In the study of comparative religion, the East Asian religions or Taoic 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 that form the core of Chinese Buddhism and 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. Chinese salvationist religions have influenced the rise of Korean and Japanese new religions—for instance, respectively, Jeungsanism, and Tenriism; these movements draw upon indigenous traditions but are heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy and theology.
All these religious traditions, more or less, share core Chinese concepts of spirituality, divinity and world order, including Tao 道 ("Way"; pinyin dào, Japanese tō or dō, and Korean do) and Tian 天 ("Heaven"; Japanese ten, and Korean cheon).
Early Chinese philosophies defined the Tao and advocated cultivating the de, "virtue", which arises from the knowledge of such Tao. 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. East Asian religions have many Western adherents, though their interpretations may differ significantly from traditional East Asian religious thought and culture.
The place of Taoic religions among major religious groups is comparable to the Abrahamic religions found in Europe and the Western World as well as across the Middle East and the Muslim World and Dharmic religions across South Asia.
Syncretism is a common feature of East Asian religions, often making it difficult to recognise individual faiths. Further complications arise from the inconsistent use of many terms. "Tao religion" is often used for Taoism itself, as well as being used for many Tao-based new religious movements.
The terms "Far Eastern religion" or "Taoic 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.
The Tao may be roughly defined as the flow of reality, of the universe, or the force behind the natural order. 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. Similar to the negative theology of Western scholars, the Tao is compared to what it is not. It is often considered to be the source of both existence and non-existence.
The Tao is often associated with a "virtue" of being, the de or te. This is considered the active expression of Tao. 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".
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.
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). Taoist theology focuses on doctrines of wu wei ("non-action"), spontaneity, relativity and emptiness.
Traditional Chinese Taoist schools accept polytheism, but there are differences in the composition of their pantheon. On the popular level, Taoism typically presents the Jade Emperor as the head deity. Professionalised Taoism (i.e. priestly orders) usually presents Laozi and the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon.
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.
Confucianism 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. It also endorses meritocracy as the ideal of nobility. Confucianism includes a complicated system governing duties and etiquette in relationships. Confucian ethics focus on familial duty, loyalty and humaneness.
Confucianism recognises the existence of ancestral spirits and deities, advocating paying them proper respect. Confucian thought is notable as the framework upon which the syncretic Neo-Confucianism was built.
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.
Despite Neo-Confucianism's incorporation of elements of Buddhism and Taoism, its apologists still decried both faiths. Neo-Confucianism was an officially endorsed faith for over five centuries, deeply influencing all of East Asia.
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 became the leader of China in 1978 and helped cultural exchanges between China and Taiwan.
Shintoism 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.
Taoist influence is significant in their beliefs about nature and self-mastery. Ritual cleanliness is a central part of Shinto life. Shrines have a significant place in Shinto, being places for the veneration of the kami (gods or spirits). "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.
The concepts of Tao and de are shared by both Taoism and Confucianism. 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. However, some scholars believe that the Tao Te Ching arose as a reaction to Confucianism. 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.
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.
The entry of Buddhism into China from India was marked by interaction and syncretism with Taoism in particular. Originally seen as a kind of "foreign Taoism", Buddhism's scriptures were translated into Chinese using the Taoist vocabulary. 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". 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.
The Buddha's "Dharma" seemed alien and amoral to conservative and Confucian sensibilities. 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. However, Buddhism and Confucianism eventually reconciled after centuries of conflict and assimilation.
Ideological and political rivals for centuries, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism deeply influenced one another. 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. This became institutionalised when aspects of the three schools were synthesised in the Neo-Confucian school.
Benzhuism (Chinese: 本主教; pinyin: Běnzhǔjiào; literally: 'religion of the patrons') is the indigenous religion of the Bai people, an ethnic group of Yunnan, China. It consists in the worship of the ngel zex, the Bai word for "patrons" or "lords", rendered as benzhu (本主) in Chinese, that are local gods and deified ancestors of the Bai people. It is very similar to common Chinese religion.
While many of the Bai are Buddhists, the local government of China has recently helped the revival of the Benzhu ethnic religion, for example through the promotion of the Gwer Sa La festival.Bimoism
Bimoism (Chinese: 毕摩教; pinyin: Bìmójiào, Yi:ꀘꂾ) is the indigenous religion of the Yi people, the largest ethnic group in Yunnan after the Han Chinese. It takes its name from the bimo, shaman-priests who are also masters of Yi language and scriptures, wearing distinctive black robes and large hats.
Since the 1980s, with the loosening of religion restrictions in China, Bimoism has undergone a revitalisation. In 1996, the Bimo Culture Research Center was founded. In the early 2010s, the government of China has helped the revival of the Bimoist faith through the construction of large temples and ceremonial complexes.Buddhism and Eastern religions
Buddhism has interacted with several East Asian religions such as Confucianism and Shintoism since it spread from India during the 2nd century AD.Chinese lists of cults
Various parts of China under different jurisdictions have different official definitions of "cult" and thus different lists of cults.Chinese religion
Chinese religion may refer to:
Religion in China (People's Republic of China)
Religion in Taiwan (Republic of China)
Chinese folk religion
East Asian religionsChinese ritual mastery traditions
Chinese ritual mastery traditions, also referred to as ritual teachings (Chinese: 法教; pinyin: fǎjiào, sometimes rendered as "Faism"), or Folk Taoism (Chinese: 民间道教; pinyin: Mínjiàn Dàojiào), or also Red Taoism (mostly in east China and Taiwan), constitute a large group of Chinese orders of ritual officers who operate within the Chinese folk religion but outside the institutions of official Taoism. The "masters of rites", the fashi (法師), are also known in east China as hongtou daoshi (紅頭道士), meaning "redhead" or "redhat" daoshi ("masters of the Tao"), contrasting with the wutou daoshi (烏頭道士), "blackhead" or "blackhat" priests, of Zhengyi Taoism who were historically ordained by the Celestial Master.Zhengyi Taoism and Faism are often grouped together under the category of "daoshi and fashi ritual traditions" (道法二門道壇). Although the two types of priests have the same roles in Chinese society—in that they can marry and they perform rituals for communities' temples or private homes—Zhengyi daoshi emphasize their Taoist tradition, distinguished from the vernacular tradition of the fashi.Ritual masters can be practitioners of tongji possession, healing, exorcism and jiao rituals (although historically they were excluded from performing the jiao liturgy). The only ones that are shamans (wu) are the fashi of the Lushan school.Chinese salvationist religions
Chinese salvationist religions or Chinese folk religious sects are a Chinese religious tradition characterised by a concern for salvation (moral fulfillment) of the person and the society. They are distinguished by egalitarianism, a founding charismatic person often informed by a divine revelation, a specific theology written in holy texts, a millenarian eschatology and a voluntary path of salvation, an embodied experience of the numinous through healing and self-cultivation, and an expansive orientation through evangelism and philanthropy.Some scholars consider these religions a single phenomenon, and others consider them the fourth great Chinese religious category alongside the well-established Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Generally these religions focus on the worship of the universal God, represented as either male, female, or genderless, and regard their holy patriarchs as embodiments of God.De teaching
The De teaching (Chinese: 德教 Dejiao, "teaching of virtue", the concept of De), whose corporate name is the Church of Virtue (德教会 Déjiàohuì), is a sect rooted in Taoism, that was founded in 1945 in Chaozhou, Guangdong. It is popular both in China and amongst expatriate Chinese populations.East Asian Yogācāra
East Asian Yogācāra (traditional Chinese: 唯識宗; ; pinyin: Wéishí-zōng; Japanese pronunciation: Yuishiki-shū; Korean: 법상종 "'Consciousness Only' school" or traditional Chinese: 法相宗; ; pinyin: Fǎxiàng-zōng; Japanese pronunciation: Hossō-shū; Korean: 유식종, "'Dharma Characteristics' school") refers to the traditions in East Asia which represent the Yogacara system of thought.Eastern religions
The Eastern religions are the religions that originated in East, South and Southeast Asia and thus have dissimilarities with Western religions. This includes the East Asian religions (Shintoism, Sindoism, Taoism and Confucianism), Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism) as well as animistic indigenous religions.This East-West religious distinction, just as with the East-West culture distinction, and the implications that arise from it, is broad and not precise. Furthermore, the geographical distinction has less meaning in the current context of global transculturation.
While many Western observers attempt to distinguish between Eastern philosophies and religions, this is a distinction that does not exist in some Eastern traditions.Japanese new religions
Japanese new religions are new religious movements established in Japan. In Japanese, they are called shinshūkyō (新宗教) or shinkō shūkyō (新興宗教). Japanese scholars classify all religious organizations founded since the middle of the 19th century as "new religions"; thus, the term refers to a great diversity and number of organizations. Most came into being in the mid-to-late twentieth century and are influenced by much older traditional religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto. Western influences include Christianity, the Bible and the writings of Nostradamus.Jeungsanism
Jeungsanism (증산교 Jeungsangyo) is occasionally used as a synonym of Jeung San Do, a Korean new religious movement, but most Korean and Western scholars use it to designate a family of more than 100 Korean new religious movements that recognize Kang Jeungsan (Gang Il-Sun) as the incarnation of the Supreme God of the Universe, Sangje.Manchu shamanism
Manchu folk religion is the ethnic religion practiced by most of the Manchu people, the major-Tungusic group, in China. It can also be called Manchu shamanism by virtue of the word "shaman" being originally from Tungusic šamán ("man of knowledge"), later applied by Western scholars to similar religious practices in other cultures.
It is a animistic and polytheistic religion, believing in several gods and spirits, but have similarly like Tengrism a universal sky-God called Apka Enduri ("God of Heaven") which is the all life and creation. Deities (enduri) enliven every aspect of nature, and the worship of these gods is believed to bring favour, health and prosperity. Many of the deities are original Manchu kins' ancestors, and people with the same surname are generated by the same god.Shamans are persons of unusual ability, strength and sensitivity, capable of perception and prediction of the ways of the gods. They are endowed with the social function to conduct the sacrificial ceremonies and approach the deities asking them intervention or protection. Because of their abilities the shamans are people of great authority and prestige. Usually, every Manchu kin has its own shaman.Manchu folk religious rites were standardised by the Qianlong Emperor (1736-96) in the "Manchu Sacrificial Ritual to the Gods and Heaven" (Manjusai wecere metere kooli bithe), a manual published in Manchu in 1747 and in Chinese (Manzhou jishen jitian dianli) in 1780. With the conquest of imperial power in China (Qing dynasty) the Manchu people gradually adopted Chinese language and assimilated into the Chinese religion, although Manchu folk religion persists with a distinct character within broader Chinese religion.Mo (religion)
Mo or Moism (Chinese: 摩教; pinyin: Mó jiào), occasionally called Zhuang Shigongism (Chinese: 壮族师公教; pinyin: Zhuàngzú shīgōng jiào; literally: 'Zhuang Ancestral Father Religion'), is the religion of most Zhuang people, the largest ethnic minority of China. It has a large presence in Guangxi. While it has a supreme god, the creator Bu Luotuo (布洛陀), numerous other deities are venerated as well. It has a three-element-theory (sky, earth and water). Mo is animistic, teaching that spirits are present in everything.Mo developed from prehistoric beliefs of the Zhuang people; it also has similarities to Chinese folk religion, and has developed similar doctrines to Buddhism and Taoism, in the process of competition with the influence of these religions on Zhuang culture. The Cultural Revolution of China weakened Mo, though the religion has undergone a revival since the 1980s. Moism varies from region to region.Preta
Preta (Sanskrit: प्रेत, Standard Tibetan: ཡི་དྭགས་ yi dags) also known as hungry ghost, is the Sanskrit name for a type of supernatural being described in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese and Vietnamese folk religion as undergoing suffering greater than that of humans, particularly an extreme level of hunger and thirst. They have their origins in Indian religions and have been adopted into East Asian religions via the spread of Buddhism. Preta is often translated into English as "hungry ghost" from the Chinese adaptation. In early sources such as the Petavatthu, they are much more varied. The descriptions below apply mainly in this narrower context.
Pretas are believed to have been false, corrupted, compulsive, deceitful, jealous or greedy people in a previous life. As a result of their karma, they are afflicted with an insatiable hunger for a particular substance or object. Traditionally, this is something repugnant or humiliating, such as cadavers or feces, though in more recent stories, it can be anything, however bizarre.Through the belief and influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in much of Asia, preta figure prominently in the cultures of India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.Shengdao
Shengdao (圣道 "Holy Way" or "Way of the Hallows"), best known by its corporate name Tongshanshe (Chinese: 同善社; pinyin: Tóngshàn Shè; Wade–Giles: T'ung-shan She; literally: 'Society of the Goodness') is a Confucian salvation sect part of the Xiantiandao ("Way of Former Heaven") lineage.Amongst the Way of Former Heaven sects, the Tongshanshe has been one of the most widespread and influential. Yanshengdao (言圣道 "Way of the Holy Word") is a branch of Shengdao.Three teachings
In Chinese philosophy, the phrase three teachings (Chinese: 三教; pinyin: San Jiao) refers to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism when considered as a harmonious aggregate. Some of the earliest literary references to the "three teachings" idea dates back to the 6th century by prominent Chinese scholars of the time. The term may also refer to a non-religious philosophy built on that aggregation.Xiantiandao
The Xiantiandao (Chinese: 先天道; pinyin: Xiāntiān Dào; literally: 'Way of Former Heaven', or "Way of the Primordial"; Vietnamese: Tiên Thiên Đạo, Japanese: Sentendō), also simply Tiandao (Chinese: 天道; pinyin: Tiāndào; literally: 'Way of Heaven'; Vietnamese: Thiên Đạo, Japanese: Tendō) is one of the most productive currents of Chinese folk religious sects such as the White Lotus Sect, characterised by representing the principle of divinity as feminine and by a concern for salvation (moral completion) of mankind.
Xiantiandao was founded in Jiangxi in the 17th century Qing dynasty as an offshoot of the Venerable Officials' teaching of fasting (老官齋教 Lǎoguān zhāijiào), a branch of the Dacheng (大乘 "Great Vehicle") or Yuandun (圆顿 "Sudden Stillness") eastern proliferation of Luoism. It has also been traced to the earlier Wugongdao (五公道 "Way of the Five Lords"), a Yuan dynasty offshoot of the White Lotus tradition.The Xiantiandao religions were considered heterodox and suppressed throughout the history of China; they are still mostly forbidden in Mainland China, yet they thrive in Taiwan where at least 7% of the population adheres to some sect derived from the Xiantiandao.
The Xiantiandao movement is not limited only to Chinese-speaking countries, with at least one sect, the Tendō (天道, "Way of Heaven"), active in Japan. In Vietnam, "Tiên Thiên Đạo" doctrines ultimately influenced the rise of the Minh Đạo sects since the 17th century and subsequently of Caodaism in the 20th century.Sects that are or have been considered as part of the Xiantiandao stream are:
Guigendao (归根道 "Way of the Return to the Root")
Guiyidao (皈依道, "Way of the Return to the One"), best known by its corporate name of School of the Way of the Return to the One or simply School of the Way (道院 Dàoyuàn)
Shengdao (圣道 "Holy Way"), best known by its incorporate name of Tongshanshe (同善社 "Community of the Goodness")
Tiandi teachings (天帝教 "Heavenly Deity")
Yaochidao (瑤池道 "Way of the Jasper Lake")
Yiguandao (一貫道 "Complete Way")
Haizidao (亥子道 "Way of the Children")
Miledadao (弥勒大道 "Great Way of Maitreya")
Yixin Tiandao Longhua Hui (一心天道龙华会 "Dragon Flower Church of the Heart-bound Heavenly Way")
Yuanmingdao (圆明道 "Way of the Bright Circle")Yao folk religion
Yao folk religion is the ethnic religion of the Yao people, a non-Sinitic ethnic group who reside in the Guangxi, Hunan and surrounding provinces of China. Their religion is profoundly intermingled with Taoism since the 13th century, so much that it is frequently defined as Yao Taoism (瑶族道教 Yáozú Dàojiào). In the 1980s it was found that the Yao clearly identified with the Chinese-language Taoist theological literature, seen as a prestigious statute of culture (文化 wénhuà).Yao folk religion was described by a Chinese scholar of the half of the 20th century as an example of deep "Taoisation" (道教化 Dàojiàohuà). Yao core theology and cosmology is Taoist; they worship the deities of canonical Taoism (above all the Three Pure Ones) as the principal deities, while lesser gods are those who pertain to their own indigenous pre-Taoisation religion.The reason of this tight identification of Yao religion and identity with Taoism is that in Yao society every male adult is initiated as a Taoist, and Yao Taoism is therefore a communal religion; this is in sharp contrast to Chinese Taoism, which is an order of priests disembedded from the common Chinese folk religion. A shared sense of Yao identity is based additionally on tracing their descent from the mythical ancestor Panhu.
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