state Taoist Church. _Fashi_ are defined as of "kataphatic " (filling) character in opposition to professional Taoists who are "kenotic " (of emptying, or apophatic , character).


_ ① A church of Yiguandao in Batam , Indonesia . ② The Luanist Rebirth Church (重生堂 Chóngshēngtáng_) in Taichung , Taiwan. Two influential and competing folk sectarian currents: ① Yiguandao focusing on personal salvation through inner work, considers itself the most valid "Way of Heaven" (天道 _Tiāndào_) and its own a "Way of Former Heaven " (先天道 _Xiāntiāndào_), that is a cosmological definition of the state of things prior to creation, in unity with God; it regards ② Luanism , a cluster of churches which focus on social morality through refined (儒 _rú_) Confucian ritual to worship the gods, as the "Way of Later Heaven" (後天道 _Hòutiāndào_), that is the cosmological state of created things. The City of the Eight Symbols in Qi , Hebi , is the headquarters of the Weixinist Church in Henan . Main article: Chinese salvationist religions

China has a long history of sect traditions characterised by a soteriological and eschatological character, often called "salvationist religions" (救度宗教 _jiùdù zōngjiào_), which emerged from the common religion but are neither ascribable to the lineage cult of ancestors and progenitors , nor to the communal deity religion of village temples, neighbourhood, corporation, or national temples.

The 20th-century expression of this religions has been studied under Prasenjit Duara 's definition of "redemptive societies" (救世團體 _jiùshì tuántǐ_), while modern Chinese scholarship describes them as "folk religious sects" (民間宗教 _mínjiān zōngjiào_, 民間教門 _mínjiān jiàomén_ or 民间教派 _mínjiān jiàopài_), abandoning the ancient derogatory definition of _xiéjiào_ (邪教), "evil religion".

They are characterised by egalitarianism , a foundation through a charismatic figure and a direct divine revelation, a millenarian eschatology and voluntary path of salvation , an embodied experience of the numinous through healing and cultivation, and an expansive orientation through good deeds, evangelism and philanthropy . Their practices are focused on improving morality, body cultivation, and recitation of scriptures.

Many of the redemptive religions of the 20th and 21st century aspire to become the repository of the entirety of the Chinese tradition in the face of Western modernism and materialism. This group of religions includes Yiguandao and other sects belonging to the Xiantiandao (先天道 "Way of Former Heaven"), Jiugongdao (九宮道 "Way of the Nine Palaces"), various proliferations of the Luo teaching , the Zaili teaching , and the more recent De teaching , Weixinist, Xuanyuan and Tiandi teachings , the latter two focused respectively on the worship of Huangdi and the universal God. Also, the qigong schools are developments of the same religious context.

These movements were banned in the early Republican China and later Communist China. Many of them still remain illegal, underground or unrecognised in China , while others—specifically the De teaching, Tiandi teachings, Xuanyuan teaching, Weixinism and Yiguandao—have developed cooperation with mainland China's academic and non-governmental organisations. The Sanyi teaching is an organised folk religion founded in the 16th century, present in the Putian region (Xinghua ) of Fujian where it is legally recognised. Some of these sects began to register as branches of the state Taoist Association since the 1990s.

Another category that has been sometimes confused with that of the sects of salvation by scholars, is that of the secret societies (會道門 _huìdàomén_, 祕密社會 _mìmì shèhuì_, or 祕密結社 _mìmì jiéshè_). They are religious communities of initiatory and secretive character, including rural militias such as the Red Spears (紅槍會) and the Big Knives (大刀會), and fraternal organisations such as the Green Gangs (青幫) and the Elders' Societies (哥老會). They became very popular in the early republican period , and often labeled as "heretical doctrines" (宗教異端 _zōngjiào yìduān_). Recent scholarship has created the label of "secret sects" (祕密教門 _mìmì jiàomén_) to distinguish the peasant "secret societies" with a positive dimension of the Yuan, Ming and Qing periods, from the negatively viewed "secret societies" of the early republic that became instruments of anti-revolutionary forces (the Guomindang or Japan ).

A further distinctive type of sects of the folk religion, that are possibly the same as the positive "secret sects", are the martial sects. They combine two aspects: the _wénchǎng_ (文場 "cultural field"), that is the doctrinal aspect characterised by elborate cosmologies, theologies, initiatory and ritual patterns, and that is usually kept secretive; and the _wǔchǎng_ (武場 "martial field"), that is the body cultivation practice and that is usually the "public face" of the sect. They were outlawed by Ming imperial edicts that continued to be enforced until the fall of the Qing dynasty in the 20th century. An example of martial sect is Meihuaism (梅花教 _Méihuājiào_, "Plum Flowers"), that has become very popular throughout northern China. In Taiwan , virtually all of the "redemptive societies" operate freely since the late 1980s.

Tiandi Teachings

The Tiandi teachings is a religion that encompasses two branches, the Holy Church of the Heavenly Virtue (天德聖教 _Tiāndé shèngjiào_) and the Church of the Heavenly Deity (天帝教 _Tiāndìjiào_), both emerged from the techings of Xiao Changming and Li Yujie, disseminated in the early 20th century. The latter is actually an outgrowth of the former established in the 1980s.

The religions focus on the worship of _Tiandi_ (天帝), the "Heavenly Deity" or "Heavenly Emperor", on health through the proper cultivation of qi , and teach a style of qigong named _Tianren qigong_. According to scholars, Tiandi teachings derive from the Taoist tradition of Huashan , where Li Yujie studied for eight years. The Church of the Heavenly Deity is very active both in Taiwan and mainland China, where it has high-level links.


Main article: Weixinism

Weixinism (Chinese : 唯心聖教; pinyin : _Wéixīn shèngjiào_; literally: " Holy Religion of the Only Heart" or simply 唯心教; _Wéixīnjiào_) is a religion primarily focused on the "orthodox lineages of _ Yijing _ and feng shui ", the Hundred Schools of Thought , and worship of the "three great ancestors" (Huangdi , Yandi and Chiyou ). The movement promotes the restoration of the authentic roots of the Chinese civilization and Chinese reunification .

The Weixinist Church, which headquarters are in Taiwan, is also active in Mainland China in the key birthplaces of the Chinese culture. It has links with the government of Henan where it has established the "City of Eight Trigrams" templar complex on Yunmeng Mountain (of the Yan Mountains ), and it has also built temples in Hebei .


North And South Divides

_ The Temple of the Mother Goddess of the Yellow River (黃河女神 Huánghé Nǚshén_), a folk religious focus of a new residential suburb of the city of Qingtongxia , Ningxia , is possibly one of the biggest temples in China. Altar to Baoshengdadi , whose cult is mostly Fujianese and Taiwanese .

Vincent Goossaert has recently (2011) published a review of scholarly works which study "north China folk religion" as a distinct phenomenon. In contrast to the folk religion of southern and southeastern provinces which is primarily focused on the lineages and their churches (_zōngzú xiéhuì_ 宗族協會) focusing on ancestral gods, the folk religion of central-northern China (North China Plain ) predominantly hinges on the communal worship of tutelary deities of creation and nature as identity symbols by villages populated by families of different surnames, structured into "communities of the god(s)" (_shénshè_ 神社, or _huì_ 會, "association"), which organise temple ceremonies (_miaohui _ 廟會), involving processions and pilgrimages, and led by indigenous ritual masters (_fashi_) who are often hereditary and linked to secular authority.

Northern and southern folk religions also have a different pantheon , of which the northern one is composed of more ancient gods of Chinese mythology . Furthermore, folk religious sects have historically been more successful in the central plains and in the northeastern provinces than in southern China, and central-northern folk religion shares characteristics of some of the sects, such as the heavy importance of mother goddess worship and shamanism, as well as their scriptural transmission. :92 Confucian churches as well have historically found much resonance among the population of the northeast; in the 1930s the Universal Church of the Way and its Virtue alone aggregated at least 25% of the population of the state of Manchuria and contemporary Shandong has been analysed as an area of rapid growth of folk Confucian groups.

Along the southeastern coast, ritual functions of the folk religion are reportedly dominated by Taoism, both in registered and unregistered forms (Zhengyi Taoism and unrecognised _fashi_ orders), which since the 1990s has developed quickly in the area.

Goossaert talks of this distinction, although recognising it as an oversimplification, of a "Taoist south" and a "village-religion/Confucian centre-north", :47 with the northern context also characterised by important orders of "folk Taoist" ritual masters, one of which are the 陰陽生 _yīnyángshēng_ ("sages of yin and yang"), :86 and sectarian traditions, :92 and also by a low influence of Buddhism and official Taoism. :90

The folk religion of northeast China has unique characteristics deriving from the interaction of Han religion with Tungus and Manchu shamanisms ; these include _chūmǎxiān_ (出馬仙 "riding for the immortals") shamanism, the worship of foxes and other zoomorphic deities , and the Fox Gods (狐神 _Húshén_)—Great Lord of the Three Foxes (胡三太爺 _Húsān Tàiyé_) and the Great Lady of the Three Foxes (胡三太奶 _Húsān Tàinǎi_)—at the head of pantheons. Otherwise, in the religious context of Inner Mongolia there has been a significant integration of Han Chinese into the traditional folk religion of the region.

In recent years there has also been an assimilation of deities from Tibetan folk religion , especially wealth gods. In Tibet , across broader western China , and in Inner Mongolia , there has been a growth of the cult of Gesar with the explicit support of the Chinese government, a cross-ethnic Han-Tibetan, Mongol and Manchu deity (the Han identify him as an aspect of the god of war analogically with Guandi ) and culture hero whose mythology is embodied as a culturally important epic poem .

"Taoised" Indigenous Religions Of Ethnic Minorities

The pan-Chinese Sanxing (Three Star Gods) represented in Bai iconographic style at a Benzhu temple on Jinsuo Island, in Dali , Yunnan .

Chinese religion has both influenced, and in turn has been influenced by, indigenous religions of ethnic groups that the Han Chinese have encountered along their ethnogenetic history. Seiwert (1987) finds evidence of pre-Chinese religions in the folk religion of certain southeastern provinces such as Fujian and Taiwan, especially in the local _wu_ and lineages of ordained ritual masters. :44

A process of sinicization , or more appropriately a "Taoisation", is also the more recent experience of the indigenous religions of some distinct ethnic minorities of China , especially southwestern people. Chinese Taoists gradually penetrate within the indigenous religions of such peoples, in some cases working side by side with indigenous priests, in other cases taking over the latter's function and integrating them by requiring their ordination as Taoists. :45 Usually, indigenous ritual practices remain unaffected and are adopted into Taoist liturgy, while indigenous gods are identified with Chinese gods. :47 Seiwert discusses this phenomenon of "merger into Chinese folk religion" not as a mere elimination of non-Chinese indigenous religions, but rather as a cultural re-orientation. Local priests of southwestern ethnic minorities often acquire prestige by identifying themselves as Taoists and adopting Taoist holy texts. :47

Mou (2012) writes that " Taoism has formed an indissoluble bond" with indigenous religions of southwestern ethnic minorities, especially the Tujia, Yi and Yao . Seiwert mentions the Miao of Hunan . :45 "Daogongism" is Taoism among the Zhuang , directed by the _dàogōng_ (道公 "lords of the Tao") and it forms an established important aspect of the broader Zhuang folk religion .

On the other hand, it is also true that in more recent years there has been a general revival of indigenous lineages of ritual masters without identification of these as Taoists and support from the state Chinese Taoist Church. An example is the revival of lineages of _bimo_ ("scripture sages") priests among the Yi peoples. Bimoism has a tradition of theological literature and though clergy ordination, and this is among the reasons why it is taken in high consideration by the Chinese government. Bamo Ayi (2001) attests that "since the early 1980s minority policy turned away from promoting assimilation of Han ways". :118




Kuixing ("Chief Star"), the god of exams, composed of the characters describing the four Confucian virtues (Sìde_ 四德), standing on the head of the _ao_ (鰲) turtle (an expression for coming first in the examinations), and pointing at the Big Dipper (斗)".


Further information: Chinese gods and immortals

Chinese religions are polytheistic , meaning that many deities are worshipped as part of what has been defined as _yǔzhòu shénlùn_ (宇宙神論), translated as "cosmotheism ", a worldview in which divinity is inherent to the world itself. The gods (_shen _ 神; "growth", "beings that give birth" ) are interwoven energies or principles that generate phenomena which reveal or reproduce the way of Heaven, that is to say the order (_li _) of the Great One (_Tian _).

In Chinese tradition, there is not a clear distinction between the gods and their physical body or bodies (from stars to trees and animals); the qualitative difference between the two seems not to have ever been emphasised. Rather, the disparity is said to be more quantitative than qualitative. In doctrinal terms, the Chinese view of gods is related to the understanding of _qi _, the life force, as the gods and their phenomenal productions are manifestations of it. In this way, all natural bodies are believed to be able to attain supernatural attributes by acting according to the universal oneness. Meanwhile, acting wickedly (that is to say against the Tian and its order) brings to disgrace and disaster.

In folk religions, gods (_shen_) and immortals (_xian _ 仙) are not specifically distinguished from each other. Gods can incarnate in human form and human beings can reach immortality, which means to attain higher spirituality, since all the spiritual principles (gods) are begotten of the primordial _qi_ before any physical manifestation.

In the _ Doctrine of the Mean _, one of the Confucian four books, the _zhenren _ (wise) is the man who has achieved a spiritual status developing his true sincere nature. This status, in turn, enables him to fully develop the true nature of others and of all things. The sage is able to "assist the transforming and nourishing process of Heaven and Earth", forming a trinity (三才 _Sāncái_, the "Three Powers") with them. In other words, in the Chinese tradition humans are or can be the medium between Heaven and Earth, and have the role of completing what had been initiated.

Taoist schools in particular espouse an explicit spiritual pathway which pushes the earthly beings to the edge of eternity. Since the human body is a microcosm, enlivened by the universal order of yin and yang like the whole cosmos, the means of immortality can be found within oneself.

Among those worshipped as immortal heroes (_xian_, exalted beings) are historical individuals distinguished for their worth or bravery, those who taught crafts to others and formed societies establishing the order of Heaven, ancestors or progenitors (_zu_ 祖), and the creators of a spiritual tradition. The concept of "human divinity" is not self-contradictory, as there is no unbridgeable gap between the two realms; rather, the divine and the human are mutually contained.

In comparison with gods of an environmental nature, who tend to remain stable throughout human experience and history, individual human deities change in time. Some endure for centuries, while others remain localised cults, or vanish after a short time. Immortal beings are conceived as "constellations of qi ", which is so vibrant in certain historical individuals that, upon the person's death, this _qi_ nexus does not dissipate but persists, and is reinforced by living people's worship. The energetic power of a god is thought to reverberate on the worshipers influencing their fortune.

Deities And Immortals

Main altar and statue of Doumu inside the Temple of Doumu in Butterworth, Penang , Malaysia . Statue and ceremonial complex of the Yellow and Red Gods, from whom the Han Chinese are said to be the descendants , in Zhengzhou , Henan .

Gods and immortals (collectively 神仙 _shénxiān_) in the Chinese cultural tradition reflect a hierarchical, multiperspective experience of divinity. In Chinese language there is a terminological distinction between 神 _shén_, 帝 _dì_ and 仙 _xiān_. Although the usage of the former two is sometimes blurred, it corresponds to the distinction in Western cultures between "god" and "deity", Latin _genius _ (meaning a generative principle, "spirit") and _deus _ or _divus_; _dì_, sometimes translated as "thearch", implies a manifested or incarnate "godly" power. It is etymologically and figuratively analogous to the concept of _di_ as the base of a fruit, which falls and produces other fruits. This analogy is attested in the _ Shuowen jiezi _ explaining "deity" as "what faces the base of a melon fruit". The latter term 仙 _xiān_ unambiguously means a man who has reached immortality, similarly to the Western idea of "hero ".

Many classical books have lists and hierarchies of gods and immortals, among which the "Completed Record of Deities and Immortals" (神仙通鑒 _Shénxiān tōngjiàn_) of the Ming dynasty , and the " Biographies of Deities and Immortals " (神仙傳 _Shénxiān zhuán_) by Ge Hong (284-343). There's also the older _Liexian zhuan _ (列仙傳 "Collected Biographies of Immortals").

There are the great cosmic gods representing the first principle in its unmanifested state or its creative order— Yudi (玉帝 "Jade Deity") and Doumu (斗母 "Mother of the Meaning" or "Great Chariot"), Pangu (盤古, the macranthropic metaphor of the cosmos), Xiwangmu (西王母 "Queen Mother of the West") and Dongwanggong (東王公 "King Duke of the East") who personificate respectively the yin and the yang, as well as the dimensional Three Patrons and the Five Deities ; then there are the sky and weather gods, the scenery gods, the vegetal and animal gods, and gods of human virtues and crafts. These are interpreted in different ways in Taoism and folk sects , the former conferring them long kataphatic names. Below the great deities, there is the unquantifiable number of gods of nature, as every phenomena have or are gods.

The Three Patrons (三皇 _Sānhuáng_)— Fuxi , Nüwa and Shennong —are the "vertical" manifestation of the primordial God corresponding to the Three Realms (三界 _Sānjiè_), representing the yin and yang and the medium between them, that is the human being.

The Five Deities (五帝 _Wǔdì_) or "Five Forms of the Highest Deity" (五方上帝 _Wǔfāng Shàngdì_)—the Yellow, Green or Blue, Black , Red and White Deities —are the five "horizontal" manifestations of the primordial God and according with the Three Realms they have a celestial, a terrestrial and a chthonic form. They correspond to the five phases of creation , the five constellations rotating around the celestial pole , the five sacred mountains and the five directions of space (the four cardinal directions and the centre), and the five Dragon Gods (龍神 _Lóngshén_) which represent their mounts, that is to say the chthonic forces they preside over. Further information: Yellow God incarnation theology

The Yellow God (黃神 _Huángshén_) or " Yellow God of the Northern Dipper " (黃神北斗 _Huángshén Běidǒu_ ) is of peculiar importance, as he is a form of the universal God ( Tian or Shangdi ) symbolising the _axis mundi _ (Kunlun ), or the intersection between the Three Patrons and the Five Deities, that is the center of the cosmos. He is therefore described in the _Shizi _ as the "Yellow Emperor with Four Faces" (黃帝四面 _Huángdì Sìmiàn_). His human incarnation, the " Yellow Emperor (or Deity) of the Mysterious Origin" (軒轅黃帝 _Xuānyuán Huángdì_), is said to be the creator of the _ Huaxia _ civility, of marriage and morality, language and lineage, and patriarch of all the Chinese together with the Red Deity. Xuanyuan was the fruit of virginal birth, as his mother Fubao conceived him as she was aroused, while walking in the country, by a lightning from the Big Dipper.

Mother Goddess Worship

Shrine of Bixia at Mount Tai , Shandong .

The worship of mother goddesses for the cultivation of offspring is present all over China, but predominantly in northern provinces. There are nine main goddesses, and all of them tend to be considered as manifestations or attendant forces of a singular goddess identified variously as Bixia (碧霞 "Blue Dawn"), the daughter or female consort of the Green God of Mount Tai, or Houtu (后土 the "Queen of the Earth"). Bixia herself is identified by Taoists as the more ancient goddess Xiwangmu , Goddesses are commonly entitled _mǔ_ (母 "mother"), _lǎomǔ_ (老母 "old mother"), _shèngmǔ_ (聖母 "holy mother"), _niángniáng_ (娘娘 "lady"), _nǎinai_ (奶奶 "granny").

Altars of goddess worship are usually arranged with Bixia at the center and two goddesses at her sides, most frequently the Lady of Eyesight and the Lady of Offspring. A different figure but with the same astral connections as Bixia is the Qixing Niangniang (七星娘娘 "Goddess of the Seven Stars"). There is also the cluster of the Holy Mothers of the Three Skies (三霄聖母 _Sanxiao Shengmu_; or "Ladies of the Three Skies", 三霄娘娘 _Sanxiao Niangniang_), composed of _Yunxiao Guniang_, _Qiongxiao Guniang_ and _Bixiao Guniang_. In southeastern provinces the cult of Chen Jinggu (陳靖姑) is identified by some scholars as an emanation of the northern cult of Bixia.

There are other local goddesses with motherly features, including the northern Canmu (蠶母 "Silkworm Mother") and Mazu (媽祖 "Ancestral Mother"), popular in provinces along the eastern coast and in Taiwan. The title of "Queen of Heaven" (天后 _Tiānhòu_) is most frequently attributed to Mazu and Doumu (the cosmic goddess).


_ Procession with a traveling image of a god (xíngshén_ 行神) in central Taiwan . Vows to a deity at a Chinese temple in Vietnam . A Taoist rite for ancestor worship at the Xiao ancestral temple of Chaoyang , Shantou , Guangdong .

Adam Yuet Chau identifies five styles or modalities of "doing" Chinese religion:

* Discursive-scriptural: involving the composition, preaching, and recitation of texts (classics , Taoist scriptures and morality books); * Personal cultivation mode, involving a long-term cultivation and transformation of oneself with the goal of becoming a _xian _ 仙 (immortal), _zhenren _ 真人 ("true person"), or _shengren_ (wise), through the practice of different "technologies of the self" (_qigong _ 氣功, Taoist inner and outer alchemy , charitable acts for merit, memorisation and recitation of texts); * Liturgical: involving elaborate ritual procedures conducted by specialists of rites (Taoist rites, Confucian rites, Nuo rites, _fengshui _ 風水); * Immediate practical: aiming at quick efficacious (_ling_ 靈) results through simple ritual and magical techniques (divination , talismans , divine medicine, consulting media and shamans); * Relational: emphasising the devotional relationship between men and deities and among men themselves (organising elaborate sacrifices , making vows, organising temple festivals, pilgrimages , processions, and religious communities) in "social comings and goings" (_laiwang_ 來往) and "interconnectedness" (_guanxi _ 關係).

Generally speaking, the Chinese believe that spiritual and material well-being ensues from the harmony of humanity and gods in their participation in the same cosmic power, and also believe that by taking the right path and practice anybody is able to reach the absolute reality. Religious practice is therefore regarded as the bridge to link the human world to the spiritual source, maintaining the harmony of the micro and macrocosmos, protecting the individual and the world from disruption. In this sense, the Chinese view of human life is not deterministic, but one is a master of his own life and can choose to collaborate with the deities for a harmonious world. Chinese culture being a holistic system, in which every aspect is a part of a whole, Chinese folk religious practice is often intermingled with political, educational and economic concerns. A gathering or event may be encompassed with all of these aspects; in general, the commitment (belief) and the process or rite (practice) together form the internal and external dimensions of Chinese religious life. In village communities, religious services are often organised and led by local people themselves. Leaders are usually selected among male heads of families or lineages, or village heads.

A simple form of individual practice is to show respect for the gods (_jing shen_ 敬神) through _jingxiang _ (incense offering), and the exchange of vows (_huan yuan_ 還願). Sacrifice can consist of incense, oil, and candles, as well as money. Religious devotion may also express in the form of performance troupes (_huahui_), involving many types of professionals such as stilt walkers, lion dancers, musicians, martial arts masters, _yangge _ dancers, and story-tellers.

Deities can also be respected through moral deeds in their name (_shanshi_ 善事), and self-cultivation (_xiuxing_ 修行). Some forms of folk religion develop clear prescriptions for believers, such as detailed lists of meritorious and sinful deeds in the form of "morality books" (_shanshu_ 善書) and ledgers of merit and demerit. Involvement in the affairs of communal or intra-village temples are perceived by believers as ways for accumulating merit (_gongde_ 功德). Virtue is believed to accumulate in one's heart, which is seen as energetic centre of the human body (_zai jun xin zuo tian fu_ 在君心作福田). Practices of communication with the gods comprehend different forms of Chinese shamanism, such as _wu_ shamanism and _tongji_ mediumship , or _fuji _ practice.


Classical Chinese has characters for different types of sacrifice , probably the oldest way to communicate with divine forces, today generally encompassed by the definition _jìsì_ 祭祀. However different in scale and quantity, all types of sacrifice would normally involve food, wine, meat and later incense.

Sacrifices usually differ according to the kind of deity they are devoted to. Traditionally, cosmic and nature gods are offered uncooked (or whole) food, while ancestors are offered cooked food. Moreover, sacrifices for gods are made inside the temples that enshrine them, while sacrifices for ancestors are made outside temples. Yearly sacrifices (_ji_) are made to Confucius, the Red and Yellow Emperors, and other cultural heroes and ancestors.

Both in past history and at the present, all sacrifices are assigned with both religious and political purposes. Some gods are considered carnivorous, for example the River God (河神 _Héshén_) and Dragon Gods, and offering to them requires animal sacrifice.

Thanksgiving And Redeeming

The aims of rituals and sacrifices may be of thanksgiving and redeeming, usually involving both. Various sacrifices are intended to express gratitude toward the gods in the hope that spiritual blessing and protection will continue. The _jiào_ 醮, an elaborate Taoist sacrifice or "rite of universal salvation", is intended to be a cosmic community renewal, that is to say a reconciliation of a community around its spiritual centre. The _jiao_ ritual usually starts with _zhai_, "fasting and purification", that is meant as an atonement for evil-doing, then followed by sacrificial offerings.

This rite, of great political importance, can be intended for the whole nation. In fact, as early as the Song dynasty , emperors asked renowned Taoists to perform such rituals on their behalf or for the entire nation. The modern Chinese republic has given approval for Taoists to conduct such rituals since the 1990s, with the aim of protecting the country and the nation.

Rites Of Passage

_ Guan Li _, Confucian coming of age ceremony.

A variety of practices are concerned with personal well-being and spiritual growth. Rites of passage are intended to narrate the holy significance of each crucial change throughout a life course. These changes, which are physical and social and at the same time spiritual, are marked by elaborate customs and religious rituals.

In the holistic view about nature and the human body and life, as macro and microcosmos, the life process of a human being is equated with the rhythm of seasons and cosmic changes. Hence, birth is likened to spring, youth to summer, maturity to autumn and old age to winter. There are ritual passages for those who belong to a religious order of priests or monks, and there are the rituals of the stages in a life, the main four being birth, adulthood, marriage and death.


_ ① 玉皇廟 Yùhuángmiào_ _ ② 太母聖殿 Tàimǔ shèngdiàn_ Examples of temples from two different parts of China: ① the Temple of the Jade King in Qingshui , Tianshui , Gansu ; and ② the Holy Temple of the Highest Mother in Fuding , Ningde , Fujian . See also: Chinese temple

Chinese language has a variety of words defining the temples of the Chinese religion. Some of these terms have a precise functional use, although with time some confusion has arisen and some of them have been used interchangeably in some contexts. Collective names defining "temples" or places of worship are 寺廟 _sìmiào_ and 廟宇 _miàoyǔ_.

However, 寺 _sì_ which originally meant a type of residence for imperial officials, with the introduction of Buddhism in China became associated with Buddhist monasteries as many officials donated their residences to the monks. Today _sì_ and 寺院 _sìyuàn_ ("monastery") are used almost exclusively for Buddhist monasteries, with sporadic exceptions, and _sì_ is a component character of names for Chinese mosques . Another term now mostly associated with Buddhism is 庵 _ān_, "thatched hut", originally a form of dwelling of monks later extended to mean monasteries.

Temples can be public, private (私廟 _sìmiào_) and household temples (家廟 jiāmiào). The _jing_ 境 is a broader "territory of a god", a geographic region or a village or city with its surroundings, marked by multiple temples or complexes of temples and delineated by the processions.

Pertaining to Chinese religion the most common term is 廟 _miào_ graphically meaning a "shrine" or "sacred enclosure"; it is the general Chinese term that is translated with the general Western "temple ", and is used for temples of any of the deities of polytheism. Other terms include 殿 _diàn_ which indicates the "house" of a god, enshrining one specific god, usually a chapel within a larger temple or sacred enclosure; and 壇 _tán_ which means "altar " and refers to any indoor or outdoor altars, majestic outdoor altars being those for the worship of Heaven and Earth and other gods of the environment. 宮 _Gōng_, originally referring to imperial palaces, became associated to temples of representations of the universal God or the highest gods and consorts, such as the Queen of Heaven.

Another group of words is used for the temples of ancestral religion : 祠 _cí_ (either "temple" or "shrine", meaning a sacred enclosure) or 宗祠 _zōngcí_ ("ancestor shrine"). These terms are also used for temples dedicated to immortal beings . 祖廟 _Zǔmiào_ ("original temple") instead refers to a temple which is believed to be the original temple of a deity, the most legitimate and powerful.

堂 _Táng_, meaning "hall" or "church hall", originally referred to the central hall of secular buildings but it entered religious usage as a place of worship of the folk religious sects . Christianity in China has borrowed this term from the sects.

觀 _Guàn_ is the appropriate Chinese translation of the Western term "temple", as both refer to "contemplation " (of the divine, according to the astral patterns in the sky or the icon of a deity). Together with its extension 道觀 _dàoguàn_ ("to contemplate or observe the Dao"), it is used exclusively for Taoist temples and monasteries of the state Taoist Church .

Generic terms include 院 _yuàn_ meaning "sanctuary", from the secular usage for a courtyard, college or hospital institution; 岩 _yán_ ("rock") and 洞 _dòng_ ("hole", "cave") referring to temples set up in caves or on cliffs. Other generic terms are 府 _fǔ_ ("house"), originally of imperial officials, which is a rarely used term; and 亭 _tíng_ ("pavilion") which refers to the areas of a temple where laypeople can stay. There is also 神祠 _shéncí_, "shrine of a god".

Ancestral shrines are sacred places in which lineages of related families, identified by shared surnames , worship their common progenitors. These temples are the "collective representation" of a group, and function as centers where religious, social and economic activities intersect.

Chinese temples are traditionally built according to the styles and materials (wood and bricks) of Chinese architecture , and this continues to be the rule for most of the new temples. However, in the early 20th century and especially in the mainland religious revival of the early 21st century, there has been a proliferation of new styles in temple construction. These include the use of new materials (stones and concrete, stainless steel and glass) and the combination of Chinese traditional shapes with styles of the West or of transnational modernity. Examples can be found in the large ceremonial complexes of mainland China.

Temple Networks And Gatherings

Gathering at a Temple of the City God of Guangzhou , Guangdong. Main articles: Fengxiang and Miaohui

分香 _Fēnxiāng_, meaning an "incense division", is a term that defines both hierarchical networks of temples dedicated to a god, and the ritual process by which these networks form. These temple networks are economic and social bodies, and in certain moments of history have even taken military functions. They also represent routes of pilgrimage , with communities of devotees from the affiliated temples going up in the hierarchy to the senior temple (_zumiao_).

When a new temple dedicated to the same god is founded, it enters the network through the ritual of division of incense. This consists in filling the incense burner of the new temple with ashes brought from the incense burner of an existing temple. The new temple is therefore spiritually affiliated to the older temple where the ashes were taken, and directly below it in the hierarchy of temples.

廟會 _Miàohuì_, literally "gatherings at the temple", are "collective rituals to greet the gods" (迎神賽會 _yíngshén sàihuì_) that are held at the temples on various occasione such as the Chinese New Year or the birthday or holiday of the god enshrined in the temple. In north Chine they are also called 賽會 _sàihuì_ ("communal ritual gatherings") or 香會 _xiānghuì_ ("incense gatherings"), while a 賽社 _sàishè_ ("communal ritual body") is the association which organises such events and by extension it has become another name of the event itself.

Activities include rituals, theatrical performances, processions of the gods' images throughout villages and cities, and offerings to the temples. In north China temple gatherings are generally week-long and large events attracting tens of thousands of people, while in south China they tend to be smaller and village-based events.



_ Temple of the Founding Father (師祖殿 Shīzǔdiàn_) of the principal holy see (聖地 _shèngdì_) of the Plum Flower folk religious sect in Xingtai , Hebei .

According to Yang and Hu (2012): « Chinese folk religion deserves serious research and better understanding in the social scientific study of religion. This is not only because of the sheer number of adherents—several times more adherents than Christians and Buddhists combined, but also because folk religion may have significant social and political functions in China's transition.»

According to their research, 55.5% of the adult population (15+) of China, or 578 million people in absolute numbers, believe and practice folk religions, including a 20% who practice ancestor religion or communal worship of deities, and the rest who practice what Yang and Hu define "individual" folk religions like devotion to specific gods such as Caishen . Members of folk religious sects are not taken into account. Around the same year, Kenneth Dean estimates 680 million people involved in folk religion, or 51% of the total population. At the same time, self-identified folk religion believers in Taiwan are 42.7% of the adult (20+) population, or 16 million people in absolute numbers, although devotion to ancestors and gods can be found even among other religions' believers or 88% of the population. According to the 2005 census of Taiwan, Taoism is the statistical religion of 33% of the population.

The Chinese Spiritual Life Survey conducted by the Center on Religion and Chinese Society of Purdue University , published in 2010, found that 754 million people (56.2%) practice ancestor religion, but only 216 million people (16%) "believe in the existence" of the ancestor. The same survey says that 173 million (13%) practice Chinese folk religion in a Taoist framework.

The Chinese Family Panel Studies ' survey of 2012, published in 2014, based on the Chinese General Social Surveys which are held on robust samples of tens of thousands of people, found that only 12.6% of the population of China belongs to its five state-sanctioned religious groups , while among the rest of the population only 6.3% are atheists , and the remaining 81% (1 billion people) pray to or worship gods and ancestors in the manner of the traditional popular religion. The same survey has found that 2.2% (≈30 million) of the total population declares to be affiliated to one or another of the many folk religious sects . At the same time, reports of the Chinese government claim that the sects have about the same number of followers of the five state-sanctioned religions counted together (~13% ≈180 million).

Economy Of Temples And Rituals

Folk temple on the rooftop of a commercial building in the city of Wenzhou.

Scholars have studied the economic dimension of Chinese folk religion, which rituals and temples interweave a form of grassroots socio-economic capital for the well-being of local communities, fostering the circulation of wealth and its investment in the "sacred capital" of temples, gods and ancestors.

This religious economy already played a role in periods of imperial China, plays a significant role in modern Taiwan , and is seen as a driving force in the rapid economic development in parts of rural China , especially the southern and eastern coasts.

According to Law (2005), in his study about the relationship between the revival of folk religion and the recostruction of patriarchal civilisation: «Similar to the case in Taiwan, the practice of folk religion in rural southern China, particularly in the Pearl River Delta, has thrived as the economy has developed. In contrast to Weberian predictions, these phenomena suggest that drastic economic development in the Pearl River Delta may not lead to total disenchantment with beliefs concerning magic in the cosmos. On the contrary, the revival of folk religions in the Delta region is serving as a countervailing re-embedding force from the local cultural context, leading to the coexistence of the world of enchantments and the modern world.»

Yang Mayfair (2007) defines it as an "embedded capitalism", which preserves local identity and autonomy, and an "ethical capitalism" in which the drive for individual accumulation of money is tempered by religious and kinship ethics of generosity which foster the sharing and investment of wealth in the construction of civil society.


Temple of Mazu in Yokohama , serving the Chinese of Japan . Main article: Shenism in Southeast Asia

Most of the overseas Chinese populations have maintained Chinese folk religions, often adapting to the new environment by developing new cults and incorporating elements of local traditions. In Southeast Asia , Chinese deities are subject to a "re-territorialisation" and maintain their relation to the ethnic associations (i.e. the Hainanese Association or the Fujianese Association, each of them has a patron deity and manages one or more temples of such a deity).

The most important deity among Southeast Asian Chinese is Mazu , the Queen of Heaven and goddess of the sea. This is related to the fact that most of these Chinese populations are from southeastern provinces of China, where the goddess is very popular. Some folk religious sects have spread successfully among Southeast Asian Chinese. They include especially Church of Virtue (Deism), Zhenkongdao and Yiguandao .


* Chinese gods and immortals * Chinese ritual mastery traditions * Chinese shamanism * Chinese theology * Confucianism Confucian church * Northeast China folk religion * Nuo folk religion * Taoism

By place

* Chinese temples in Kolkata * Shenism in Southeast Asia

Other similar national traditions

* Japanese Shinto * Korean shamanism * Vietnamese folk religion

Other Sino-Tibetan ethnic religions

* Benzhuism * Bimoism * Bon * Dongbaism * Qiang folk religion

Other non-Sino-Tibetan ethnic religions present in China

* Manchu shamanism * Mongolian shamanism * Miao folk religion * Tengrism * Yao folk religion * Zhuang folk religion

Other articles

* Religion in China * Ancestor worship * Buddhism —Chinese Buddhism * Chinese creation myth * Chinese mythology * Chinese spiritual world concepts * Ethnic religion * Feng shui * Religious goods store * Tian


* ^ The graphical etymology of _Tian_ 天 as "Great One" (_Dà yī_ 大一), and the phonetical etymology as _diān_ 顛, were first recorded by Xu Shen . John C. Didier in _In and Outside the Square_ (2009) for the _ Sino-Platonic Papers _ discusses different etymologies which trace the character _Tian_ 天 to the astral square or its ellipted forms, _dīng_ 口, representing the north celestial pole (pole star and Big Dipper revolving around it; historically a symbol of the absolute source of the universal reality in many cultures), which is the archaic (Shang ) form of _dīng_ 丁 ("square"). Gao Hongjin and other scholars trace the modern word _Tian_ to the Shang pronunciation of 口 _dīng_ (that is _*teeŋ_). This was also the origin of Shang's _Dì_ 帝 ("Deity"), and later words meaning something "on high" or "top", including 頂 _dǐng_. The modern graph for _Tian_ 天 would derive from a Zhou version of the Shang archaic form of _Dì_ 帝 (from Shang oracle bone script → _ , which represents a fish entering the astral square); this Zhou version represents a being with a human-like body and a head-mind informed by the astral pole (→ ). Didier furtherly links the Chinese astral square and Tian_ or _Di_ characters to other well-known symbols of God or divinity as the northern pole in key ancient cultural centres: the Harappan and Vedic - Aryan spoked wheels , crosses and hooked crosses (Chinese _wàn_ 卍/卐), and the Mesopotamian _ Dingir _ _ . Jixu Zhou (2005), also in the Sino-Platonic Papers_, connects the etymology of _Dì_ 帝, Old Chinese _*Tees_, to the Indo-European _ Deus _, God .

* ^ _A_ _B_ _Tian_, besides _Taidi_ ("Great Deity") and _ Shangdi _ ("Highest Deity"), _ Yudi _ ("Jade Deity"), simply _Shen_ 神 ("God"), and _Taiyi_ ("Great Oneness") as identified as the ladle of the _Tiānmén _ 天門 ("Gate of Heaven", the Big Dipper), is defined by many other names attested in the Chinese literary, philosophical and religious tradition:

* _Tiānshén_ 天神, the " God of Heaven", interpreted in the _ Shuowen jiezi _ (說文解字) as "the being that gives birth to all things"; * _Shénhuáng_ 神皇, " God the King", attested in _Taihong_ ("The Origin of Vital Breath"); * _Tiāndì_ 天帝, the " Deity of Heaven" or "Emperor of Heaven". * A popular Chinese term is _Lǎotiānyé_ (老天爺), "Old Heavenly Father".

_Tian_ is both transcendent and immanent , manifesting in the three forms of dominance, destiny and nature. In the _Wujing yiyi_ (五經異義, "Different Meanings in the Five Classics "), Xu Shen explains that the designation of Heaven is quintuple:

* _Huáng Tiān_ 皇天 —"Yellow Heaven" or "Shining Heaven", when it is venerated as the lord of creation; * _Hào Tiān_ 昊天—"Vast Heaven", with regard to the vastness of its vital breath (_qi_); * _Mín Tiān_ 昊天—"Compassionate Heaven" for it hears and corresponds with justice to the all-under-heaven; * _Shàng Tiān_ 上天—"Highest Heaven" or "First Heaven", for it is the primordial being supervising all-under-heaven; * _Cāng Tiān_ 蒼天—"Deep-Green Heaven", for it being unfathomably deep.

* ^ _A_ _B_ The characters _yu_ 玉 (jade), _huang_ 皇 (emperor, sovereign, august), _wang_ 王 (king), as well as others pertaining to the same semantic field, have a common denominator in the concept of _gong_ 工 (work, art, craft, artisan, bladed weapon, square and compass; gnomon , "interpreter") and _wu _ 巫 (shaman, medium) in its archaic form _ , with the same meaning of wan_ 卍 (_swastika _, ten thousand things, all being, universe). The character _dì_ 帝 is rendered as "deity" or "emperor" and describes a divine principle that exerts a fatherly dominance over what it produces. A king is a man or an entity who is able to merge himself with the _axis mundi _, the centre of the universe , bringing its order into reality. The ancient kings or emperors of the Chinese civilisation were shamans or priests, that is to say mediators of the divine rule. The same Western terms "king" and "emperor" traditionally meant an entity capable to embody the divine rule: _king_ etymologically means "gnomon", "generator", while _emperor_ means "interpreter", "one who makes from within". * ^ In common Chinese cosmology, the world isn't created _ex nihilo_ from an external god, but evolves from the primordial chaos (_ Hundun _). One way this has been commonly expressed is in terms of the _Taiji _ symbol of yin and yang. The outer circle represents the primordial chaos out of which spontaneously emerges the fundamental polarity of yin (dark) and yang (light), which then produce the "myriad things" or "ten thousand things" (_wàn_ 卍) by combination and recombination." * ^ Temples are usually built in accordance with _feng shui _ methods, which hold that any thing needs to be arranged in equilibrium with the surrounding world in order to thrive. Names of holy spaces often describe, poetically , their collocation within the world. * ^ The _po_ can be compared with the _psyche _ or _thymos _ of the Greek philosophy and tradition, while the _hun_ with the _pneuma _ or "immortal soul". * ^ _A_ _B_ By the words of the Han dynasty scholar Dong Zhongshu: "Heaven, Earth and humankind are the foundations of all living things. Heaven engenders all living things, Earth nourishes them, and humankind completes them." In the _ Daodejing _: " Tao is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. And the king is also great." The concept of the Three Powers / Agents / Ultimates is furtherly discussed in Confucian commentaries of the _ Yijing _. * ^ The White Sulde (White Spirit) is one of the two spirits of Genghis Khan (the other being the Black Sulde), represented either as his white or yellow horse or as a fierce warrior riding this horse. In its interior, the temple enshrines a statue of Genghis Khan (at the center) and four of his men on each side (the total making nine, a symbolic number in Mongolian culture), there is an altar where offerings to the godly men are made, and three white suldes made with white horse hair. From the central sulde there are strings which hold tied light blue pieces of cloth with a few white ones. The wall is covered with all the names of the Mongol kins. The Chinese worship Genghis as the ancestral god of the Yuan dynasty . * ^ The main axis of the Taoist Temple of Fortune and Longevity (福壽觀 _Fúshòuguān_) has a Temple of the Three Patrons (三皇殿 _Sānhuángdiàn_) and a Temple of the Three Purities (三清殿 _Sānqīngdiàn_, the orthodox gods of Taoist theology). Side chapels include a Temple of the God of Wealth (財神殿 _Cáishéndiàn_), a Temple of the Lady (娘娘殿 _Niángniángdiàn_), a Temple of the Eight Immortals (八仙殿 _Bāxiāndiàn_), and a Temple of the ( God of) Thriving Culture (文昌殿 _Wénchāngdiàn_). The Fushou Temple belongs to the Taoist Church and was built in 2005 on the site of a former Buddhist temple, the Iron Tiles Temple, which stood there until it was destituted and destroyed in 1950. Part of the roof tiles of the new temples are from the ruins of the former temple excavated in 2002. * ^ Overmyer (2009, p. 73), says that from the late 19th to the 20th century few professional priests (i.e. licensed Taoists) were involved in local religion in the central and northern provinces of China, and discusses various types of folk ritual specialists including: the _yuehu_ 樂戶, the _zhuli_ 主禮 (p. 74), the _shenjia_ 神家 ("godly families", hereditary specialists of gods and their rites; p. 77), then (p. 179) the _yinyang_ or _fengshui_ masters (as " folk Zhengyi Daoists of the Lingbao scriptural tradition, living as ordinary peasants. They earn their living both as a group from performing public rituals, and individually by doing geomancy and calendrical consultations for _fengshui_ and auspicious days"; quoting: S. Jones (2007), _ Ritual and Music of North China: Shawm Bands in Shanxi_). He also describes shamans or media known by different names: _mapi_ 馬裨, _wupo_ 巫婆, _shen momo_ 神嬤嬤 or _shen han_ 神漢 (p. 87); _xingdao de_ 香道的 ("practitioners of the incense way"; p. 85); village _xiangtou_ 香頭 ("incense heads"; p. 86); _matong_ 馬童 (the same as southern _jitong _), either _wushen_ 巫神 (possessed by gods) or _shenguan_ 神官 (possessed by immortals; pp. 88-89); or "godly sages" (_shensheng_ 神聖; p. 91). Further (p. 76), he discusses for example the _sai_ 賽, ceremonies of thanksgiving to the gods in Shanxi with roots in the Song era , which leaders very often corresponded to local political authorities. This pattern continues today with former village Communist Party secretaries elected as temple association bosses (p. 83). He concludes (p. 92): "In sum, since at least the early twentieth century the majority of local ritual leaders in north China have been products of their own or nearby communities. They have special skills in organization, ritual performance or interaction with the gods, but none are full-time ritual specialists; they have all ‘kept their day jobs’! As such they are exemplars of ordinary people organizing and carrying out their own cultural traditions, persistent traditions with their own structure, functions and logic that deserve to be understood as such." * ^ The image is a good synthesis of the basic virtues of Chinese religion and Confucian ethics, that is to say "to move and act according to the harmony of Heaven". The Big Dipper or Great Chariot in Chinese culture (as in other traditional cultures) is a symbol of the _axis mundi _, the source of the universe (God, _Tian_) in its way of manifestation, order of creation (_li_ or _Tao_). The symbol, also called the Gate of Heaven (天門 _Tiānmén_), is widely used in esoteric and mystical literature. For example, an excerpt from Shangqing Taoism 's texts: "Life and death, separation and convergence, all derive from the seven stars. Thus when the Big Dipper impinges on someone, he dies, and when it moves, he lives. That is why the seven stars are Heaven's chancellor, the yamen where the gate is opened to give life." * ^ The term "thearch" is from Greek _theos_ ("deity"), with _arche _ ("principle", "origin"), thus meaning "divine principle", "divine origin". In sinology it has been used to designate the incarnated gods who, according to Chinese tradition, sustain the world order and originated China. It is one of the alternating translations of 帝 _dì_, together with "emperor" and "god". * ^ The natural order emanating from the primordial God (Tian-Shangdi) inscribing and designing worlds as _tán_ 壇, "altar", the Chinese concept equivalent of the Indian _mandala _. _ The traditional Chinese religious cosmology shows Huangdi, embodiment of Shangdi, as the hub of the universe and the Wudi (four gods of the directions and the seasons) as his emanations. The diagram illustrated above is based on the Huainanzi _. * ^ A 斗 _dǒu_ in Chinese is an entire semantic field meaning the shape of a "dipper", as the Big Dipper (北斗 _Běidǒu_), or a "cup", signifying a "whirl", and also has martial connotations meaning "fight", "struggle", "battle". * ^ Temples of the Jade Deity, a representation of the universal God in popular religion, are usually built on raised artificial platforms. * ^ Scholar Kenneth Dean estimates 680 million people involved in folk temples and rituals. Quote: «According to Dean, "in the rural sector... if one takes a rough figure of 1000 people per village living in 680,000 administrative villages and assume an average of two or three temples per village, one arrives at a figure of over 680 million villagers involved in some way with well over a million temples and their rituals".» * ^ However, there is considerable discrepancy between what Chinese and Western cultures intend with the concepts of "belief", "existence" and "practice". The Chinese folk religion is often considered one of "belonging" rather than "believing" (see: Fan, Chen 2013. p. 5.)



* ^ Brown, Melissa J.; Feldman, Marcus W. (2009). "Sociocultural epistasis and cultural exaptation in footbinding, marriage form, and religious practices in early 20th-century Taiwan". _Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America_. 106 (52): 22139–22144. doi :10.1073/pnas.0907520106 . * ^ Teiser (1995) , p. 378. * ^ Overmyer (1986) , p. 51. * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 5-6 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 21 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 23 * ^ Adler (2011) , p. 13. * ^ _A_ _B_ Teiser, 1996. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Thien Do, 2003, pp. 10-11 * ^ Madsen, Richard (October 2010). "The Upsurge of Religion in China" (PDF). _Journal of Democracy_. 21 (4): 64–65. * ^ Gaenssbauer (2015) , p. 28-37. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Zhuo Xinping, "Relationship between Religion and State in the People’s Republic of China,_in Religions & Christianity in Today\'s China_.IV.1 (2014) ISSN 2192-9289 . pp. 22-23 * ^ Sautman, 1997. pp. 80-81 * ^ Adam Yuet Chau. _The Policy of Legitimation and the Revival of Popular Religion in Shaanbei, North-Central China_._Modern China_. 31.2, 2005. pp. 236-278 * ^ Clart, 2014. p. 393. Quote: " The problem started when the Taiwanese translator of my paper chose to render "popular religion" literally as _minjian zongjiao_ 民間宗教. The immediate association this term caused in the minds of many Taiwanese and practically all mainland Chinese participants in the conference was of popular sects (_minjian jiaopai_ 民間教派), rather than the local and communal religious life that was the main focus of my paper." * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 397. * ^ Wang (2011) , p. 3. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 399-401. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 402. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 402-406. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 409. * ^ Shi (2008) . * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 409, note 35. * ^ Douglas Howland. _Borders of Chinese Civilization: Geography and History at Empire’s End_. Duke University Press, 1996. ISBN 0822382032 . p. 179 * ^ Shi (2008) , p. 158-159. * ^ _Commentary on Judgment_ about _Yijing_ 20, _Guan_ ("Viewing"): "Viewing the Way of the Gods (_Shendao_), one finds that the four seasons never deviate, and so the sage establishes his teachings on the basis of this Way, and all under Heaven submit to him". * ^ Herman Ooms. _Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800_. University of Hawaii Press, 2009. ISBN 0824832353 . p. 166 * ^ Brian Bocking. _A Popular Dictionary of Shinto_. Routledge, 2005. ASIN: B00ID5TQZY p. 129 * ^ Stuart D. B. Picken. _Essentials of Shinto: An Analytical Guide to Principal Teachings_. Resources in Asian Philosophy and Religion. Greenwood, 1994. ISBN 0313264317 p. xxi * ^ John W. Dardess. _Ming China, 1368-1644: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire_. Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. ISBN 1442204915 . p. 26 * ^ J. J. M. de Groot. _ Religion in China: Universism a Key to the Study of Taoism and Confucianism_. 1912. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 405. * ^ _A_ _B_ Clart (2014) , p. 408. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 407. * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 408-409. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 5 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Wang, 2004. pp. 60-61 * ^ Fenggang Yang, _Social Scientific Studies of Religion in China: Methodologies, Theories, and Findings_ . BRILL, 2011. ISBN 9004182462 . p. 112 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 4. * ^ Tu Weiming. _The Global Significance of Concrete Humanity: Essays on the Confucian Discourse in Cultural China_. India Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2010. ISBN 8121512204 / 9788121512206 * ^ Madsen, _Secular belief, religious belonging_. 2013. * ^ Yang & Hu (2012) , p. 507. * ^ Yang & Hu (2012) , pp. 507-508. * ^ _A_ _B_ Overmyer (2009) , p. 36-37. * ^ Martin-Dubost, Paul (1997), _Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds_, Mumbai: Project for Indian Cultural Studies, ISBN 8190018434 . p. 311 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 9 * ^ Overmyer (2009) , p. 43. * ^ Overmyer (2009) , p. 45. * ^ Overmyer (2009) , p. 46. * ^ _A_ _B_ Overmyer (2009) , p. 50. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Overmyer (2009) , p. 51. * ^ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 1 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 8 * ^ Overmyer (2009) , p. 52. * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 28 * ^ Jansen (2012) , p. 288. * ^ Jansen (2012) , p. 289. * ^ Holloway, Kenneth. _Guodian: The Newly Discovered Seeds of Chinese Religious and Political Philosophy_. Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 0199707685 * ^ Didier, 2009. Represented in vol. III, discussed throughout vols. I, II, and III. * ^ Didier, 2009. Vol. III, p. 1 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Didier, 2009. Vol. III, pp. 3-6 * ^ Didier, 2009. Vol. II, p. 100 * ^ Didier, 2009. Vol. III, p. 7 * ^ Didier, 2009. Vol. III, p. 256 * ^ Didier, 2009. Vol. III, p. 261 * ^ Zhou, 2005. _passim_ * ^ Adler, 2011. p. 4 * ^ _A_ _B_ Adler, 2011. p. 5 * ^ John Lagerwey, Marc Kalinowski. _Early Chinese Religion I: Shang Through Han (1250 BC-220 AD)_. Two volumes. Brill, 2008. ISBN 9004168354 . p. 240 * ^ Lu, Gong. 2014. pp. 63-66 * ^ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 65 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Libbrecht, 2007. p. 43 * ^ Chang, 2000. * ^ _A_ _B_ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 64 * ^ Mark Lewis. _Writing and Authority in Early China_. SUNY Press, 1999. ISBN 0791441148 . pp. 205-206. * ^ Didier, 2009. Vol. III, p. 268 * ^ Joseph Needham. _Science and Civilisation in China _. Vol. III. p. 23 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 71 * ^ Adler, 2011. pp. 12-13 * ^ _A_ _B_ Teiser (1996) , p. 29. * ^ _A_ _B_ Adler, 2011. p. 21 * ^ Teiser (1996) , p. 30. * ^ _A_ _B_ Adler, 2011. p. 13 * ^ Adler, 2011. p. 22 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Adler, 2011. p. 16 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Adler, 2011. p. 14 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Teiser (1996) , p. 31. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ Teiser (1996) , p. 32. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Zongqi Cai, 2004. p. 314 * ^ Adler, 2011. p. 17 * ^ Adler, 2011. p. 15 * ^ Adler, 2011. pp. 15-16 * ^ Adler, 2011. p. 19 * ^ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 68 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 69 * ^ Adler, 2011. pp. 19-20 * ^ Sautman, 1997. p. 78 * ^ _A_ _B_ Yao, 2010. p. 162, p. 165 * ^ Yao, 2010. pp. 158-161 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Yao, 2010. p. 159 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Yao, 2010. pp. 162-164 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ Yao, 2010. p. 164 * ^ Yao, 2010. p. 166 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 25 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 26 * ^ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 24 * ^ Fan, Chen 2013. pp. 26-27 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 27 * ^ Thien Do, 2003, p. 9 * ^ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 179-183 * ^ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 183-184 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ _J_ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 184 * ^ Zavidovskaya, 2013. p. 184 * ^ _A_ _B_ Yao, 2010. p. 168 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 185 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 183 * ^ Wu (2014) , p. 11, and note 1. * ^ _A_ _B_ Overmyer (2009) , p. xii. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Mao, Zedong; Reynolds Schram, Stuart; Hodes, Nancy Jane (1992). _Mao's Road to Power: From the Jinggangshan to the establishment of the Jiangxi Soviets, July 1927-December 1930_. M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 156324439X . p. 353-354 * ^ Fujian Government's website: Fujian\'s General Information. Quote: "_At present, major religions practiced in Fujian include Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. In addition, Fujian has its folk belief with deeply local characteristic, such as Mazuism, the belief in Mazu, (which) is very influential_". * ^ Fan Lizhu. _The Cult of the Silkworm Mother as a Core of a Local Community Religion in a North China Village: Field Study in Zhiwuying, Baoding, Hebei_. The China Quarterly No. 174 (Jun. 2003), 360. * ^ Chau (2005) , p. 50. Discussing folk religion in Shanbei : «There were very few ancestral halls in the past in Shaanbei and none have been revived in the reform era, although there are isolated instances of the rewriting of lineage genealogies. Shaanbei people have never had domestic ancestral altars (except perhaps a few gentry families who might have brought this tradition from the South), even though in the past, as was common in North China, they kept collective ancestral tablets (_shenzhu_) or large cloth scrolls with drawings of ancestral tablets that they used during special occasions such as during the Lunar New Year's ancestral worship ceremony. There are visits to the graves of the immediate ancestors a few times a year on prescribed occasions such as the Cold Food (_hanshi_) / Clear and Bright (_qingming_) (Third Month Ninth) but Shaanbei people do not believe that their ancestors' souls are active forces capable of protecting, benefiting or troubling the living.» * ^ _A_ _B_ Wu (2014) , p. 20. Quote: « southern China refers to Fujian and Guangdong province and in some cases is expanded to include Guangxi, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces. Historically speaking, these areas had the strong lineage organizations and the territorial cult, compared to the rest of China in the late imperial period. These areas not only were the first to revive lineage and the territorial cult in the reform era, but also have the intensity and scale of revivals that cannot be matched by the other part of China. This phenomena is furthered referred as the southern model, based on the south-vs.-north model. The north model refers to the absence of landholding cooperative lineages that exist in the south.» Note 16: The south-vs.-north model comparison has been the thrust of historical and anthropological research. Cohen’s article on “Lineage organization in North China (1990)” offers the best summary on the contrast between the north model and the south model. He calls the north China model “the fixed genealogical mode of agnatic kinship.” By which, he means “patrilineal ties are figured on the basis of the relative seniority of descent lines so that the unity of the lineage as a whole is based upon a ritual focus on the senior descent line trace back to the founding ancestor, his eldest son, and the succession of eldest sons.” (ibid: 510) In contrast, the south China model is called “the associational mode of patrilineal kinship.” In this mode, all lines of descent are equal. “Access to corporate resources held by a lineage or lineage segment is based upon the equality of kinship ties asserted in the associational mode.” However, the distinction between the north and the south model is somewhat arbitrary. Some practices of the south model are found in north China. Meanwhile, the so-call north model is not exclusive to north China. The set of characteristics of the north model (a distinctive arrangement of cemeteries, graves, ancestral scrolls, ancestral tablets, and corporate groups linked to a characteristic annual ritual cycle) is not a system. In reality, lineage organizations display a mixture between the south and the north model.» * ^ _A_ _B_ Overmyer, 2009. pp. 12-13: "As for the physical and social structure of villages on this vast flat expanse; they consist of close groups of houses built on a raised area, surrounded by their fields, with a multi-surnamed population of families who own and cultivate their own land, though usually not much more than twenty _mou_ or about three acres. Families of different surnames living in one small community meant that lineages were not strong enough to maintain lineage shrines and cross-village organizations, so, at best, they owned small burial plots and took part only in intra-village activities. The old imperial government encouraged villages to manage themselves and collect and hand over their own taxes. leaders were responsible for settling disputes, dealing with local government, organizing crop protection and planning for collective ceremonies. All these factors tended to strengthen the local protective deities and their temples as focal points of village identity and activity. This social context defines North China local religion, and keeps us from wandering off into vague discussions of ‘popular’ and ‘elite’ and relationships with Daoism and Buddhism." * ^ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 13 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. pp. 14-15 * ^ Fan, Chen 2013. pp. 15 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. pp. 16 * ^ Mair, Victor H.; Steinhardt, Nancy Shatzman; Goldin, Paul Rakita (2005). _Hawai\'i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture_. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0824827856 . , p. 99 * ^ De Groot (1892) , pp. _passim_ vol. 6. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Andreea Chirita. _Antagonistic Discourses on Shamanic Folklore in Modern China_. On: _Annals of Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University_, issue 1, 2014. * ^ Kun Shi. _Shamanistic Studies in China: A Preliminary Survey of the Last Decade_. On: _Shaman_, vol. 1, nos. 1-2. Ohio State University, 1993, updated in 2006. pp. 104-106 * ^ Li (2016) . * ^ Littlejohn, 2010. pp. 35-37 * ^ Tay, 2010. p. 100 * ^ Clart (2003) , p. 3-5. * ^ Sébastien Billioud. _Confucian Revival and the Emergence of "Jiaohua Organizations": A Case Study of the Yidan Xuetang_. On: _Modern China_, vol. 37, no. 3, 2011, pp. 286-314. DOI: 10.1177/0097700411398574 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen. 2015. p. 29 * ^ _A_ _B_ Nengchang Wu. _ Religion and Society. A Summary of French Studies on Chinese Religion_. On: _Review of Religion and Chinese Society_ 1 (2014), 104-127. pp. 105-106 * ^ _A_ _B_ Edward L. Davis. _Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture_. ¶ Daoist priests, vernacular priests * ^ _A_ _B_ Pas, 2014. p. 259 * ^ Sarah Coakley. _ Religion and the Body_. Book 8 of _Cambridge Studies in Religious Traditions_. Cambridge University Press, 2000. ISBN 0521783860 . p. 246 * ^ Clart (1997) , pp. 12-13 & _passim_. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Palmer, 2011. p. 19 * ^ Palmer, 2011. pp. 19-20 * ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 17 * ^ Clart (2014) , p. 395. * ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 12 * ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 23 * ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 29 * ^ Palmer, 2011. pp. 4-6 * ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 11 * ^ Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 347, quote: " a number of lay salvationist groups (such as Xiantiandao in southern China and Hongyangism in Hebei) also successfully registered with the Taoist association, thus gaining legitimacy". * ^ Palmer, 2011. pp. 12-13 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Palmer, 2011. p. 13 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Raymond Ambrosi. _Towards the City! Towards the Country! Old Martial Art Strengthens Social Cohesion in Chinese Rural Areas_. Goethe-Institut China, 2013. * ^ Ambrosi, Raymond P. (2015). "Interconnections amongst Folk Religions, Civil Society and Community Development: Meihua Boxers as Constructors of Social Trust and the Agrarian Public Sphere". _Modern China_. Sage Publishing. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Benoit Vermander. _ Christianity and the Taiwanese Religious Landscape_. On: _The Way_, 39, 1999. London Society of Jesus. pp. 129-139 * ^ Evelyne Micollier. _Realignments in Religion and Health Practices: An Approach to the "New Religions" in Taiwanese Society_. On: _ China Perspectives_, 16, 1998. pp. 34-40 * ^ Ju Keyi, Lu Xianlong. _Tiandi jiao: The Daoist Connection_. On: _Journal of Daoist Studies_. Vol. 7, 2014. p. 195 * ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 27 * ^ Weixinism propagates Chinese culture and Yi-Ching. Hun Yuan's website. * ^ _A_ _B_ Grand Master Hun Yuan leads Weixinism for world peace. Taiwan Weixin Association for World Peace. * ^ Honoring the contribution of the Three-Great-Chinese-Ancestor Culture to develop world peace. Hun Yuan's website. * ^ Build the City of the Eight Trigrams on Yunmeng Mountain, integrate the differences within Chinese culture, and support the union of the Chinese people. Hun Yuan's website. * ^ Build temples for the Three Great Chinese Ancestors, solidify the national union, and pray together for Cross-Strait and worldwide peace. Hun Yuan's website. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ Goossaert, Vincent (2011). "Is There a North China Religion? A Review Essay". _Journal of Chinese Religions_. Routledge. 39 (1): 83–93. ISSN 0737-769X . doi :10.1179/073776911806153907 . * ^ Overmyer, 2009. p. 10: "There were and are many such pilgrimages to regional and national temples in China, and of course such pilgrimages cannot always be clearly distinguished from festivals for the gods or saints of local communities, because such festivals can involve participants from surrounding villages and home communities celebrating the birthdays or death days of their patron gods or saints, whatever their appeal to those from other areas. People worship and petition at both pilgrimages and local festivals for similar reasons. The chief differences between the two are the central role of a journey in pilgrimages, the size of the area from which participants are attracted, and the role of pilgrimage societies in organizing the long trips that may be involved. pilgrimage in China is also characterized by extensive planning and organization both by the host temples and those visiting them." * ^ Overmyer, 2009. p. 3: " there are significant differences between aspects of local religion in the south and north, one of which is the gods who are worshiped."; p. 33: " the veneration in the north of ancient deities attested to in pre-Han sources, deities such as Nüwa, Fuxi and Shennong, the legendary founder of agriculture and herbal medicine. In some instances these gods were worshiped at places believed to be where they originated, with indications of grottoes, temples and festivals for them, some of which continue to exist or have been revived. Of course, these gods were worshiped elsewhere in China as well, though perhaps not with the same sense of original geographical location." * ^ Overmyer, 2009. p. 15: « Popular religious sects with their own forms of organization, leaders, deities, rituals, beliefs and scripture texts were active throughout the Ming and Qing periods, particularly in north China. Individuals and families who joined them were promised special divine protection in this life and the next by leaders who functioned both as ritual masters and missionaries. These sects were more active in some communities than in others, but in principle were open to all who responded to these leaders and believed in their efficacy and teachings, so some of these groups spread to wide areas of the country. significant for us here though is evidence for the residual influence of sectarian beliefs and practices on non-sectarian community religion where the sects no longer exist, particularly the feminization of deities by adding to their names the characters _mu_ or _Laomu_, Mother or Venerable Mother, as in _Guanyin Laomu_, _Puxianmu_, _Dizangmu_, etc., based on the name of the chief sectarian deity, _Wusheng Laomu_, the Eternal Venerable Mother. _Puxian_ and _Dizang_ are bodhisattvas normally considered ‘male’, though in Buddhist theory such gender categories don’t really apply. This practice of adding _mu_ to the names of deities, found already in Ming period sectarian scriptures called _baojuan_ ‘precious volumes’ from the north, does not occur in the names of southern deities.» * ^ Ownby (2008) . * ^ Payette (2016) . * ^ Chan, 2005. p. 93. Quote: "By the early 1990s Daoist activities had become popular especially in rural areas, and began to get out of control as the line between legitimate Daoist activities and popular folk religious activities - officially regarded as feudal superstition - became blurred. Unregulated activities can range from orthodox Daoist liturgy to shamanistic rites. The popularity of these Daoist activities underscores the fact that Chinese rural society has a long tradition of religiosity and has preserved and perpetuated Daoism regardless of official policy and religious institutions. With the growth of economic prosperity in rural areas, especially in the coastal provinces where Daoist activities are concentrated, with a more liberal policy on religion, and with the revival of local cultural identity, Daoism - be it the officially sanctioned variety or Daoist activities which are beyond the edge of the official Daoist body - seems to be enjoying a strong comeback, at least for the time being." * ^ Overmyer, 2009. p. 185 about Taoism in southeastern China: "Ethnographic research into the temple festivals and communal rituals celebrated within these god cults has revealed the widespread distribution of Daoist ritual traditions in this area, including especially Zhengyi ( Celestial Master Daoism) and variants of Lushan Daoist ritual traditions. Various Buddhist ritual traditions (Pu’anjiao, Xianghua married monks and so on) are practiced throughout this region, particularly for requiem services". (quoting K. Dean (2003) _Local Communal Religion in Contemporary Southeast China_, in D.L. Overmyer (ed.) _ Religion in China Today_. China Quarterly Special Issues, New Series, No. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 32–34.) * ^ Jones, Stephen (2011). "Yinyang: Household Daoists of North China and Their Rituals". _Daoism: Religion, History & Society_. 3 (1): 83–114. * ^ Deng, Claire Qiuju (2014). _Action-Taking Gods: Animal Spirit Shamanism in Liaoning, China_ (Master in East Asian Studies). Montreal: McGill University, Department of East Asian Studies. * ^ Mark Juergensmeyer, Wade Clark Roof. _Encyclopedia of Global Religion_. SAGE Publications, 2011. ISBN 1452266565 . p. 202 * ^ Benjamin Penny. _ Religion and Biography in China and Tibet_. Routledge, 2013. ISBN 1136113940 . pp. 185-187 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Seiwert, Hubert (1987), "On the religions of national minorities in the context of China's religious history", in Heberer, Thomas , _Ethnic Minorities in China: Tradition and Transform. Papers of the 2nd Interdisciplinary Congress of Sinology/Ethnology, St. Augustin_, Aachen: Herodot, pp. 41–51, ISBN 3922868681 . Available online. * ^ Mou (2012) , p. 57. * ^ Ya-ning Kao, _Religious Revival among the Zhuang People in China: Practising "Superstition" and Standardizing a Zhuang Religion_ _Journal of Current Chinese Affairs_, 43, 2, 107–144. 2014. ISSN 1868-4874 (online), ISSN 1868-1026 (print). p. 117 * ^ Olivia Kraef. _Of Canons and Commodities: The Cultural Predicaments of Nuosu-Yi "Bimo Culture"_. On: _Journal of Current Chinese Affairs_, 43, 2, 145–179. 2014. pp. 146-147 * ^ Bamo Ayi. _On the Nature and Transmission of Bimo Knowledge in Liangshan_. In: Harrell, Stevan, ed. _Perspectives on the Yi of Southwest China_. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. * ^ Bai Bin, "Daoism in Graves". In Pierre Marsone, John Lagerwey, eds., _Modern Chinese Religion I: Song-Liao-Jin-Yuan (960-1368 AD)_, Brill, 2014. ISBN 9004271643 . p. 579 * ^ _A_ _B_ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 63 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ Yao, 2010. p. 158 * ^ Yao, 2010. p. 165 * ^ _A_ _B_ Yao, 2010. p. 161 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Yao, 2010. p. 162 * ^ Lu, Gong. 2014. p. 38: _Xian_ are described as individuals who achieve mastery of the way of Heaven and emulate it. * ^ _A_ _B_ Raymond Barnett. _Relax, You're Already Home: Everyday Taoist Habits For A Richer Life_. J. P. Tarcher, 2004. ISBN 1585423661

* ^ Pregadio (2013) , p. 504, vol. 2 A-L: Each sector of heaven (the four points of the compass and the center) was personified by a _di_ 帝 (a term which indicates not only an emperor but also an ancestral "thearch" and "god"). * ^ _A_ _B_ Medhurst (1847) , p. 260. * ^ Zhao (2012) , p. 51. * ^ Fowler (2005) , pp. 206-207. * ^ _Journal of Chinese Religions_, 24-25, 1996. p. 6 * ^ Sun & Kistemaker (1997) , p. 121. * ^ Little & Eichman (2000) , p. 250. It describes a Ming dynasty painting representing (among other figures) the Wudi: "In the foreground are the gods of the Five Directions, dressed as emperors of high antiquity, holding tablets of rank in front of them. These gods are significant because they reflect the cosmic structure of the world, in which _yin_, _yang_ and the Five Phases (Elements) are in balance. They predate religious Taoism, and may have originated as chthonic gods of the Neolithic period. Governing all directions (east, south, west, north and center), they correspond not only to the Five Elements, but to the seasons, the Five Sacred Peaks, the Five Planets, and zodiac symbols as well. ". * ^ Sun & Kistemaker (1997) , pp. 120-123. * ^ Lagerwey & Kalinowski (2008) , p. 1080. * ^ Pregadio (2013) , pp. 504-505, vol. 2 A-L. * ^ Fowler (2005) , pp. 200-201. * ^ Sun some goddesses are enlisted in the note 18 at p. 191 * ^ Overmyer (2009) , p. 135. * ^ J. Hackin. _Asiatic Mythology: A Detailed Description and Explanation of the Mythologies of All the Great Nations of Asia_. Asian Educational Services, 1932. ISBN 8120609204 . pp. 349.350 * ^ Chau (2011) . * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Yao, 2010. p. 173 * ^ _A_ _B_ Yao, 2010. p. 172 * ^ _A_ _B_ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 10 * ^ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 191 * ^ _A_ _B_ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 182 * ^ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 187 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Yao, 2010. p. 176 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Yao, 2010. p. 177 * ^ Zavidovskaya, 2012. p. 189 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Yao, 2010. p. 178 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Yao, 2010. p. 180 * ^ Yao, 2010. p. 181 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ Li (2009) . * ^ Goossaert & Palmer (2011) , p. 25. * ^ Tan, Chee-Beng. _Tianhou and the Chinese in Diaspora_. Chapter in the _Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora_. Routledge, 2013. ISBN 1136230963 . p. 423 * ^ Zai Liang, Steven Messner, Cheng Chen, Youqin Huang. _The Emergence of a New Urban China: Insiders' Perspectives_. Lexington Books, 2013. ISBN 0739188089 . p. 95 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Shahar & Weller 1996 , p. 24. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Davis, Edward L. (2009). _Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture_. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 041577716X . pp. 815-816 * ^ Overmyer (2009) , p. 94. * ^ Yang & Hu (2012) , p. 505. * ^ _A_ _B_ Yang & Hu (2012) , p. 514. * ^ Fan, Chen 2013. p. 8. Citing: Dean, Kenneth. _Local Ritual Traditions of Southeast China: A Challenge to Definitions of Religion and Theories of Ritual_. In: _Social Scientific Study of Religion in China: Methodology, Theories, and Findings_, eds. Fenggang Yang and Graeme Lang, 133-165, Leiden: Brill, 2011. p. 134 * ^ " Taiwan Yearbook 2006". Government of Information Office. 2006. Archived from the original on 8 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-01. * ^ 2010 Chinese Spiritual Life Survey, Anna Sun, Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. Statistics published in: Katharina Wenzel-Teuber, David Strait. _People’s Republic of China: Religions and Churches Statistical Overview 2011_. Religions & Christianity in Today's China, Vol. II, 2012, No. 3, pp. 29-54, ISSN 2192-9289 . * ^ Chinese Family Panel Studies 's survey of 2012. Published in _The World Religious Cultures_ issue 2014: 卢云峰:当代中国宗教状况报告——基于CFPS(2012)调查数据. * ^ 大陆民间宗教管理变局 _Management change in the situation of mainland folk religion_. _Phoenix Weekly_, July 2014, n. 500. Pu Shi Institute for Social Science: full text of the article Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine .. * ^ Graeme Lang, Selina Ching Chan, Lars Ragvald. _Folk Temples and the Chinese Religious Economy_. On _Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion_, 2005, Volume 1, Article 4. * ^ Yang (2007) , p. 226. * ^ Yang (2007) , pp. 226-230. * ^ Law (2005) , p. 90. * ^ Yang (2007) , p. 223. * ^ _A_ _B_ Tan, Chee-Beng. _Tianhou and the Chinese in Diaspora_. Chapter in the _Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora_. Routledge, 2013. ISBN 1136230963 . pp. 417-422 * ^ Bernard Formoso. _De Jiao - A Religious Movement in Contemporary China and Overseas: Purple Qi from the East_. National University of Singapore, 2010. ISBN 9789971694920 * ^ Kazuo Yoshihara. _Dejiao: A Chinese Religion in Southeast Asia_. In _Japanese Journal of Religious Studies_, Vol. 15, No. 2/3, _Folk Religion and Religious Organizations in Asia_ (Jun. - Sep., 1988), Nanzan University. pp. 199–221 * ^ Chee Beng Tan. _The Development and Distribution of Dejiao Associations in Malaysia and Singapore, A Study on a Religious Organization_. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Occasional Paper n. 79. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1985. ISBN 9789971988142 * ^ _A_ _B_ Goossaert -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em;">

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