Religion in Chinese Social and Political History

David A. Palmer

in Chinese Religious Life

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199731398
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914487 | DOI:
Religion in Chinese Social and Political History

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This chapter shows how the complex diversity of contemporary Chinese religious life is the product of layers of tradition that appeared at different phases of Chinese political and social history, from the third millennium BCE until the early twentieth century CE. Several religious movements and themes appear and recur at different periods of Chinese history, including the ruler's relationship with Heaven as a source of political legitimacy; the importance of virtue and ritual propriety in social relations and government; millenarian movements sometimes associated with rebellions; interference by the Chinese state in the authority of religious institutions; a commercial ethic associating morality and material prosperity; and the tensions and mutual interactions between the teachings of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as with the later additions of Islam and Christianity. In spite of over one century of reform movements, revolutions, and modernizing campaigns from the nineteenth century until today, these themes continue to influence much of the religious life and sociopolitical relationships in the contemporary Chinese world.

Keywords: religion; state; Daoism; Confucianism; Buddhism; Christianity; Islam

Chapter.  8285 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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