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Chinese traditional religion is polytheistic; many deities are worshipped in a pantheistic view where divinity is inherent in the world.[1] The gods are energies or principles revealing, imitating and propagating the way of Heaven (Tian ), which is the supreme godhead manifesting in the northern culmen of the starry vault of the skies and its order. Many gods are ancestors or men who became deities for their heavenly achievements; most gods are also identified with stars and constellations.[2] Ancestors are regarded as the equivalent of Heaven within human society,[3] and therefore as the means connecting back to Heaven, which is the "utmost ancestral father" (曾祖父 zēngzǔfù).[4]

Gods are innumerable, as every phenomenon has or is one or more gods, and they are organised in a complex celestial hierarchy.[5] Besides the traditional worship of these entities, Confucianism, Taoism and formal thinkers in general give theological interpretations affirming a monistic essence of divinity.[6] "Polytheism" and "monotheism" are categories derived from Western religion and do not fit Chinese religion, which has never conceived the two things as opposites.[7] Since all gods are considered manifestations of , the "power" or pneuma of Heaven, some scholars have employed the term "polypneumatism" or "(poly)pneumatolatry", first coined by Walter Medhurst (1796–1857), to describe the practice of Chinese polytheism.[8] In the theology of the classic texts and Confucianism, "Heaven is the lord of the hundreds of deities".[9] Modern Confucian theology compares them to intelligence, substantial forms or entelechies (inner purposes) as explained by LeibnizMain philosophical traditions:

Ritual traditions:

Devotional traditions:

Zhenkong, "Void of Truth".

Salvation churches and sects:

Confucian churches and sects: