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meodingu

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PostSubject: Religion in China   Thu 06 Jan 2011, 4:17 pm

Religion in China

Shang Dynasty bronze script character for tian (天), "Sky" or "Heaven."

The "official" orthodox faith system held by most dynasties of China since at least the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC) until the overthrow of the last dynasty (1911 AD) centered on the worship of Shangdi ("Supreme God") or "Heaven" as an omnipotent force.[54] This faith system pre-dated the development of Confucianism and Taoism and the introduction of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.

It has features of monotheism in that Heaven is seen as an omnipotent entity, endowed with personality but no corporeal form. From the writings of Confucius, we find that Confucius himself believed that Heaven cannot be deceived, Heaven guides people's lives and maintains a personal relationship with them, and that Heaven gives tasks for people to fulfill to teach them righteousness (yi, 義).[54] However, this faith system was not truly monotheistic since other lesser gods and spirits, which varied with locality, were also worshiped along with Shangdi. Still, variants such as Mohism approached high monotheism, teaching that the function of lesser gods and ancestral spirits is merely to carry out the will of Shangdi, which included observing "universal love" (jian'ai, 兼爱) and shunning fatalism.

Worship of Shangdi and Heaven in ancient China includes the erection of shrines, the last and greatest being the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and the offering of prayers. The ruler of China in every Chinese dynasty would perform annual sacrificial rituals to Heaven, usually by slaughtering a bull as sacrifice. Although its popularity gradually diminished after the advent of Taoism and Buddhism, among other religions, its concepts remained in use throughout the pre-modern period and have been incorporated in later religions in China, including terminology used in Chinese Christianity.







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