What World Religions Teach

By E. G. Parrinder | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
CONFUCIUS AND THE SOCIAL ORDER

Chinese religious history has been vast and complex. The three main traditions, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, have been intertwined so that it is said "the three religions are one," or "they are three ways to one goal," or "all three teach Tao."

As in Hinduism, there were no great religious founders and the systems grew up gradually. Remains from the Stone Age show that the early Chinese paid special attention to the dead and to magical practices. There are abundant Neolithic remains, from 4000 to 3000 B.C., in which pots are found which are similar to those used for ritual purposes later. From the Shang Period ( 18th-12th centuries B.C.) come Oracle Bones of oxbone or tortoiseshell which were used for divination according to the cracks which appeared on them when they were heated, and inscriptions on the bones give questions asked of the oracle and sometimes the reply obtained.

The popular religion of the masses down the ages has centred round the home and the farm. The Hearth God in the house and the Earth God in the field were most important. The Hearth God was represented by coloured pictures above the hearth, and at New Year's Eve he received gifts and then was set on fire to take a report on the family up to heaven. Then he was welcomed back and feasted in the first few days of the New Year. This was very popular until recently.

Ceremonies were held for the Earth God in the spring, and at hoeing and ploughing the fields. Then came the harvest festival and return home for the winter. In the capital at Peking the emperor performed State ceremonies which were the model for lesser rites. Dressed as a peasant, he dug a spade in the ground

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