1. China stands alone among the world's great civilizations, having developed in almost total isolation from the rest of the world.

o        Isolated by geography, at the extreme eastern end of the ancient Euro-Asian world, hemmed in by mountains and deserts, lying across no trade routes, China developed by itself.

2. The Chinese people have traditionally thought themselves to be the center of the universe (Chung-Kao, the Chinese name for China, means the kingdom in the middle).

3. The Chinese have regarded themselves as an island of culture in a sea of barbarity.

o        Like the Romans, the Chinese have long understood the arts of large-sclae administration (beginning with a civil service selected on the basis of merit, Chinese bureaucrats kept the empire intact for two thousand years.

Three Major Religions

1. Three religions have played a major role in China's three thousand years of history.

a. They are Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

b. Confucianism and Taoism are indigenous to China -- both had been in existence for 500 years before the introduction of Buddhism from India.

2. An earlier religion (from which Confucianism and Taoism each grew out of) had existed in China for nearly 1,000 years.

a. Indigenous Chinese tradition had its impact on Buddhism making it more Chinese in character.

b. The influence and impact of Indian thought and religious experience, in turn, had an impact upon Confucianism and Taoism - resulting in Neo-Taoism and Neo-Confucianism (reformulations of the indigenous tradition).

3. Confucianism and Taoism, in the Chinese mind, are chiao (teachings) which are not exclusively religious.

a. The writings of the founders of Confucianism and Taoism have been regarded as part of the cultural heritage of the Chinese.

b. Confucianism's sacred canon, the writings of Confucius and secular documents predating Confucius make up the classical Corpus of China.

1. For nearly 2,000 years the Confucian Canon was the basis of curriculum in Chinese education.

2. Familiarity with the canon was one of the principle requirements of the civil service examinations.

4. Confucianism and Taoism have been thought of as manifestation of the National Chinese Ethos not specifically as religious faiths inviting conversion, membership and personal commitment.

a. With the introduction of Buddhism at the beginning of the Christian Era, the notion arose of religion as an organized institution.

b. In response to Buddhism, Taoism evolved a priestly order and a hierarchy, temples and monasteries and a sacred canon.

c. The imperial household and the Chinese ruling establishment were Confucian, and Confucianism became the philosophy of the administrative classes.

d. Both Confucianism and Taoism were, in origin, philosophical systems which were devoid of any cult elements.

o        religious aspects grew out of it and then became more institutionalized.

The World of Divination

1. Chinese recorded history begins with the Shang Dynasty from the 16th to 11th Centuries B.C.

a. The records of this period are oracle bones discovered toward the end of the 19th Century.

b. These bones were (of which some 100,000 fragments have been recovered) divination inquiries (petitions).

c. These inquiries were engraved on animal bone and shell addressed to spirits for guidance.

1. The diviner then applied heat to holes bored in the bone and the resultant heat-cracks were interpreted as being either an "auspicious or inauspicious" response from the spirits.

2. We see a society regulated in almost every respect of daily life by divination and governed by the consideration of good or bad luck.

2. The powers consulted in divination were the spirits of the deceased kings, the ti, and the spirits of the ancestors.

a. Deities of the hills and streams and other nature gods and tutelary spirits were worshipped.

b. Not only were the dead asked for guidance in matters of conduct, but their manna (their inherent power) was invoked in ensuring the fertility of men and women, crops and beasts.

The Ancient Religion

1. Animism (the worship of nature deities), fertility rites and cults, and in particular ancestor worship are a variety of forms that recur in subsequent times.

2. The Shang Dynasty was replaced by the Chou Dynasty until 1027 B.C. -- the Chou Royal House ruled as "priest kings" until 771 B.C.

a. This period is regarded as a golden age by Confucius.

b. Certain of its documents were cited by him as ancient precedents, and were included in the Confucian Canon--many elements of the Chou royal religion thus passed into Confucian orthodoxy.

3. Early Chinese monarchs were both priests and kings (their sovereignty in being invested by heaven with their power).

a. In the Chou belief, the highest deity was the Supreme Ancestor (Shang-ti), a term synonymous with T'ien (heaven).

b. Heaven holds the entire universe (the natural world and its inhabitants - the "known world" of the Chinese) in its hands, foreordains the change of seasons, orders the cycle of death and renewal, and ensures the fertility of men and women, crops, and beasts.

c. Heaven places the responsibility for ordering the universe in its regent upon earth, the Son of Heaven (T'ien Tzu).

1. This role the Chous claimed for themselves.

2. The ordering of the universe was a matter of being ritually acceptable (p'ei) to heaven, and, through the performance of rituals, sympathetically inducing the realities of the natural order and its sequence in the universe and among mankind.

The Role of the King

1. Heaven showed its displeasure by untimely weather or other supernatural signs such as thunderbolts, and by a failure of fertility.

2. The priestly functions of the kings consisted in sacrificing to the dead kings and to Shang-ti, the most remote and therefore the most powerful of them.

3. He reported to God on the course of secular events, and engaged in such mimic rites as ritual plowing and sowing (in the case of queens, a ritual spinning of the silk cocoons from the mulberry) to ensure fertility and to begin the cycle of life and renewal of the year.

4. P'ei (being ritually acceptable to heaven) was the king's license of Sovereignty and provided the political power that bound his vassals in allegiance to him.

a. The king was assisted in the proper performance of his duties by priests and intoners.

b. They were experts in the forms of ritual, and important among their duties, were astronomical observations that made it possible to fix the calendar.

5. The semi-deified nature of the kingship:

a. The choice by heaven of the king as its son, gave the king political hold over his vassals who were in their turn invested with "charges" by him.

b. Under the king's charge (wang ming), the king's feudal under lords held local sovereignty.

c. Under the lord's charge (kung ming), granted authority to sub-vassals.

o        an entire feudal pyramid was created that was held together by the will of heaven.

Royal Worship

1. Royal worship took place in the ancestral temple, the central building in the palace complex.

a. Facing south, the palace precincts were approached through the south gate -- it opened up into the great court.

b. The north face of the great court was the shrine to the Chou Ancestors.

c. To the rear, through two further gates, was the center court, on the north side was the residential palace.

2. Description of a typical ceremony:

a. The first day, before dawn the king was prepared by his chief ministers in his palace.

b. The king proceeded to the ancestral temple, and the feudal lords (from a military campaign) appeared at the south gate -- they were then summoned to the great court where captives were presented.

c. The captives were sacrificed in the ancestral temple, and the party proceeded to the center court where an account of the campaign was given.

d. The king went from the center court to the temple to sacrifice to the royal ancestors.

e. On the following day, the meat and wine offered in sacrifice were eaten in a feast given to the assembled vassals.

3. The rituals employed in such services are preserved in the earliest section of the Book of Songs, an anthology of early Chinese poetry.

a. These are hymns of the Chou kings and are also the first literary expression of Chinese religious feeling.

b. The hymns consist of invocations and confessions addressed to the royal ancestors, and recitals to the gods of deeds of valor.

c. Other pieces celebrate before the gods the presence of vassals at the ceremonies.

1. There are songs of welcome addressed to the vassals.

2. There are songs of fealty addressed by the vassals to the king.

With stately calm and reverent accord, The ministers and attending knights record the virtues of their founding Lord Our heavenly ministrant, the great King Wen.

O Lord, may you in your great majesty

Find in measured act and formal word

Praise not displeasing from mere mortal men.

Majestic, never ending

Is the Charge of Heaven.

Your virtue descending,

Oh, illustrious King Wen,

Your servants on earth.

We have only to receive your favor.

May it be preserved by those who come after.

Our offerings

Of oxen, sheep

We humbly bring.

May from these spring

Heaven's keep

And the favor of the king.

May we always

Fear the wrath of Heaven

So to keep his favor

And our ways even.

To bring peace to the land we must

Follow the precepts of King Wen, and trust

To his statutes; from afar he will watch and approve.

His robes of brightest silk,

His cap encrusted

With precious stones,

The wine so mellow and soft;

He moves without sound

In reverent modesty among

The sacred tripods and the drinking horns;

He moves from Hall to Threshold with measured pace,

And for the aged brings at last the gift of grace.

4. The charges of the Chou kings and ritual hymns provided for Confucius the "documents of antiquity", ancient authority for his own religious and political views.

o        Many Chou religious beliefs became basic religious views for Confucius.

a. The idea of a supreme being (Shang-ti, God-on-high), and the idea of a kingship being held at heaven's pleasure (the mandate of heaven) -- and the idea that heaven withdraws its mandate from the wicked and sanctions the overthrow of a dynasty.

b. The centrality of royal ancestors led to the centrality of ancestors in subsequent religious practice.

c. Reverence for the powerful dead and invoking their manna (a supernatural force or power which may be concentrated in objects or persons) for the sustenance of the clan became part of Chinese social mores and filial piety a central Confucian teaching.

5. Confucius invested much of the early religious practice with moral sanctions.

a. The Chou Era was a pre-moral age (as evidenced in human sacrifice).

b. Chou religious practice was not motivated by a moral view of good and evil.

c. It was motivated by the ritual manipulation of powers to ensure good luck and to avert bad luck and to invoke the collective power of the departed dead.

Aristocratic Religion

1. In 771 B.C. the kings of western Chou moved their capital to the east, and with this change came a decline in royal power and influence.

2. Real power passed to the princes of city states.

a. Originally these princes were feudal vassals of the Chou dynasty.

b. These rulers gradually asserted their independence and increasingly took upon themselves kingly privileges.

o        Among them were the priestly functions of the ancient kings.

3. Feudal princes attached their genealogy to local cult heroes of the past.

a. Hou-chi, the Prince of Millet, became the putative (commonly regarded as such; reputed, supposed) ancestor of the Chi Clan, Yu the Great, the hero of the primeval Flood, was the putative ancestor of Szu.

b. Through their possession of the local altars and their right to attend to the divinities of fertility, with access to the manna of their ancestors, the prince of the city states asserted political control over their subjects.

c. The city-states maintained archives of which much has survived.

d. The Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch'un-Ch'iu) of Lu and commentaries provide our principal source for the religious ideas in this period.

1. They record matters of dynastic concern-marriages and deaths of the princely house, treaties with other states, and ominous events (untimely weather, the appearance of freaks and the like) and observations of eclipses and meteors.

2. These archives had the ritual purpose of placing on record for the ancestors matters of dynastic concern.

Shamanism in the South

1. Eastern Chou sources are concerned with the religion of city state princes and the aristocratic classes.

o        Very little is known of the popular religion of this period.

2. From the city-state of Ch'u which by the 4th Century B.C. dominated the upper Yangtze Valley (and included what are now Anchwei, Honan, Hunan, Hupeh, and Szechuan.

a. A collection of shaman songs has survived as part of the Elegies of Ch'u.

o        These are the Nine Songs.

b. The gods invoked are from the local cults of areas in Ch'u, mountain and river goddesses and local heroes.

c. The shamans, either men or women, ritually washed, perfumed and decked out in gorgeous dresses, sing and dance accompanied by music in courtship ritual, inviting the gods to descend in erotic intercourse, and then lament the sadness at their departure.

With a faint flush I start to come out of the east,

Shining down on my threshold, Fu-sang.

As I urge my horses slowly forward,

The night sky brightens, and day has come.

I ride a dragon car and chariot on the thunder,

With cloud-banners fluttering upon the wind.

I heave a long sigh as I start the ascent,

Reluctant to leave, and looking back longingly;

For the beauty and the music are so enchanting

The beholder, delighted, forgets that he must go.

Tighten the zither's strings and smite them in unison!

Strike the bells until the bell-stand rocks!

Let the flutes sound! Blow the pan-pipes!

See, the priestesses, how skilled and lovely!

Whirling and dipping like birds in flight!

Unfolding the words in time to the dancing,

Pitch and beat all in perfect accord!

The spirits, descending, darken the sun.

In my cloud-coat and my skirt of the rainbow,

Grasping my bow I soar high up in the sky;

I aim my long arrow and shoot the Wolf of Heaven;

I seize the Dipper to ladle cinnamon wine.

Then holding my reins I plunge down to my setting,

On my gloomy night journey back to the east.

3. The Shamanistic Cult which was not confined just to the South but widespread as the popular religion throughout the city-states.

4. Shamans played the role of exorcists, prophets, fortune tellers and interpreters of dreams.

o        They were also medicine-men, the healers of diseases.

5. References to them in the literature of the period suggest that they were everywhere.

a. New colonization measures: in the 1st Century B.C. state that the new colonists are to be provided with "doctors and shamans, to tend them in sickness and to continue their sacrifices."

o        The suggestion is that the shaman was a customary member of village society.

b. The phrase "shaman family" hints that the calling of the Shaman was hereditary.

6. With the rise of Confucianism, a growing prejudice against Shamanism emerges in China.

The Age of the Philosophers

1. The roots of both religious Confucianism and Taoism were laid during the Age of Philosophy.

a. From the 6th to 3rd Centuries B.C. in the city states of the north-central plain, China enjoyed the flowering and proliferation of philosophy.

b. Philosophers traveled from one court to another seeking a prince who would "put their way into practice".

c. The father of Chinese history, Szu-ma Ch'ien (145-90 B.C.) described them as the "Hundred Schools". -- gradually emerged the schools of Confucianism and Taoism.

2. Power within the city states passed from princes to oligarchs, groups of powerful nobles.

a. From a religious point of view, this raised the problem of the sanction of heaven for political power, and the rights of religious authority.

b. Social and Economic Change in China: 7th Century B.C.

1. Iron was introduced and coins were minted--merchants organized and negotiated terms of status and operation with princes.

2. An agrarian economy of self-sufficient communities was transformed into specialized production--leading to disruption in social equilibrium and political unrest.

c. Social mobility for the aristocracy also increased.

1. Some aristocrats become mercenaries and attached themselves as clients to patrons.

2. Others became merchants and engaged in interstate commerce (Shang is the word for commerce).

3. Others hired themselves out as tutors to the sons of the nobility or opened schools.

They called themselves the Ju (the gentle or the yielding).

3. By the 4th Century B.C., the philosopher was a familiar figure at court with rulers staging debates where rival theories were argued and aired.

4. The Philosophical Age was ushered in during a period of change and innovation.

a. The problem was thought to be political: how to restore order and equilibrium to the city states.

b. The schools of the Philosophical Age which concerns the study of religion are Confucius and his successors.


1. Confucianism is the earliest of the hundred Schools, and its founder, Confucius, was China's first philosopher.

2. He was born in 551 B.C. in the city state of Lu, and died in 579 B.C.

a. His name is a Latin form of the Chinese K'ung Fu-tzu (Master Kung).

b. As tutor to the sons of the city-state aristocracy, he taught.

1. The arts of city-state life.

2. The study of the Book of Documents, a collection of archives concerned with Western Chou.

3. The Book of Songs that contained the ritual hymns of the early Chou kings.

3. Confucius instilled in his pupils the system of the Chou royal religion.

4. It was the restoration of the values and practices of this age that Confucius saw as the political answer to the problems of the city states.

a. Confucius appealed to the texts of the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents as his authority. -- his method was scriptural.

b. As a political theorist his approach was conservative--his program was one of the restoration of an earlier tradition.

An Ethical and Moral System

1. By interpreting the archaic language of these documents (as scripture) into a contemporary sense -- he evolved an ethical and moral system.

o        This was done from writings that are auguristic dominated by a belief in magic.

2. Te, the magical force, the manna of antiquity became virtue in an ethical moral sense.

a. The power that manna exerts became the force of example which converts the "good" into an irresistible force.

b. The Prince of the ancient texts, chun-tzu, becomes for Confucius what a gentleman should ideally be.

c. Jen, the attributes of members of the tribe in good standing, becomes for Confucius an almost transcendental quality of goodness -- attained only by the sages of antiquity.

3. Society was transformed from a concern with good and bad luck to a concern with right and wrong.

The Analects

1. The Analects (Lun-yu) are twenty books containing the teaching of Confucius.

a. Each book consists of a collection of sentences or paragraph sayings of the master recorded by his pupils.

b. The Analects thus form part of the Confucian sacred canon.

2. The Prince should follow the "Way of the Former Kings"--in the Confucian view, they ruled and behaved as heaven decreed.

a. They ruled because they were Jen, inherent goodness.

ie. unselfishness, deference toward others, courtesy, and loyalty to family.

b. Jen: (to Confucius) -- was a mystical entity -the essential quality of sainthood.


1. Te (virtue) is the power by which sainthood is achieved.

a. Virtue, not as opposed to vice, but rather as the inherent virtue -- the power of efficacy of something.

b. It transcends physical force and coercion -- the good person exercises virtue and others turn to the good.

c. The man who seeks to be jen by cultivating his te attains the princely ideal.

2. Chun-tzu (lit. a prince) is the princely ideal which becomes in Confucian teaching the embodiment of the ideals of human conduct.

a. The chun-tzu is governed in all things (his conduct) by li (ritual).

b. Li - the rites of the early religion - become an entire code for gentlemanly conduct, so that to moral conduct is added an appropriate outward manifestation.

3. Confucius's emphasis was with personal conduct and personal duty.

a. Service to god becomes meaningless if service to others is neglected.

b. Core of his teaching: is the ethical and moral problems of man's relationship to his fellow man.

Filial Piety

1. Hsiao (filial piety) originally meant piety to dead parents and ancestors, and duties owed to them in the performance of sacrifices.

2. To Confucius, hsiao meant serving living parents - resulting in :

Five Relationships of Confucian Teaching:

a. The prince and subject.

b. Father and son.

c. Older and younger brother.

d. Husband and Wife.

e. Friend with Friend.

3. Filial piety embraces those attitudes of respect for the senior and a reciprocal attitude of love and affection on the senior's part to the junior.

o        After death -- it involves religious obligations in ceremonial worship.


1. Tradition: after the death of Confucius in 479 B.C., his disciples scattered (we are told there were 70) from whom several schools of Confucianism arose.

o        The most important figures were Mencius (an idealist) and Hsun Tzu (a realist).

2. Born a century after the death of Confucius -- his Chinese name was Meng K'o but was called Meng Tzu (Master Meng). (390-305 B.C.)

3. A member of the Aristocratic class seeking office to put his "Way into practice".

o        After serving a brief term as minister in the state of Ch'i, he retired to private life teaching his way to his dedicated pupils.

4. The Works of Mencius: the surviving text of his works gathered by his students.

a. Arranged in short sentence - or paragraph sayings--the paragraphs are extended and the treatment is much fuller than that of Confucius.

b. The Works of Mencius like the Analects form part of the Confucian Sacred Canon.

c. Purpose: to transmit the wisdom of the ancients without creating anything new.

5. Attitude Toward History

a. For Confucius, "the way of the former kings" was the early Chou emperors (11th and 10th Centuries). -- the earlier Shang and Hsia Dynasties were barely mentioned.

b. Yao, Shun and Yu the Great: heroes of this earlier period become more important to Mencius.

1. The era of Yao and Shun was a period of primordial perfection.

2. Mencius's ideas toward sainthood had become more secular -- any man could become Yao or Shun.

c. Jen, almost unattainable under Confucius, is now associated with yi (originally meaning "immortal right") which becomes justice for Mencius.

o        Both social and economic justice -- humanity and justice become the central points of Mencian teaching.

6. Humanity and Justice

a. Mencius introduces a concern for the common people, the min in contrast to jen (the aristocracy).

b. Heaven is the guardian of the common people and heaven shows its displeasure when they suffer.

1. Emphasis on the well being of the common people as the basis of the ruler's virtue is a major contribution of the Mencian Way.

2. For the prince who has these qualities, the goals of true kingship are realized.

c. Jen engenders "power" (te), a prestige and moral persuasiveness which is the opposite of pa (physical force and coercion).

d. Wang (true kingship) and pa (rule by force) are thus opposed -- To rule by superior virtue rather than by force becomes an influential element in Confucian political thinking.

7. Human Beings and Their Fate

a. Hsing (human nature) was to Mencius innately good which was attested by the universality of a sense of kingship and of right and wrong.

o        Importance: this is the unique difference between humans and other living creatures.

b. Hsing can be mutilated and atrophy and disappear if not nurtured properly.

c. Nurturing the hsing consists in guarding the mind (ts'un hsin), for the mind is the center of humanity and justice.

1. It is the hsing (nature) and hsin (mind) that determine what we are.

2. Ming (fate) is ordained by heaven and determines our lot in life.

3. The realization of innate goodness can only come from self-cultivation and self-knowledge.

Hsun Tzu

1. ca. 321-238 B.C.: the third member in the trinity of founding fathers of Confucianism.

a. Lived toward the end of the Age of Philosophy -- enabling him to defend Confucianism in the full knowledge of competing philosophies.

b. Hsun Tzu presented Confucianism in a way that made his presentation the most complete and well ordered philosophy of its age.

2. He attacks Mencius for his idealistic tendencies in appealing to antiquity of the legendary mythic Yao and Shun.

a. Like Confucius -- Hsun Tzu saw antiquity as the period of the Chou Kings.

b. Importance: This placed authority on the firm ground of historical documentation rather than on myth and legend.

3. To Hsun Tzu -- Heaven became impersonal, it is nature and the natural process.

4. Hsun Tzu - viewed human nature as basically evil.

a. He held the belief that through education and training one can become good.

b. Education and training from the study of classical texts can be examples of how one can attain moral understanding and insight when the mind is properly employed.

c. Hsun Tzu insisted that the end process of education and the proper function of the educated man was to govern.

5. The Human Mind: the Center of the Universe.

a. Since moral order and human perfection begins in the mind, the human mind becomes the center of the universe.

1. This attitude led Hsun Tzu to a humanistic, rationalistic view of religion.

2. Certain religious practices he condemned as superstition. ie. praying for rain, exorcising sickness, and reading person's fortune in the face.

3. Other forms of divination were allowed provided that interpretations were made in the light of human reason.

4. He denied the existence of harmful spirits and ghosts -- to Hsun Tzu the spirits of the ancestors and the powers of nature became a manifestation of moral excellence.

b. The Concept of Li (ritual - the rites of the earlier religion).

1. For Confucius it became a code of human conduct.

2. Hsun Tzu - provided a new and rational justification for li as it plays a part in one's life.

ie. observing the appropriate jesters, wearing the proper dress, maintaining the proper manner (demeanor).

3. Purpose: to restrain the desires and rectify the evil that was innate in man.

c. The views of Mencius eventually became orthodox in Confucianism diminishing the influence of Hsuan Tzu.

o        Importance: his emphasis on the virtues of education, and the duty of the scholar to govern became a central view of Confucianism.

Utilitarians and Hedonists

1. Mencius complained that the world had succumbed to the teachings of Yang Chu and Mo Tzu.

o        Rival Philosophies: the utilitarians of Mo Zu and the hedonists of Yang Chu.

2. Mo Tzu (ca. 479-381 B.C.)

a. Mohism: exercised a great deal of influence during the Age of Philosophers.

b. Mo Tzu had little use for authority or antiquity--believing that problems of society could only be attacked by rejecting authority and establishing a new society based on reason.

3. Existence of the Divine (a deity):

a. Deity has a purpose, and a will which are conceived in love and compassion.

b. Order is the ultimate manifestation of the divine compassion -- the secret of the successful prince lies in inquiring into the causes of disorder (for only then can he cure evil).

c. All are equal in the eyes of Heaven, and heaven manifests its love upon all regardless of person.

o        therefore it follows that people should love one another without discrimination and with equity.

4. Mencius thought the ideal that people should love each other equally without regard to priorities of affection to family and prince as subversive of life itself.

5. Mo Tzu believed that there should be a consensus of the common good and the consensus would be for universal love.

6. The consensus of the common good -- led Mo Tzu to his two political axioms.

a. The Common Weal (prosperity or happiness; wealth or riches; body politic or state).

Mohist Meaning: the greatest benefit to the greatest number.

b. The Common Accord: the theory that the policy producing the greatest benefit must be agreed to by all.

c. It followed that only the most able, without regard to social status, were fit servants of the commonwealth and to them should go its highest honors and rewards.

7. The highest moral act for the individual was in serving and making sacrifices for others.

a. Mohists established an ascetic monastic order similar to that of the Christian West.

b. They saw war as the very antithesis of universal love--thus they opposed aggression of any kind.

c. The Mohist argued that war itself was evil--yet, this did not stop them from arguing that the greatest good might be in fighting against aggression.

8. Yang Chu, the Epicurean (the second of Mencius's rivals) argued that the city state was beyond recovery (redemption).

a. People's concern should be for themselves avoiding involvement with their fellows.

b. The emphasis was on individualism thinking it more important to save a single life.

Philosophical Taoism

1. Confucianism and Mohism were "activist" philosophies concerned with the governments of the city states and social morality.

2. Philosophical activities of a quite different kind were taking place in the countryside (the outside society).

ie. the Quietists

a. They sought self-awareness and self-cultivation in the transcendental through yogic practices.

b. The unchanging Oneness underlying a world of change, which at the same time gave both "impetus and motion" to life.

o        This they called tao.

3. All philosophers in ancient China spoke of their tao (their way)- the Quietists spoke of Tao-ness itself.

a. From their speculation emerged the religion of Taoism--an aspect of Chinese religious life we might think of as mystical.

b. Its origin is closer to the popular religion of antiquity -- for it sought access to knowledge through a trance-state of the shaman rather than in the documents of antiquity.

4. The Core of the Taoist Scriptures

a. The Chuang Tzu and the Lieh Tzu are Taoist texts that have survived from the Age of Philosophers.

b. The Tao Te Ching appeared toward the end of this period -- all three form the core (and are the earliest) of the Taoist Canon.

c. Taoist Tradition: the Tao Te Ching is attributed to Lao Tzu who is doubted as a historical figure as well as Lieh Tzu.

1. Chuang Tzu (ca. 369-286 B.C.) is a historical figure who was a contemporary of Mencius.

2. However, both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu are considered to be the putative founders and patriarchs of religious Taoism.

d. In their different aspects, the Chuang Tzu, the Lieh Tzu, and Tao Te Ching represent different branches of Taoist thought.

o        Yet, there are certain fundamentals that are common to all.

e. Chuang Tzu in the form of parables and imaginary dialogues describes a form of knowledge known only to the adept.

1. It, the "greatest knowledge" (vision of the mystic), is gained in a trance, a state in which "I lose me".

2. Heaven and Earth came into being with me together, and all things are one with me.

3. All things are relative, all opposites blend, all contrasts are harmonized -- the One is Tao.

o        Tao can do everything by doing nothing.

4. Te (the virtue or morality of the Confucians) is, for the Taoist, the tao inherent in everything.

5. Tao (the way) and te (its power) are fundamental conceptions of philosophical Taoism.

f. Any human interference is viewed as damaging.

g. The adept opposes institutions, moral laws, and government as obstructing the free-play of tao and the working of te.

h. The best way to govern is not to govern -- happiness is achieved by letting everything alone (ie. By allowing tao - free play.)

i. Death is just an aspect of existence, as life is (the changing of one form of existence for another).

o        Chuang Tzu says, "Life and death are one, right and wrong are the same." -- it is this that frees man from his handicaps.

Other Philosophical Schools

1. The Cosmologists: in the early part of the 3rd Century B.C. speculation began about a theory of the universe as an ordered whole and about the laws that govern it.

2. Tsou Yen and his school (cosmologists) affected the course of philosophical development.

3. Tsou Yen said there was a cycle of five elements: earth, wood, metal, fire, and water.

a. Each element in turn conquers its predecessor in recurring cycles -- each governs a period of history.

b. Each element, in its rise and decay, governs the natural world, so that both natural and human events are predictable.

c. Tsou Yen's followers are known as the Yin-Yang Schools.

4. The Yin (the dark, the female, the weak). The Yang (the light, the male, the strong).

a. They are presented as two cosmic principles through whose interaction all phenomena of the universal are produced.

b. By the incorporation of yin-yang dualism in the I Ching (Book of Changes), it entered Confucian Orthodoxy.

c. It also entered popular religion through Taoism and their symbols became a common part of Chinese art.

5. The School of Law

a. Law should replace morality -- it came from the teachings of the Lord Shang in the state of Ch'in.

b. Ch'in at the end of the Age of Philosophers conquered all of China and united it into a nation state under an emperor.

c. It (the concept of law) rejected all appeals to tradition, reliance on supernatural sanctions or guidance.

o        Legalism was eventually discredited as a philosophy because of the harshness of its enforcement.

Religion under the Ch'in and Han Dynasties

1. The Age of Philosophy ended with the collapse of city states and the establishment of imperial rule under the Ch'in.

2. China was united for the first time in a half millennium.

a. Under a totalitarianism inspired by Legalism, the Ch'in emperors subjugated the people and created a unified nation state.

b. These rulers also sought to demonstrate that their power extended to their altars and gods that the people worshipped.

c. The first emperor toured his empire, ascending sacred mountains, visiting shrines, and making appropriate sacrifices to local deities asserting his sovereignty over not only men but also the gods of the land.

3. To symbolize both his temporal and religious power, the emperor took the title: Ch'in Shih Huang-ti.

a. Ch'in is the name of the ruling house.

b. Shih signifies the "first" of his line.

c. ti was the term by which the god-king of antiquity was called.

d. hunag meaning illustrious suggests that he was the most -illustrious among the Ti.

4. Under the advice of Legalist ministers, the emperor ordered the burning of books in a hope of destroying the teachings of the Hundred Schools.

a. The first emperor consulted both shamans and magicians hoping to gain immortality.

b. This brought many elements of the popular religion in their original varieties to court.

5. The Han Dynasty (202 B.C. to A.D. 220):

a. It inherited the structure, the institutions and the unity of the Ch'in.

b. It rejected the harshness of Ch'in laws and Legalism with its intolerance.

c. The Han Dynasty brought to China a rich period of intellectual and cultural development.

1. The Chinese still like to call themselves "men of Han".

2. During this period Confucianism was established as the state religion.

3. Taoism also became a popular religion, and toward the end of the Han period -- Buddhism was introduced into China.

The Triumph of Confucianism

1. The Ch'in came to power as a result of military conquest, and the Han succeeded the Ch'in through an armed uprising.

a. Both dynasties were confronted with the problem of religious sanctions that legitimized kingship in the Chinese mind.

b. Ssu-ma Ch'ien (father of Chinese history) writing in the reign of Emperor Wu (r. 140-87 B.C.) said that the mandate of heaven requires that a ruler be fit to perform the feng and shan sacrifices.

2. The search for the formula of feng and shan, led to an exploration of the extent of religious belief over the entire empire.

a. It was in the conflicting advice given to the early Han Emperors on the rites, ceremonies, and the sacrificial duties of the kingship that led to Confucian ascendancy.

b. Under Emperor Hsuan (r. 73-49 B.C.), a council of the empire's Confucian authorities was summoned and spent three years discussing the interpretation of Confucian Classics.

c. 51 B.C.: the emperor ratified their decisions.

o        An official interpretation of the Confucian Classics which became authoritative in government.

1. Confucianism proscribed under the Ch'in and a small local movement at the beginning of Han--became sate and court orthodoxy.

2. Proficiency in Confucian Classics became the basis for selection for state service.

o        Its religious beliefs and ritual became the official religion of the royal house.

Need For Personal Gods

1. People still sought relationships with gods and spirits of a personal and individual kind.

a. There was also the belief that through meditation one could be provided with personal intercession with the gods.

b. The official religion offered no consolation for one's fate after death.

2. It was the belief that at death, a person's several souls, separate and the body disintegrates.

a. Shamans, sorcerers, and magicians claimed to be able to recall the wondering souls of the dead and reintegrate them into an immortal body.

b. Even with the strong disapproval of the Confucian elite this attitude persisted.

3. The Yellow Heaven

a. Toward the end of the Han Dynasty a group practicing alchemy and healing claimed that the "blue heaven" would be replaced by the "yellow heaven" as the presiding power of the universe.

b. Prophesy: in the year A.D. 184, a new and revolutionary era would usher in a millennium of universal peace.

1. It was a period of political unrest--the prophesy became a rallying point for a peasant revolt.

2. The rebels wore a yellow-colored kerchief on their heads to associate themselves with the yellow heaven -- it became known as the Revolt of the Yellow Turbans.

c. The movement was Taoist led, its ideology was Taoist inspired and sought the formation of a Taoist State.

4. Taoist History: Chang Liang who served the first Han emperor became a student of Taoism and tried to gain immortality in vain.

a. Seven Generations later, a descendant, Chang Ling wrote a commentary on Taoism, and gathered a group of disciples reputed to be (ca. 10,000 men).

b. The Taoist Church was divided into two regional groups.

1. East: under the direction of Chang Chueh and his two brothers (the Three Chang).

2. West: under the direction of Changs descended from Chang Ling.

c. During the Yellow Turban Revolt

1. The Eastern Church was said to have had the allegiance of eight provinces (2/3 of the Han Empire).

2. Hierarchical Organization: divided into 36 provinces.

a. At the head were the three Chang Brothers - General and Lord of Heaven, General and Lord of Earth, and General and Lord of Man.

b. Under them the larger districts were in the charge of a Great Adept, the smaller districts of a Lesser Adept.

3. A similar regional organizational structure existed in the Western Church under Chang Heng and Chang Lu.

o        Religious hierarchy extended down to the individual community.

5. Rites and Services

a. Rites and services were developed for the atonement for sins, and for the expiation of sickness (thought to be caused by sin).

1. Priests would recite incantations over water and give it to the penitent to drink -- if it failed it was attributed to lack of faith.

2. Western Church: one would pay five pecks of rice as redemption money (sins were written down and confessions were addressed to Heaven, Earth, or Water).

b. The Taoist religion at the end of the Han Dynasty was far removed from the School of Mysticism of the 3rd and 4th Centuries B.C.

c. Taoism had become a religion of salvation with an organized Church structure offering a way of salvation.

6. Avoidance of Death

a. The true initiate sought to avoid death and to pass to the land of the immortals directly.

b. At Creation: the nine vapors were mixed with chaos--the purest forming heaven and the coarsest forming earth.

c. The Human Body is made up of the coarser elements having been endowed with life when the primordial vapor had entered the body at birth.

1. The primordial vapor joins with the essence and this forms the spirit, the principle of Life.

2. At death, vapor and essence separate which must be avoided if immortality is to be achieved.

o        the body must not disintegrate.

d. The Principal Groups of Techniques -- to achieve immortality.

1. Nourishing the life principle.

2. Nourishing the spirit.

3. Preserving the One intact.

e. Consumption of Cereals was considered to be one of the causes of death (ie. because their vapors nourish evil spirits in the body).

1. These evil spirits reside in the brain, heart, and stomach.

2. By diet, use of drugs, and breathing exercises these spirits could be repressed.

f. By Breathing one could force the essence to rise to the brain and strengthen the union of vapor and essence.

g. By meditation -- one could enter into communication with the good spirits within.

7. The Taoist Community

a. There were the greatest of all adepts who by taking the road of Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu renounced personal immortality for the higher state identified with Tao itself where no corporal containment was possible.

b. The shih (teacher) was in charge of the local community of the faithful.

1. Below him were community officials ranked in three grades:

a. Pious and rich.

b. The rich.

c. Pious but poor.

2. They conducted initiation rites for those who had reached 18, and helped provide for the poor and sick.

c. Tao-min (Taoist People) were the ordinary members of the local community.

d. Three times a year the congregation met to celebrate the three agents: Heaven, Earth, and Water which could either bring rewards or punishments.

e. There were also five services a year for the departed faithful.


1. Remained both the philosophy and religion of the educated upper class.

2. The study of the Confucian Classics after its official recognition during the Han Dynasty continued.

3. Ma Jung and Cheng Hsuan (2nd Century A.D.) wrote commentaries--starting a tradition of scholarship to better understand and expound the teachings of Confucius.

4. K'ung Ying-ta (7th Century A.D.) wrote further commentaries.

a. Purpose: to establish a unity within the Classical Confucian Canon.

b. Each book being thought of as a facet of a whole unified teaching.

5. The Confucian Elite, at court, continued to maintain a position of opposition to both Taoism and Buddhism.

a. Buddhism was considered foreign and thus unpatriotic.

b. Beyond its social ethic, Confucianism did not meet the religious needs of the people which both Taoism and Buddhism attempted to do.

6. Sung Dynasty (11th Century A.D.) a movement began under the pressure of Taoism and Buddhism to evolve explanations of humankind and the Universe.

7. Chu Hsi (A.D. 1130 - 1200) became the Thomas Aquinas of Confucianism. (Neo Confucianism)

a. In every human mind there is the knowing faculty and in everything there is reason.

b. The incompleteness of our knowledge is due to our insufficiency in investigating the reason for it.

c. After sufficient labor and effort, one will come to the point where everything is known and understood (human and spiritual).

8. With Confucianism as the basis of the state system of education, Taoism and Buddhism slowly declined.