Traditional Chinese Religious Society

Vivian-Lee Nyitray

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Traditional Chinese Religious Society

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Traditional Chinese religious society is not limited to the geographical boundaries of China and Taiwan or to the billion and a quarter people who live in those areas. For centuries, traditional Chinese religious customs were spread by émigrés, first throughout East and Southeast Asia and then beyond, to Europe, Africa, and North and South America. However, it is not easy to describe the contours of religion in these communities, nor to define what is meant by “traditional Chinese religion.” Most scholars regard Chinese “religion” as encompassing not only the better-known traditions of Confucianism, Daoism (also romanized as Taoism), and Buddhism, but also the equally important popular traditions ranging from shamanism and spirit writing to fengshui (geomancy) and the cults of local deities. This characterization is complicated by long-standing cultural preferences that define certain traditions, particularly Confucianism, as “philosophy” or “family tradition” rather than as “religion.” Other practices, such as divination and spirit possession, tend to be relegated to the realm of “superstition.”

Keywords: China; religious society; spirit writing; Confucianism; Daoism; Buddhism; shamanism; superstition; cults; fengshui

Article.  3283 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; East Asian Religions

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