Mysticism: Holiness East and West

By Denise Lardner Carmody; John Tully Carmody | Go to book overview

4
Chinese and Japanese Traditions

General Orientation

We begin with a brief sketch of the histories and worldviews of both China and Japan. Today nearly a quarter of the world's population comes from these two countries. China is the vaster geographical realm, extending nearly 3.7 million square miles. Estimates of the population of China run as high as 1.3 billion.

Archaeological remains suggest a presence of Homo erectus in China more than 300,000 years ago (perhaps even 500,000).

The Neolithic era developed in China during the sixth millennium B.C.E. Recorded history, based on written records, begins around 3000 B.C.E.with the shadowy period of the Three Sovereigns, who recede into prehistory. More definite is the period about 2700 to 2200 B.C.E., ruled by five semilegendary emperors. The Hsia Dynasty, running from perhaps 2200 to 1800 B.C.E., yields few extensive records, but with the Shang Dynasty (also known as the Yin), which covers the period 1800 to 1200 B.C.E., history in a modern, critical sense begins.

The Chou Dynasty ( 1111-255 B.C.E.) is the truly formative era, when higher Chinese culture laid down its foundations (for example, through Confucian thought). The Han Dynasty ( 206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) represents the successor leadership that consolidated much of the social solidarity implied in the Chou. Later larger historical periods include the Six Dynasties Period ( 220-589 C.E.), when numerous different rulers pre

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