The Info List - East Asian Religions

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In the study of comparative religion, the East Asian religions
East Asian religions
form a subset of the Eastern religions. This group includes Chinese religion overall, which further includes Ancestral Worship, Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism
and so-called popular salvationist organisations (such as Yiguandao
and Weixinism), as well as elements drawn from Mahayana Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhism
that form the core of Chinese Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism
East Asian Buddhism
at large. The group also includes Japanese Shintoism
and Korean Sindoism (both meaning "Ways of Gods" and identifying the indigenous shamanic religion and ancestor worship of such peoples), which have received influences from Chinese religions throughout the centuries. Even stronger is the connection between Chinese religion
Chinese religion
and Vietnamese folk religion. Chinese salvationist religions have influenced the rise of Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese new religions—for instance, respectively, Jeungsanism, Caodaism
and Tenriism; these movements draw upon indigenous traditions but are heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy
and theology. All these traditions, more or less, share core Chinese concepts of spirituality, divinity and world order, including Tao
道 ("Way"; pinyin dào, Japanese tō or dō, Korean do, Vietnamese đạo) and Tian
天 ("Heaven"; Japanese ten, Korean cheon, Vietnamese thiên). Early Chinese philosophies defined the Tao
and advocated cultivating the de, "virtue", which arises from the knowledge of such Tao.[1] Some ancient schools merged into traditions with different names or became extinct, such as Mohism
(and many others of the Hundred Schools of Thought), which was largely absorbed into Taoism. East Asian religions include many theological stances, including polytheism, nontheism, henotheism, monotheism, pantheism, panentheism and agnosticism.[2] East Asian religions
East Asian religions
have many Western adherents, though their interpretations may differ significantly from traditional East Asian thought and culture. The place of East Asian religions
East Asian religions
among major religious groups is comparable to the Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
found in Europe and the Western World as well as across the Middle East and the Muslim World and Indian religions
Indian religions
in South Asia.[3] East Asian religions
East Asian religions
are dominant in China, Japan, Korea
and Vietnam - countries that are a part of the East Asian cultural sphere.


1 Terminology 2 The Tao
and its virtue 3 Religions

3.1 Taoism 3.2 Confucianism 3.3 Shinto

4 Taoism
and Confucianism 5 Interaction with Indian religions 6 See also 7 Footnotes and references 8 External links

Terminology[edit] Despite a wide variety of terms, the traditions described as "Far Eastern religions", "East Asian religions" or "Chinese religions" are recognised by scholars as a distinct religious family.[4][5] Syncretism
is a common feature of East Asian religions, often making it difficult to recognise individual faiths.[6][7] Further complications arise from the inconsistent use of many terms. "Tao religion" is often used for Taoism
itself,[8] as well as being used for many Tao-based new religious movements.[9] The term "Far Eastern religion" may be used to refer only to faiths incorporating the concept of Tao, may include Ch'an and Japanese Buddhism, and may even inclusively refer to all Asian religions.[10][11][12] The Tao
and its virtue[edit] Main articles: Tao
and De (Chinese) The Tao
may be roughly defined as the flow of reality, of the universe, or the force behind the natural order.[13] Believed to be the influence that keeps the universe balanced and ordered, the Tao
is associated with nature, due to a belief that nature demonstrates the Tao.[14] Similar to the negative theology of Western scholars, the Tao is compared to what it is not.[15] It is often considered to be the source of both existence and non-existence.[16] The Tao
is often associated with a "virtue" of being, the de or te. This is considered the active expression of Tao.[17] Generally, those religions closer to Taoism
explain de as "integrity" or "wholeness", while those faiths closer to Confucianism
express this concept as "morality" or "sound character".[18] Religions[edit] Taoism[edit]

Altar to Shangdi
(上帝 "Highest Deity") and Doumu (斗母 "Mother of the Great Chariot"), together representing the principle of the universe in masculine and feminine form in some Taoist cosmologies, in the Chengxu Temple
Chengxu Temple
of Zhouzhuang, Jiangxi.

Main article: Taoism Taoism
consists of a wide variety of religious, philosophical and ritual orders. There are hermeneutic (interpretive) difficulties in the categorisation of Taoist schools, sects and movements.[19] Taoism
does not fall strictly under an umbrella or a definition of an organised religion like the Abrahamic traditions, nor can it purely be studied as a variant of Chinese folk religion, as much of the traditional religion is outside of the tenets and core teachings of Taoism. Robinet asserts that Taoism
is better understood as a way of life than as a religion, and that its adherents do not approach or view Taoism
the way non-Taoist historians have done.[20] In general, Taoist propriety and ethics place an emphasis on the unity of the universe, the unity of the material world and the spiritual world, the unity of the past, present and future, as well as on the Three Jewels of the Tao
(love, moderation, humility).[21] Taoist theology focuses on doctrines of wu wei ("non-action"), spontaneity, relativity and emptiness.[22][23] Traditional Chinese Taoist schools
Taoist schools
accept polytheism, but there are differences in the composition of their pantheon.[24] On the popular level, Taoism
typically presents the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
as the head deity. Professionalised Taoism
(i.e. priestly orders) usually presents Laozi and the Three Pure Ones
Three Pure Ones
at the top of the pantheon.[25] Worship
of nature deities and ancestors is common in popular Taoism, while professional Taoists put an emphasis on internal alchemy. The Tao
is never an object of worship, being treated more like the Indian concept of atman.[26] Confucianism[edit] Main article: Confucianism

Temple of Confucius
Temple of Confucius
in Liuzhou, Guangxi.

is a complex system of moral, social, political, and religious thought, influential in the history of East Asia. It is commonly associated with legalism, but actually rejects legalism for ritualism.[27] It also endorses meritocracy as the ideal of nobility.[28] Confucianism
includes a complicated system governing duties and etiquette in relationships. Confucian ethics focus on familial duty, loyalty and humaneness.[29] Confucianism
recognises the existence of ancestral spirits and deities, advocating paying them proper respect.[30] Confucian thought is notable as the framework upon which the syncretic Neo-Confucianism was built.[31] Neo- Confucianism
was developed in reaction to Taoism
and Chan Buddhism. It was formulated during the Song dynasty, but its roots may be traced to scholars of the Tang dynasty. It draw Buddhist religious concepts and Taoist yin yang theory, as well as the Yijing, and placed them within the framework of classic Confucianism.[32] Despite Neo-Confucianism's incorporation of elements of Buddhism
and Taoism, its apologists still decried both faiths.[33] Neo-Confucianism was an officially endorsed faith for over five centuries, deeply influencing all of East Asia.[34] New Confucianism
is a modernist Confucianism, which accommodates modern science and democratic ideals, while remaining conservative in preserving traditional Neo-Confucianist positions. The influence of New Confucianism
prompted since Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
became the leader of China
in 1978 and helped cultural exchanges between China
and Taiwan.[35] Shinto[edit]

Makeshift Shinto
shrine during the festival of Minazuki in a village of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.

Main article: Shinto Shinto
is the ethnic religion of Japan. Shinto
literally means "Way of the Gods". Shinto
practitioners commonly affirm tradition, family, nature, cleanliness and ritual observation as core values.[36] Taoist influence is significant in their beliefs about nature and self-mastery. Ritual cleanliness
Ritual cleanliness
is a central part of Shinto
life.[37] Shrines have a significant place in Shinto, being places for the veneration of the kami (gods or spirits).[38] "Folk", or "popular", Shinto
features an emphasis on shamanism, particularly divination, spirit possession and faith healing. "Sect" Shinto
is a diverse group including mountain-worshippers and Confucian Shinto
schools.[39] Taoism
and Confucianism[edit] The concepts of Tao
and de are shared by both Taoism
and Confucianism.[40] The authorship of the Tao
Te Ching, the central book of Taoism, is assigned to Laozi, who is traditionally held to have been a teacher of Confucius.[41] However, some scholars believe that the Tao
Te Ching arose as a reaction to Confucianism.[42] Zhuangzi, reacting to the Confucian- Mohist
ethical disputes casts Laozi
as a prior step to the Mohists by name and the Confucians by implication. However, secular scholars usually consider Laozi
and Zhuangzi to have been mythological figures.[43][44] Early Taoist texts reject Confucian emphasis on rituals and order, in favour of an emphasis on "wild" nature and individualism. Historical Taoists challenged conventional morality, while Confucians considered society debased and in need of strong ethical guidance.[45] Interaction with Indian religions[edit] Main article: East Asian Buddhism

A painting of Confucius presenting a young Buddha to Laozi.

The entry of Buddhism
into China
from India was marked by interaction and syncretism with Taoism
in particular.[46] Originally seen as a kind of "foreign Taoism", Buddhism's scriptures were translated into Chinese using the Taoist vocabulary.[47] Chan Buddhism
was particularly modelled after Taoism, integrating distrust of scripture, text and even language, as well as the Taoist views of embracing "this life", dedicated practice and the "every-moment".[48] In the Tang period Taoism
incorporated such Buddhist elements as monasteries, vegetarianism, prohibition of alcohol, the doctrine of emptiness, and collecting scripture into tripartite organisation. During the same time, Chan Buddhism
grew to become the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism.[49] The Buddha's "Dharma" seemed alien and amoral to conservative and Confucian sensibilities.[50] Confucianism
promoted social stability, order, strong families, and practical living, and Chinese officials questioned how monastic lifestyle and personal attainment of enlightenment benefited the empire.[47] However, Buddhism
and Confucianism
eventually reconciled after centuries of conflict and assimilation.[51] Ideological and political rivals for centuries, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism
deeply influenced one another.[52] They did share some similar values. All three embraced a humanist philosophy emphasising moral behavior and human perfection. In time, most Chinese people identified to some extent with all three traditions simultaneously.[53] This became institutionalised when aspects of the three schools were synthesised in the Neo-Confucian school.[51] See also[edit]

East Asian cultural sphere Indian religions Religion
in China Religion
in Japan Religion
in Korea Religion
in Taiwan Religion
in Vietnam

Footnotes and references[edit]

^ Maspero, Henri. Translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr. Taoism
and Chinese Religion. pg 32. University of Massachusetts, 1981. ^ 中央研究院國際漢學會議論文集: 藝術史組. 該院. 1981. p. 141.  ^ Sharot, Stephen. A Comparative Sociology of World Religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion. Pp 71–72, 75–76. New York: NYU Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8147-9805-5. ^ de Groot, J. J. M. Religion
in China: Universism a Key to the Study of Taoism
and Confucianism. Pp 45–46. Kessinger Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-4179-4658-X. ^ James, Edwin Olver. The Comparative Study of Religions of the East (excluding Christianity
and Judaism). Pg 5. University of Michigan Press. 1959. ^ Ito, Satoshi. Translated by Breen, John and Mark Teeuwen. Shinto
– A Short History. Pg 9. Routledge. 2003. ISBN 0-415-31179-9 ^ Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths. Pg 164. I.B. Tauris. 1997. ISBN 1-86064-148-2. ^ Vrijhof, Pieter Hendrik & Waardenburg, Jean Jacques. Official and Popular Religion: Analysis of a Theme for Religious Studies. Pg 419. Walter de Gruyter. 1979. ISBN 90-279-7998-7. ^ Beversluis, Joel Diederik. Sourcebook of the World's Religions: An Interfaith Guide to Religion
and Spirituality. Pg 41. New World Library. 2000. ISBN 1-57731-121-3. ^ Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths. Pp 164–165, 174–175. I.B. Tauris. 1997. ISBN 1-86064-148-2. ^ Northrop, Filmer Stuart Cuckow. The Meeting of East and West: An Inquiry Concerning World Understanding. Pg 412. The Macmillan company. 1946. ^ Yamamoto, J. Isamu.Buddhism: Buddhism, Taoism
and Other Far Eastern Religions. Zondervan. 1998. ISBN 0-310-48912-1. ^ Cane, Eulalio Paul. Harmony: Radical Taoism
Gently Applied. Pg 13. Trafford Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-4122-4778-0. ^ Martinson, Paul Varo A theology of world religions: Interpreting God, self, and world in Semitic, Indian, and Chinese thought. Pp 168–169. Augsburg Publishing House. 1987. ISBN 0-8066-2253-9. ^ This concept of being unable to accurately describe the Tao
is common among East Asian religions
East Asian religions
and Taoist writings. For example, "The Tao
that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name"; first lines of the Tao
Te Ching. ^ See Wuji and Taiji for more information about "non-existence" and "existence" in East Asian religious thought. ^ Sharot, Stephen. A Comparative Sociology of World Religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion. Pp 77–78, 88. New York: NYU Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8147-9805-5. ^ Yao, Xinzhong. An Introduction to Confucianism. Pp 155–156. Cambridge University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-521-64430-5. ^ Mair (2001) p. 174 ^ Robinet (1997), pp. 3–4, 103. ^ Leaman, Oliver. Key Concepts in Eastern Philosophy . Pg 111. Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-415-17362-0. ^ Slingerland, Edward Gilman. Effortless Action: Wu-Wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-513899-6. ^ Sharot, Stephen. A Comparative Sociology of World Religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion. Pg 78. New York: NYU Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8147-9805-5. ^ Segal, Robert Alan. The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion. Pg 50. Blackwell Publishing. 2006. ISBN 0-631-23216-8. ^ Maspero, Henri. Translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr. Taoism
and Chinese Religion. pg 41. University of Massachusetts, 1981. ^ LaFargue, Michael. Tao
and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao
Te Ching. Pg 283. SUNY Press. 1994. ISBN 0-7914-1601-1 ^ Yao, Xinzhong. An Introduction to Confucianism. pp 191–192. Cambridge University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-521-64430-5 ^ Smart, Ninian. World Philosophies. Pp 66. Routledge (UK). 2000. ISBN 0-415-22852-2. ^ De Bary,William Theodore & Tu, Weiming. Confucianism
and Human Rights. Pg 149. Columbia University Press. 1998. ISBN 0-231-10936-9. ^ Sharot, Stephen. A Comparative Sociology of World Religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion. Pp 46, 85. New York: NYU Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8147-9805-5. ^ Huang, Siu-chi. Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods. Pg 5. Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-26449-X. ^ Huang, Siu-chi. Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods. Pp 11–12, 63–64, 106. Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-26449-X. ^ Maspero, Henri. Translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr. Taoism
and Chinese Religion. pg 52–53. University of Massachusetts, 1981. ^ Flew, Antony G. A Dictionary of Philosophy. Pg 62. St. Martin's Griffin. 1984. ISBN 0-312-20923-1. ^ Ruiping Fan (2011). The Renaissance of Confucianism
in Contemporary China. Springer Science & Business Media.  ^ Ono, Sakyo. Shinto: The Kami
Way. Pp 97–99, 103–104. Tuttle Publishing. 2004. ISBN 0-8048-3557-8 ^ Ono, Sakyo. Shinto: The Kami
Way. Pp 51–52, 108. Tuttle Publishing. 2004. ISBN 0-8048-3557-8 ^ Markham, Ian S. & Ruparell, Tinu . Encountering Religion: an introduction to the religions of the world. pp 304–306 Blackwell Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-631-20674-4. ^ Ono, Sakyo. Shinto: The Kami
Way. Pg 12. Tuttle Publishing. 2004. ISBN 0-8048-3557-8 ^ Markham, Ian S. & Ruparell, Tinu. Encountering Religion: an introduction to the religions of the world. Pg 254. Blackwell Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-631-20674-4. ^ Hansen, Chad D. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought: A Philosophical Interpretation. Pp 202, 210. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-19-513419-2. ^ Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths. Pg 167. I.B. Tauris. 1997. ISBN 1-86064-148-2. ^ Boltz, William G. "Lao tzu Tao
te ching." Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, edited by Michael Loewe. pg 270. Berkeley: University of California, Institute of East Asian Studies. 1993. (Laozi) ^ Birrell, Anne. Chinese Myths. Pp 16–17. University of Texas Press. 2000. ISBN 0-292-70879-3. (Zhuangzi) ^ Maspero, Henri. Translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr. Taoism
and Chinese Religion. pg 39. University of Massachusetts, 1981. ^ Maspero, Henri. Translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr. Taoism
and Chinese Religion. pg 46. University of Massachusetts, 1981. ^ a b Prebish, Charles. Buddhism: A Modern Perspective. Pg 192. Penn State Press, 1975. ISBN 0-271-01195-5. ^ Dumoulin, Heinrich, Heisig, James W. & Knitter, Paul. Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China). Pp 68, 70–73, 167–168. World Wisdom, Inc, 2005. ISBN 0-941532-89-5. ^ Dumoulin, Heinrich, Heisig, James W. & Knitter, Paul. Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China). Pp 166–167, 169–172. World Wisdom, Inc, 2005. ISBN 0-941532-89-5. ^ Dumoulin, Heinrich, Heisig, James W. & Knitter, Paul. Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China). Pp 189–190, 268–269. World Wisdom, Inc, 2005. ISBN 0-941532-89-5. ^ a b Moore, Charles Alexander. The Chinese Mind: Essentials of Chinese Philosophy and Culture. Pp 133, 147. University of Hawaii Press. 1967. ISBN 0-8248-0075-3. ^ Markham, Ian S. & Ruparell, Tinu . Encountering Religion: an introduction to the religions of the world. pp 248–249. Blackwell Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-631-20674-4. ^ Windows on Asia Archived 2009-02-20 at the Wayback Machine. Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University.

External links[edit]

Internet East Asian History Sourcebook: Religious Traditions Resources for East Asian Religions

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