The word 教in Chinese means both "to teach" and "religion". This reflects the close connection between philosophy and religion in Chinese culture, making it difficult to separate the two disciplines.
As opposed to Western culture, in which the world is perceived as composed of distinctive elements such as man and God, body and soul, etc., the Chinese perceive the world as a continuous and harmonious entirety. According to this perception, man merges with the world around him rather than confronts it.
The confrontations and instability that featured in the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) bothered many Chinese philosophers. They saw their states at war with neighboring states, losing their power and weakened by poverty. It was the social and political issues that bothered them most, whereas abstract issues, such as the nature of the world, only began to concern Chinese philosophers in later periods. Most of those whose texts have survived appear to have traveled from state to state in China, offering their ideas as advisers to rulers and as teachers, integrating religion into ethics.
Chinese philosophy emphasizes the moral qualities of man, rather than his intellectual or materialistic qualities. The sense of obligation is stronger than that of freedom. Whereas in the West obligations and privileges are opposite phenomena, in China they are integrated. Everyone knows their place in the social hierarchy, their obligations and their privileges.
Following the decline of feudalism, new schools of philosophy that discussed new methods of rule were established. These schools, which lasted from 770 to 222 BCE, were called The Hundred Schools 百家. Each philosopher had his own students, establishing a school of his own. Among these schools were Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism (which focused on the rule of law). The great Chinese philosophers were people of high moral standing, occultists and political theorists, who discussed the behavior of society and of the individual.
Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, which began as schools of philosophy, developed into religions. Unlike Western religions, Chinese religions are eclectic. They do not require people to hold a specific belief. An individual can be a Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, or any combination of the three. Thus, there are people who pray on one day to the Buddhist goddess of mercy Guan Yin 观音 to give them a son, and on another day pray to a Daoist god to be cured of an illness. Such activities do not imply any sense of infidelity to one faith or another. Even the priests in the temples cannot always tell whether a certain god is Buddhist or Daoist.
The religious and philosophical traditions molded the outlook of the Chinese people and their behavior for about 2,000 years. As opposed to the West, where religion is a connecting factor among people, in China faith is a personal matter. There is no one unifying prayer for all the believers, nor is there any ban on eating particular foods. Likewise, no priests would pray for a believer, or bless their marriage.
Among the Chinese religions there is no commandment to love a god or to fear him; nor is there any commandment to pray to a god or praise him. There are no religious sayings such as those found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, meaning "You shalt have no other gods before me". The idea of killing those who have different religious beliefs is foreign to the Chinese. As opposed to Western believers, the Chinese people have a closer relationship with their gods and do not consider them utterly sacred. In many respects the Chinese believers resemble their gods, who have human qualities.
The rise of communism in China in 1949 led to a reduction in religious influence. Objects used in religious practice, such as incense, candles, etc., were taxed heavily, being perceived as representatives of superstition. In schools the approach was atheistic and temples were converted into secular schools. People were allowed to worship, but only if they took part in the Communist party's activities.
Since the 1980s, the Chinese government has become more flexible, and there has been a tendency to return to religion and tradition. At present, many Chinese people respect Confucius, worship Buddha and perform Daoist rites, all at the same time, without any feeling of incongruity. They say that these are three paths leading to one goal. This approach represents a triple insurance policy against calamity. In the following I present the main characteristics of religion and philosophy in China.
Religion in Ancient China and Ancestor Worship
Many elements in the ancient Chinese religion resemble those in Indian religions, being based on the seasonal cycle and the fertility of animals, plants and human beings. The sun was conceived of as a central object of worship, and the emperor as the son of the sun. Since agriculture was the main occupation of the population, the worship of those gods associated with agriculture united the entire population. We should make a distinction, however, between the gods in the period preceding the fall of the Han dynasty and the gods added after this point in time.
In ancient China the various forces of nature were considered as gods. The first human was conceived as the superior ruler of heaven who was identified with Heaven 天. Heaven was created out of Pan Gu 盘古 a giant who emerged from chaos, and his body parts became the different parts of the world. Whereas Pan Gu was legendary, Shang Di 上帝 (literally: supreme emperor; 上 -upon, 帝 - emperor, ruler and sacrifice) was considered as a mortal who became a god. Some scholars believe that this god's name signified "a sacrifice placed above the other sacrifices", while others believe that Shang was the founder of the Shang dynasty (c.1600-1046 BCE). Shang Di, who received sacrifices only from rulers, is especially associated with wars and crops. Confucius defined him as the force that controls nature and determines the fate of human beings.
According to a recent study, "Di" was a collective term for the gods, and it was only during the Shang dynasty that it was first associated with the idea of a supreme god.
During the Shang dynasty the ruler was perceived to be under the mandate of Shang Di, the Heaven God 皇天上帝. The Chinese believed in a harmony uniting Heaven, earth and man. The prevailing belief was that the emperor, in having high moral standards, would cause the Barbarians to kneel before him and bring him offerings. This belief explains why, throughout history, the Chinese tended to place their faith in religion rather than in an army ready for battle.
Beside Shang Di, the Chinese worshiped the hundred spirits ("hundred" to indicate multiplicity) or "the hundred gods" – a collective name for all the divine spirits. The people believed that important events depended on cooperation among the gods. Most of the gods were nature gods, such as sun, moon, thunder etc.
As early as in the Shang dynasty the Chinese believed that the dead help the living, especially their relatives. At the beginning only the nobles of this dynasty worshiped their ancestors; however, during the Zhou dynasty ancestor worship began among the common people too. Ancestor worship is still prevalent to a considerable extent in present-day China.
The ancestors remain with their kin. A death does not mean separation between the dead and the living. Every house features a small shrine. The objects of worship in this shrine are not images but wooden tablets inscribed with the names of the deceased family members and the dates of their birth and death. The spirits of the dead are believed to reside in these tablets. The deceased ancestors supervise the activities of their living descendents and the descendents must honor them and give them the love they deserve. In order to ensure the ancestors' "happiness" in the other world, their descendents bring offerings, food and wine, to the temples and ancestor worship sites. The purpose of such worship is to maintain the continuity of the family.
Immediately after the death of a family member, the death is reported to the God of Earth 土地 or to the God of the Five Ways 五道神who, as the guardian of the entrance to the underworld, eases the passage of the deceased soul into the world of the spirits.
Ceremonies following the death of a family member take place during a 49-day period of mourning. There are still ceremonies today in which the deceased is dressed in his most beautiful clothes. Money, clothing, a house, furniture and even servants – all made of paper, are burnt in order to serve him in the underworld. Until recently, it was customary to burn bundles of 10,000 yuan - paper money for the underworld (not real money) - to provide enough money for all the needs of the deceased.
The Chinese pantheon contains thousands of gods and religious figures. The most ancient Chinese gods were fertility gods. The peasant's harvest and even his life were believed to depend on them.
As already mentioned, the object of worship in the Shang dynasty was Heaven 天, who united with Shang Di. The ruler received his mandate to rule from Heaven, but if the ruler's behavior was immoral he would be forced to abdicate, as indeed happened to the last ruler of the Shang dynasty.
Compared to the gods who appeared after the Han dynasty, the more ancient gods have rarely appeared in the arts. Likewise, there is no methodical presentation of mythology in the period preceding the Han dynasty. The creation story of Pan Gu, for example, originated in the third century CE.
After the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) hundreds of gods were added to the Chinese pantheon, all of them immortals – humans who became gods after their death. The Chinese called them 仙 , a word that in its written form is a character composed of two pictographic elements, "man" and "mountain". This word seems originally to have been applied to men who had retired from the world to live a hermit's life in the mountains.
Among these immortals there were Buddhists, Daoists, and many gods of local sects. They were organized in a hierarchy, parallel to the human hierarchy on earth. As gods, they were more powerful than mortals, but less powerful than the emperor. It was possible to direct their deeds and even to bribe them, just as it had been customary to bribe government officials.
Many of the Daoist gods are presented in paintings and sculptures as grotesque creatures in order to ward off evil spirits. In the literature they sometimes appear as satirical characters. Some of the Daoist gods are identified with a variety of Buddhist gods; others derive from Chinese folklore. Among the latter are the gods who protect houses and city gates, the Kitchen God, and many other nature gods.
An especially popular group of Daoist gods is that of the Eight Immortals 八仙. These gods are supposed to bring luck and longevity. Each of them has magical powers and represents one of the different conditions in life - poverty, wealth, nobility, simplicity, old age, youth, masculinity and femininity.
Another group of popular gods is that of the family gods, who are believed to be the household guardians. These gods are numerous and among them are ancient sages, great poets, war heroes, Buddhist saint monks, earth gods and protective gods. All of them are worshiped in temples.
The Buddhist gods, when translated to the Chinese context, went through some developments. For example, Guan Yin 观音(literally: who discerns voices), the Goddess of Mercy, had been a masculine god before arriving in China. This god, the sacred Buddhist Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (literally from Sanskrit: Bodhisattva – he who will become Buddha; Avalokitesvara – he who hears the voices of the world), is the patron saint of Tibetan Buddhism, and incarnated in the Dalai Lama. The goddess Guan Yin hears good and bad voices and helps people in need. She is usually presented in art as a beautiful young woman. Legend has it that Guan Yin was born as the youngest daughter to a king. She had been an obedient daughter but when she came of age to marry, her father found her a husband whom she refused to wed. The angry father sent her to a monastery where she was supposed to be taught to obey him. The nuns in the monastery failed to accomplish the task given them by the father, as a reaction to which he burnt down their monastery. All the nuns died, but the daughter, who had read the scriptures, survived. The father ordered her decapitation, but when the sword touched her throat it shattered. A tiger then suddenly appeared and bore Guan Yin off to the forest, where she remained unconscious for a long time before descending to the underworld.
From the Ming 明 dynasty (1368-1644 CE) on a new type of god was added to the pantheon – the city god. It had been customary for every city to have a patron god- 城皇神. Sometimes the city's governor was himself considered such a god. It was the emperor who decided whether a city deserved having a patron god, and only he had the authority to promote or demote a certain god.
The word "Confucianism" represents the moral conduct and philosophy that are based on the writings of Confucius (551-479 BCE), the greatest philosopher in China's history. It might perhaps be more accurate to describe Confucianism as the Chinese national religion.
The name Confucius is a Latinized name coined by Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century for the title Kong Zi 孔子 (literally: Master Kong) or Kong Fu Zi 孔夫子  attributed to the great philosopher. Confucius' family name was Kong and his first name was Qiu 丘(literally: a hill) after a hill in the State of Lu 鲁, his homeland.
For 14 years Confucius wandered in China from one state to another, searching for a ruler who would listen to him and implement his approach to rule. For a while the ruler of the State of Lu received him.
Confucius set out a way of conduct that, in his opinion, would bring about stability, justice and harmony to society. The social framework to which he referred encompassed relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, the oldest brother and his younger siblings, and between a ruler and his subjects. In each of these relationships Confucius emphasized the necessity for obedience by the lower individual to the higher one. Likewise, he demanded generosity from the higher individual toward the lower one. Every individual thus knew his place within the social fabric. By revealing the golden mean, and love of humanity as a basis for morality, Confucius molded the Chinese philosophy and culture. He believed that the practice of rites would inculcate culture in the people. In ancestor worship, funeral ceremonies and sacrificial rites, he saw a means for strengthening formal relationships among people.
Confucianism influenced all aspects of life - government, education, personal behavior and the obligations of the individual to society. It determined social norms and values, and placed scholars in the bureaucracy. The ideas of Confucius taught the Chinese to manage a balanced and stable life, offering them a broad rational interpretation for state and family values and for their own position as central components in the social order. However, rationality by itself could not have maintained this tradition over a long period. Ancestor worship and the belief in reward and punishment contributed more to its maintenance. On the walls of city god temples, located in almost every city, were images depicting the halls of hell, where brutal torture by fire and sword was conducted as punishment for sins.
The religious character of Confucianism remained controversial for a long period. The doctrine makes no mention of supernatural forces. Nonetheless, the Confucians accepted an omnipotent god with human characteristics as one of their religious elements. They believed in a power existing beyond human effort, a divine power that creates order in the world and molds history. This found its expression in the belief that emperors received their mandate from Heaven.
With regard to life after death, Confucius asked, "You do not yet understand life, how can you understand death?" (Analects 11:12). It is also written that life and death are predestined, and that Heaven determines wealth and honor (Analects 12:5).
As already mentioned, Confucius' disciples assembled their master's sayings and the conversations they had with him in a book titled Analects 论语 . They also attributed to him certain ancient Chinese texts whose authors are not known. These texts, called Confucian, are those that follow:
1. The Book of Changes 易经, known also as the I Ching - the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. Confucius was exposed to this book and studied it extensively. His disciples wrote a series of essays that came to be considered as part of the I Ching itself. The text of the book is brief and unclear. It embodies symbolism set in abstract line arrangements called hexagrams 卦. Each hexagram is composed of six stacked horizontal lines – solid unbroken, and broken. A solid line represents yang and a broken one yin. There are 64 possible combinations and thus 64 hexagrams. Each hexagram has its own symbolic interpretation for prediction, dealing with moral, social and political issues.
The Book of Changes has been used as a basis for a fortune telling method that is still popular today in China and in the West as well. An essential concept in the book is that good luck and bad luck are determined by fate, which is beyond man's influence.
The I Ching was already in use as early as in the Shang dynasty (c.1600-1046 BCE). Rulers used the cracks created on oracle bones to communicate with their ancestors. The king or the emperor would ask a question such as "will it rain tomorrow?" and the priest would carve the question on an animal bone or on a turtle shell. He would then attach a burning hot bronze rod to the bone, which created a pattern of cracks on it. At the end of the process the priest would interpret the cracks and answer the question according to The Book of Changes.
2. The Book of History- 书经 or 尚书– written in the 6th century BCE. A compilation of the oldest documents in Chinese history, most of them speeches recalling the various emperors' deeds. Contemporary scholars doubt the veracity of its contents, but the Chinese ancient scholars considered them as historical facts.
3. The Classic of Poetry or The Book of Odes 诗经or The book of Songs - an anthology of 305 songs, dating from as early as the eleventh century BCE to about 600 BCE, and believed by Han dynasty scholars to have been chosen and compiled by Confucius.
4. The Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋- a historical record of the State of Lu, the birthplace of Confucius, between the years 772-481 BCE. The scope of events recorded in this book encompasses wars, diplomatic missions, births and deaths in the ruling families, as well as natural disasters.
5. The Book of Rites 礼记 - apparently compiled by Confucius' disciples in the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE). It contains philosophic articles, descriptions of administrative systems and detailed instructions dealing with almost every activity, ranging from imperial ceremonies to the correct position in bed while sleeping.
The book contains texts originating from several periods. One such text is The Great Learning 大学, sayings connecting learning with self-development, moral conduct, harmonious family relationships, and good government, based on the ideal legendary rulers Yao and Shun.
The Confucians considered ceremonies as highly important because Confucius himself believed it was these that distinguished between men and animals and between the Chinese and Barbarians. Ceremonies contribute to the social order. They mold character and intensify the bright side of the personality. Correct relationships between people were conceived of as strengthening the universal order and hierarchy and thus strengthening order in the state as well.
Confucianism dominated Chinese society from the Han dynasty until the end of the empire in 1911. It penetrated almost every corner of the vast empire, and the entire population viewed it as a guide for more than 2,000 years. Until the foundation of the Chinese Republic in 1911, almost every school had a picture of Confucius hanging at the entrance and his writings were used as a basis for education.
Confucius wrote that the source of most diseases in society lies in the evil conduct of rulers. He advocated returning to the golden age of the legendary emperors Yao and Shun, when the values he preached had been respected. His perception of society finds its expression in the terms jun zi 君子 and xiao zi 小子 to which he gave a new interpretation.
The original meaning of jun zi 君子 in feudal China was "son of the lord of the estate". This was a title passed from generation to generation and no ordinary person could ever attain nobility. A noble person 君子 at that time was considered as someone whose work was cerebral, compared with xiao zi 小子 (literally: small man or small people), the simple people, such as peasants, craftsmen and merchants, whose work was physical.
The new meaning that Confucius attributed to the title 君子 did not relate to any social class. In his view, it meant an exalted, perfect, moderate man, a man of the golden mean, highly moral, human and good- hearted, who practices the saying "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others". Compared with these exalted people, he perceived the "small" ones 小子, as those who were attracted to convenience and to material things. Thus, Confucius divided society into two classes: the exalted people 君子 and the small people 小子 .
A word frequently used by Confucius to describe a man of principle was "ren" 仁, meaning "good", "kind", "human" and "benevolent to people of a lower social class". Confucius' moral perception regarding benevolence 仁and exalted personality 君, entered the consciousness of the Chinese people and is still reflected in Chinese culture.
Man's nature, according to Confucius, is basically good. People should do their best to achieve an ideal state through showing a noble character, honesty, fairness and performing their duty selflessly.
Confucianism focused on man's duty and appropriate behavior, based on the hierarchical nature of Chinese society. Accordingly, man will achieve redemption through integrating his own benevolence into the larger benevolence of his family and country. In an ideal Confucian family of three or four generations, all authority was in the hands of the old men. Obedience to one's parents was seen as one of the most important values.
From the Han dynasty on, the ideal Confucian scholar began to interpret historic events and developments in terms of fate. Many Confucians believed in the occult (as many of them still do), and practiced fortune-telling by means of divination, astrology, palmistry and feng shui 风水(literally: wind and water). They used these beliefs as guidelines for their activities. Guided by feng shui, they would sometimes postpone an ancestor's funeral for years, while searching for the fortunate place that would meet the requirements of feng shui.
One prominent follower of Confucius was Meng Zi 孟子 (literally: the oldest son) or Mencius (in the Latinized version) (371-289 BCE) whose teacher was Confucius' grandson. He too assumed that man's nature is basically good. Referring to society, he believed that the ruler, who receives his divine mandate to rule from Heaven, has obligations toward his subjects; moreover, if he abandons his integrity he must be forced to abdicate. The government must be concerned with the welfare of its subjects, as a basis for political balance. Should it fail to fulfill its duty, those subjects should revolt.
Mencius, like Confucius, believed that obedience constitutes the basis of society's existence. In Confucian thought, Heaven determines the fate of people and creates all the relationships in the world, including between friends. An ideal relationship between man and god will bring about harmony - seasons will change and the peasants' labor will produce enough crops to feed the population. Whenever man upsets the order, however, harmony is undermined, and Heaven punishes the people by sending floods, droughts and even popular rebellion.
Like Confucius, Mencius too thought that man's nature is basically good. He assumed that people would perceive appropriate behavior as a model for emulation. Every human is born with basic feelings of sympathy, shame, modesty, and judgment, but these have to be developed. These ideas (among others), are expressed in the sayings of Mencius that were collected by his disciples in the book titled Mencius.
When Mao Ze Dong came to power in mainland China in 1949, the Communist party attacked Confucian beliefs for being conservative, and many Confucian temples were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Currently, there is a renewed growth of interest in Confucius. In 2006, when celebrating his 2557th birthday, his descendants (Kong family members) decided to include for the first time the women of the family in their family tree. Thus, the "family” currently comprises more than three million people. Confucius' doctrine can now be found once again in the textbooks of Chinese schools. The government hopes in this way to fill the vacuum left following the collapse of the communist ideology.
Like Confucianism, Daoism too was a philosophical approach that originated in the 6th century BCE, and became a popular religion founded hundreds of years later. The term "Dao" 道(literally: way), is one of the most important terms in Chinese culture. It expresses a way of thought or a way of life. When the character 道is used as a verb, its significance includes "to lead forward"," to speak", "to say" or "to guide". Since ancient times, the word "dao" has signified appropriate behavior leading to peace.
Daoism is characterized by passivity and escape to nature. It expresses an aspiration for inner peace and harmony and for a harmonious merging with the environment. Like Confucianism, Daoism too has strongly influenced Chinese culture.
Lao Zi 老子 (literally: the old master) (604-531 BCE), founder of Daoism, preached that one should walk in the right way, return to nature, merge with the world, unite with the infinite and thus become limitless.
Very little is known about Lao Zi but many legends are associated with his life. One of them tells that his mother carried him in her womb for eighty years before his birth. When born, he looked old, with long hair and a white beard, whence his name. Another legend has it that, despising wars and the government's conduct, Lao Zi decided to resign his office as a government official. Upon crossing the border of his country one of the guards asked him to write something before retiring from public life. Therefore, Lao zi remained there at the gate and wrote his book, Dao De Jing 道德经 - the Book of the Way and its Virtue – a collection of sayings and poetry expressing a mystical philosophy.
It is assumed that Lao Zi held the position of the emperor's astrologist. Some scholars believe that the writings attributed to him were in fact written by other people. Some of the sayings attributed to him are from the time of Confucius and others from later periods. It is possible that Lao Zi was actually a synonym for a sage and not the name of a particular person.
Through 2,000 years Chinese scholars have written more than 7,000 interpretations to the Dao De Jing and it has had more than 40 different translations into English. According to the Dao de Jing, man must give up his crude aspirations, aggressiveness and desires. He must aspire to the inner balance, harmony and intelligent passivity that exist in nature. The book points at an ideal way of life, characterized by simplicity, humility, peace and abstention from anything that is opposed to nature. Likewise, it offers an ideal way to rule and to social order.
Lao Zi's writings express an attempt to achieve an inner balance in a period of confrontation. The Daoists, who base their philosophy on the Dao De Jing, believe that events happen with no connection to people's aspirations or human ethical standards.
As a way of life, Dao is associated with spontaneity, simplicity, passivity, purity, harmony, peace, humility, and above all - non-doing 无为. Non-doing does not mean not doing anything. It means that man should let nature take its course, creating things without possessing them, ruling without controlling, and living in the harmony that brings wisdom and satisfaction. Man must follow nature but, in doing so, he is not supposed to have no self but, rather, to realize his capabilities. The Daoist is satisfied with little and resists bribes and indulgence. In the face of hatred, he reacts with sympathy. He perceives life and death as natural events, like the sunrise and sunset. Achieving a balance between the forces of nature is represented by the symbol of yin and yang, a central image of Dao.
Daoism, like Confucianism, holds the idea of man merging with nature. This may derive from the deeply-rooted love of nature among the Chinese population, which is mostly agricultural. The merging of man with nature can be seen in traditional Chinese paintings, where tiny human images feature within panoramic landscapes, emphasizing the smallness of man in the face of powerful nature.
In some aspects, Daoism is the opposite of Confucianism. Whereas the Confucians relate to man as part of the family and of society, the Daoists accentuate the development of man as an individual. While Confucius stressed the idea of rites and rituals, Lao Zi and his followers adopted a world of spirits and the occult, aspiring to free themselves of the body and its limitations and become powerful spirits. Regarding the approach to government and conservation of tradition, however, the Daoists' ideas resemble those of the Confucians.
According to Dao the whole is one, though it can contain many differences. Thus, opposites like good and bad, real and false, and different ideas - all these appear when people ignore the unity and claim that their particular truth is absolute. This can be compared to a man who looks through a small window and thinks that he sees the whole world. The approach according to which all is one explains why, as far as the Daoists are concerned, life and death merge into each other, just as the four seasons together are one year. Opposites are simply different aspects of one reality.
The Daoist focuses on life itself. He does not waste his energy pursuing wealth, power or knowledge. The longer his life is, the closer to perfect the Daoists consider him.
In addition to Lao Zi, two other prominent philosophers also expressed the ideas of Daoism - Zhuang Zi 庄子 (369? -286 BCE) and Lie Zi 列子 (4th century BCE ; the writings attributed to him are from the 3rd century BCE). Zhunag Zi , whose first name was Zhou 周, was unique among the philosophers in presenting a humorous spirit and paradoxes that challenge the reader to confront his prejudices. Part of his work has not survived and some of the texts attributed to him are probably not authentic. His eponymous book Zhuang Zi presents a collection of writings in which (in the view of scholars) the first chapters are his own original texts while the others were written by his disciples and other philosophers.
Zhuang Zi contended that our life is limited but the things we have to know are limitless. Using the limited in order reach the limitless would thus be stupid. Our language and consciousness are based on conceptions rooted in prejudices. Therefore, we should be cautious when concluding that we are right in every matter. This approach by Zhuang Zi leads to pluralism and multi-culturalism.
One of the most famous stories relating to Zhuang Zi is "Zhuang Zi's Butterfly Dream" 庄子 梦 蝶, according to which, one day at twilight, Zhuang Zi was dozing, dreaming that he was a butterfly. He fluttered his wings, being sure that he was a butterfly. It was a wonderful feeling to float in the air and he completely forgot that he was Zhuang Zi. A short time passed by, until he began to wonder whether it was he, Zhuang Zi, who had dreamt that he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who had dreamt that it was Zhuang Zi.
This story presages the famous Cartesian philosophy of "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am).
Another story about Zhuang Zi, whose name became a Chinese proverb, is What do fish enjoy? 鱼之乐 According to the story, Zhuang Zi and Hui Zi 惠子(also a philosopher) were walking on a bridge along a canal, when Zhuang Zi said: "Look how peacefully the fish swim. This is something fish really enjoy". Hui Zi asked him "You are not a fish. How do you know what fish enjoy?" Zhuang Zi answered: "You are not me, so how do you know that I do not know what fish enjoy?" Hui Zi answered: "I am not you; of course, I do not know what you know. On the other hand, you certainly are not a fish, and this still proves that you do not know what fish enjoy". Zhuang Zi said "Let us get back to your first question please. You asked me how I know that fish enjoy. Then you already knew that I know, when you asked the question. I know that from my feelings, standing here on the bridge". The message of this story, like that of the other stories about Zhuang Zi, is not to take any belief for granted. Zhuang Zi's book offers deep insights and poetic expression.
In another story, Zhuang Zi tries to convince us that we should not mourn the dead. Thus, he reacts to Confucianism, which supports splendid funerals. In his view, birth, life and death are components of a natural process and therefore we should not refer to them in terms of good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
Zhuang Zi compared death to the marriage of Miss Li 李 to the Duke of Xian 西安 in the State of Jin 晋. Miss Li was the daughter of a frontier officer. When she was taken prisoner of war, she cried so much that her clothing became soaked by her tears. Later, after she had moved to the ruler's palace, slept with him and ate meat delicacies sitting at his table, she regretted having cried. Referring to this story, Zhuang Zi asks, "How do we know if the dead do not wonder why they wanted to live?"
Zhuang Zi, like Lao Zi, supported non-doing无为. He writes that heaven does nothing and its non-doing is its peace. Earth does nothing and its non-doing is its rest. From the unification of these two, all deeds are derived and all things are created. All the perfect things are born of non-doing. Thus, heaven and earth do nothing; nevertheless, there is no thing that they do not do.
Lie Zi, the other prominent Daoist philosopher, was considered the most practical among them. He expressed his ideas by means of allegorical stories. Like the Daoists who preceded him, Lie Zi too supported non-doing. Likewise, he refers to the relativity of things and to the smallness of man in the face of all-powerful nature. He contends that man must act according to the rules of nature, without trying to control them. It is necessary to approach situations without desire, in order to see things clearly. Happiness that is possible within the constraints imposed by nature can be achieved through a combination of faith, experience and understanding.
Dao started as an outlook adopted by individuals, but hundreds of years later, probably under the influence of Buddhism, it became a communal religion. We should make a clear distinction between Daoism as a religious movement and the philosophic Daoism that is based on the Dao de Jing, and the philosopher Zhuang Zi. Dao as a popular religion was established in the Han dynasty, when in the year 165 CE Emperor Huan 桓(132-168 CE) ordered the bringing of offerings to Lao Zi and the construction of a temple in his honor. Thus, Daoism became a popular religion, with the philosopher Lao Zi as its founder. In fact, Lao Zi was an atheist and his writings opposed religion, which contrasts the idea of "non-doing". The aspiration to avoid death by achieving immortality, which was a basic desire of Daoist religion, was foreign to his philosophy. According to the Daoist philosophy of Lao Zi, death following life is a part of the natural course of nature and man must therefore accept the principles of nature.
The Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di 秦始皇帝 (259-210 BCE) had already promoted Daoist religious ideas by encouraging people to seek an elixir that would ensure him immortality. The then customary belief was that the elixir was to be found somewhere in the East Sea. A widespread story tells that the people who were sent to look for this elixir failed in their mission, and were afraid of execution upon their return. They therefore remained on the island in the East Sea.
By the end of the 6th century, Daoism had established itself as a sect rivaling Buddhism. It adopted pseudoscientific alchemy and astrology as an inseparable part of its beliefs. The aim of the Daoists was to achieve eternal life through magical means and an elixir of immortality. Despite failing to achieve immortality, the Daoists did acquire a knowledge of herbs that may help to prolong life. Daoism, which was identified with alchemy and medicine, was despised by the Confucians, who considered Daoism to be a superstition of "foolish people".
The Dao religion invented gods and goddesses and filled its pantheon with both Buddhist and Indian gods. Daoist priests earned a living by arranging ceremonies in the temples, selling incense, candles and amulets, fortune-telling, practicing feng shui, and arranging funeral ceremonies. Likewise, they communicated with the dead and expelled demons.
The main aim of the Daoists was to achieve immortality and a life of boundless happiness. Their way to achieve this was through drugs, breathing exercises, and rules dealing with sexual life, meditation, trance, the confession of sins and ecstatic ceremonies.
In attempting to found a new religion that would compete with Buddhism, and in order to attract the multitudes, Daoism borrowed elements from the Buddhist theology. The Daoist priests were selected in the same way that the Buddhist priests were selected. Like the Buddhist priests, they too fasted and organized ceremonies. Unlike the Buddhist priests, however, they were allowed to marry and remain with their families. Nonetheless, they dressed simply, usually in grey, with no adornments.
The Daoist religion has many popular gods, such as kitchen gods, gate gods, and many others. Among them are the immortals 仙- Chinese "saints" - men and women who developed supernatural powers in their lifetime and were deified after their death.
The Daoists believed that the immortals lived in several heavens. One of these heavens was located in the Kun Lun 昆仑 mountain in the "Blessed Islands" that some scholars identify as the Peng Hu 澎湖 islands in the East Sea. The Blessed Islands are considered as the Chinese paradise, where immortals dwell in eternal happiness. It was believed that in Kun Lun Mountain there were nine upper levels of heaven and nine lower levels, which reached the dwelling of the dead. The site was guarded by Xi Wang Mu 西王母, the Mother Queen of the West, who appeared as a monster in ancient stories but, as time went by, underwent transformation into a graceful queen. The immortals were described in ancient writings as winged figures covered with feathers. Later, a new mythology was created, with eight historical and imaginary figures that became immortals. The eight immortals 八仙 appear frequently in paintings and in porcelain sculptures, typically presented as sailing in the East Sea towards the Blessed islands. These eight immortals are the most famous group of immortals, although through the years there have been changes in the figures comprising it.
Many stories have been told about the eight immortals, as individuals and as a group. One such popular story describes them crossing the sea to explore its wonders, and on their way they meet the Dragon King of the East Sea who tries to steal their magic tools and imprisons them. The story continues, narrating their struggles against the Dragon King and other adventures.
The Dao religion is inseparable from the daily life of its believers. As already mentioned, fortune-telling, astrology, witchcraft and alchemy are practiced. The gods are involved directly in every individual's life, whether by causing him trouble or by heaping upon him an abundance of gifts.
The Daoists believe in the Jade Emperor 玉帝, the supreme god of heaven, whose origin is not known, although there are several hypotheses. According to one of them, he originated in the Indian Thunder god, who had been a mortal prince before being deified. According to another hypothesis, he was invented by Emperor Zhen Zong 真宗(998-1023 CE) of the Song dynasty. This emperor assembled his ministers after signing an unpopular agreement with the Barbarians in the north who had invaded the empire; and he declared that he had done so following his connection with the supreme god of heaven - the Jade Emperor. He ordered a painting of the Jade Emperor and instructed his court to worship the new god.
In accordance with the Daoist religion, the Jade Emperor is the ruler of heaven and the senior official of the celestial bureaucracy. After him, in descending order, are the eight immortals, the planets, other gods and other celestial entities. At the bottom are the dragons.
As the ruler of heaven and the creator of humans out of clay, the Jade Emperor controls the world and receives reports from the other gods on what is being done upon earth. He sees and hears everything, even including whispering, which sounds in his ears like powerful thunder. His celestial court is very similar to the earthly one. It includes a royal family, an army, a bureaucracy and people of the court. The rule of the Jade Emperor is stable. The seasons change and there is a balance between yin and yang. The good are rewarded and the evil are punished.
The Daoists believe that humans may overcome death through a diligent study of nature's secrets. The immortals are superhuman creatures, dwelling far away on the top of hills and mountains. Their spirits can leave the body and return. They can be visible or invisible. They can fly in the air, ride the clouds, turn metal to gold, walk on the ocean waves, and they experience eternal joy.
The Daoist religion reached its peak between 618-1368 CE, in the period of the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties. Daoist monks helped the spirits of the dead to enter the other world. They cured the sick and expelled demons. From the 15th century on Daoism started to decline. In the 20th century the Communist party approached the Daoist faith as a harmful superstition that hindered social development. Since the 1980s, however, the revival of Daoism has been accepted with understanding by the government.
In a traditional Chinese house, in the kitchen in a niche above the hearth, will be found a sculpture or a painting of the Hearth God. This god watches over the activities in the house and reports them to the Jade Emperor at the New Year. Women spread honey on the Hearth God's mouth so that he will report only sweet things. Such gods remind the people of the spiritual authority that supervises their morality.
Buddhism appeared in northern India about 2,500 years ago as a reaction to the suffering and harsh conditions of the people. It began in the period of Siddhartha Guatama (560-478 BCE) – the Buddha (literally: the enlightened one or the awakened one), a prince of the Shakya kingdom on the border of present-day India and Nepal. There is no extant testimony to the life of Buddha or to his writings in any language. Some claim that there was no such man, and if there was, that he did not found Buddhism but merely revived an ancient faith.
The first Buddhists in China were merchants who arrived in the capital Luoyang 洛阳from India and Central Asia in the first century CE, and founded small communities, which remained isolated from the rest of the Chinese population. The first Chinese to adopt the Buddhist religion saw in Buddha a foreign powerful god who would help them if they would pray to him. Like Lao Zi, who was deified, Buddha too was considered immortal. Early sources describe that he flew from one place to another with light radiating from him. The belief in miracles paved the way of the Chinese to Buddhism.
Buddhism did not arrive directly from India to China, but via the kingdoms in Central Asia, where it flowered in the first century CE. From Central Asia it reached China on the Silk Road, which connected these areas with northern China. From northern China, Buddhism began to spread gradually across the entire country.
At the beginning of its adaptation in China, Buddhism was accepted in the cities. Its center during the Han dynasty was in Luoyang, where Persian, Kushans and Indian Buddhist missionaries operated.
According to Buddhist belief, Buddha, who became enlightened while meditating under a tree, aspired to bring relief to human suffering. He taught that desires are a source of pain, and that overcoming these desires will lead to the disappearance of pain. The necessary steps to stopping suffering involve holding the right views and intentions, correct speech, behavior, lifestyle, and effort, awareness and concentration. His aim was to achieve nirvana (literally in Sanskrit: extinguishment [of desires], the blowing out of a candle) - a condition of peace of the soul and a merging with eternal harmony.
Unlike Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Buddhism has no one central text as a source of authority. Until the appearance of Buddhism in China, the Chinese approach to religion had been intellectual rather than emotional. They had never perceived supernatural powers in terms of human form. Their early representations of gods were abstract, almost geometrical. It was only in the second century CE that Buddhism began to comprise an important component in religious art.
Buddhism in its original form was alien to the Chinese, but in its Chinese version it became popular. During the late Han dynasty the number of aristocrats and royal family members who became Buddhists increased. During the fourth and fifth centuries CE the whole country, from north to south, became Buddhist. Buddhist ceremonies were organized everywhere. Temples and monasteries popped up in every district. The number of monks and nuns increased and the population respected them.
Buddhism did not, however, replace the ancient gods and ancestor worship. The Buddhist emperors continued to worship Heaven and the Earth and Cereal Gods. However, of all the foreign influences on Chinese culture, Buddhism was the most significant. No other foreign factor was to influence the lives of the Chinese to such an extent until the 19th century. Every stratum of the population accepted the Buddhist moral principles, just as they had accepted Confucian ethics.
According to the Buddhist doctrine, the world is an illusion. Life, which is a result of contact with an unrealistic world, cannot be but a series of disappointments, birth, sickness, old age and death - all causing suffering. Only graceful deeds and abstention from evil can make it possible, after many rebirths (reincarnations), to ascend the hierarchy of entities and to prepare oneself for the ultimate rebirth, in which the soul is freed from reincarnation and reaches nirvana.
In order to avoid painful reincarnations it is necessary to achieve emptiness. Emptiness means being empty of individuality – empty of desires. A religious act, such as reading the scriptures, abstaining from eating meat and worship of Buddha, reduces the number of sins and raises that of the good deeds. A good Buddhist will be reborn as human, while a sinner will be reborn as a dog, pig, demon or shadow.
The rise of Buddhism shook the Confucian scholars, who considered it non-Chinese. Buddhism satisfies the human need for religious ritual, which is not significant in Confucianism. It presents an inner way to spiritual peace through meditation and study. The ideal Buddhist way to achieve redemption is "the middle way", meaning the avoidance of extremes. One extreme is the addiction to sensual pleasures, and the other is the addiction to painful self-mortification.
In situations of crisis and misery, the traditional moral rules that preach filial piety, political loyalty, generosity, caution and hard work, which bring about blessing in normal times, become irrelevant to a population struck by grave disaster. The ideas of Confucius could not explain disasters and could not solve them. This led to a loss of faith in the gods. Buddhism, in contrast, with its notions of karma (according to which man is an eternal product of his deeds in his present and previous lives), provided explanations for disasters and suffering.
Chinese Buddhist philosophy appeared for the first time in the second century CE when the Buddhist scriptures were translated into Chinese. However, it was not until the 8th century that Buddhism became an integral part of the Chinese way of life. At the basis of Buddhism there is an assumption that suffering is an inseparable part of our transient existence. A central part of this existence is made up of all kinds of passions, including the passion to exist. The only way to escape suffering is to annihilate passion. A variety of physical and spiritual exercises, such as meditation, leads to this aim.
Buddhism, influenced by Daoism, found an attentive ear among the multitude significantly more than among the social elite. Good deeds were conceived as leading to happiness and material prosperity in this life and in the lives to come. The idea of karma stimulated the development of charitable activities such as food distribution in times of famine, and the founding of institutions such as hospitals and orphanages.
The upper social classes were more interested in the philosophical aspect of Buddhism. Already in its early stages, Buddhism split into two sects: Mahayana (literally in Sanskrit: the greater ox-cart) and Hinayana (literally in Sanskrit: the smaller ox-cart). Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Nepali and Tibetan Buddhism originated mostly from the Mahayana, which has more popular characteristics such as repeated prayers, and gods who help man achieve redemption. In each area, the Mahayana developed its own characteristics. In China, it split further into several schools, including Chan 禅, which originated in Bodidharma, the Indian master who visited the court of the Northern Wei 魏 dynasty in 520 CE, and emphasized the importance of observation. The word "Chan" is a transliteration of the word dhyāna, meaning "meditation" in Sanskrit. Dhyāna was a central aspect of Chan, intended to develop inner peace and accumulate life energy - 气.
In order to adjust itself to the Chinese culture, Buddhism was dyed in local colors. Buddhist texts expressing Confucian ideas became a central part of Chinese Buddhism, such as texts advocating filial piety. Buddhism was adopted as an addition to ancestor worship and the Confucian hierarchical system. Works were written arguing that the salvation of an individual was beneficial to that individual's family and to society.
Daoism was even more influential on Chinese Buddhism. In its early stages Chinese Buddhism was conceived as a version of Daoism. Some Chinese claimed that Buddha in fact was a revelation of Lao Zi, who had preached to the "barbarian" Indians a kind of inferior Buddhism not worthy of being presented in China.
Essentially, Chan Buddhism was a combination of Buddhism and Daoism. According to Chan, a single flash of spontaneity inspired by nature can achieve the absolute that cannot be achieved by rational thinking. The school of Chan Buddhism explained Buddhist ideas in terms of traditional Chinese philosophy. Thus, Chan Buddhism became a purely Chinese phenomenon having entirely cast off its Indian prototype. Chan Buddhist scriptures focused on meditation leading to enlightenment, and to the pure land, the Buddhist paradise – the Western Heaven.
According to the conception of Chan Buddhism, the whole world is one reality. Although reason perceives and analyzes the differences in the world and blurs its unity, it is possible to appreciate this unity by means of intuition achieved through meditation. Chan does not involve learning and theories of suffering and redemption as a basis for enlightenment. It is not based on a study of Buddhist scriptures and not on the worship of Buddha's image, but on sudden flashes of thought.
The Chan school has not encouraged religious intellectual aspirations because, in its view, a scholarly approach would interrupt the flow of meditation. It is based on simple thought and a humble lifestyle as a means to reach enlightenment, which is manifested in sudden awareness. Although Chan did not encourage learning, the Chan masters did introduce basic texts. Their disdainful attitude towards writings was not intended to encourage illiteracy, but to prepare the disciples to free themselves from determined intellectuality, and thus to enable them to learn directly about the world through silent meditation.
When translating the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, Daoist terms were used to replace Buddhist terms, which were not familiar to the Chinese people. For example, the term "nirvana", which according to Buddhism meant enlightenment and the supreme happiness reached after extinguishing all desires, was translated as "non-doing" 无为– a central term in Dao meaning "letting things take their natural course". In its significance, this term is distant from the term "nirvana" as Buddhists conceive it. The ordinary people perceived nirvana as heaven, believing that hell awaits the bad, just as heaven awaits the good.
Another term that was difficult to translate into Chinese was "karma" (literally in Sanskrit: action). Every action generates a reaction and a memory associated with that action. Man is an eternal product of his actions in this life and in previous lives. He can be reborn after death as a man or an animal. This approach differs from the traditional Chinese conception according to which man's self remains fixed even when he passes on to the next world. Though the Buddhists tried to teach the notion of karma to the Chinese, the latter tended to cling to their traditional approach, according to which man passes on to the next world in his own body.
Likewise, the Chinese did not understand the term "meditation" in the sense that Buddhists attributed to it. Whereas Buddhists referred to concentration when using this term, Daoists referred to the conservation of vital energy, breathing, reducing passion, conservation of nature etc. The Chinese meaning of meditation was not that of sitting and concentrating spiritually, but of enlightenment of the spirit.
In the 8th century Chan Buddhism split into two schools – the northern and the southern. The northern one believed in gradual enlightenment while the southern one emphasized intuition more than intellect. The latter is still popular today.
The Chinese were especially interested in determining whether Buddhism could contribute something to their knowledge concerning drugs, and a way of life that would prolong their lives and gain them supernatural achievements. The different Buddhist sects prescribed various methods to enhance one's intuitive abilities. These kinds of prescriptions were in very high demand in China. Likewise, the Chinese wanted to find in Buddhism the kind of sublime truths that they had found in their own ancient writings.
Some Buddhist ideas were familiar to the Chinese, being close to Daoism, such as those of inner peace, the suppression of desires, and emptiness. However, there were differences concerning the nature of the soul. The idea of reincarnation was strange to the Chinese.
Buddhism brought to China not only a religion with a new doctrine, but also a new way of social life – that of the monastery. In China the Buddhist monks lived in the city, but separated from the rest of the community and bound by certain religious rules, including a ban on alcohol. When an individual entered a monastery he was not considered any longer as belonging to a specific social class. This found its expression in the Chinese proverb that every river loses its name and its identity when flowing into the sea, like the monk who steps towards redemption.
The new Buddhist monasteries engaged in charitable activities, helping the needy. Thus, they influenced their environment, serving as a role model to others, including government officials. Buddhist monks are vegetarian, and not allowed to marry or to have sexual relationships. They shave their heads, avoid any decoration, and usually wear orange robes.
Chinese scholars were hostile to the new religion because an individual who entered a monastery 出家 (literally: leaving the family), gave up one of the most important Confucian values, which is the unity of the family. However, people were more tolerant toward Chan Buddhism than to any other Buddhist sect, perhaps due to the Chan belief in sudden enlightenment through meditation, which does not require the acquisition of expensive land or buildings within which to practice their beliefs.
The nature of Confucianism, being more philosophic than religious, did not threaten Buddhist principles. In fact, many Confucians were able to adopt Chan Buddhism principles and still remain faithful to the Chinese tradition. Buddhism attracted both scholars and the common people. Its deep philosophy interested the former, while its promise of redemption found a listening ear among the illiterate and common people. Chinese Buddhists worship a variety of Buddhas, each with his own iconography. One very popular Chinese Buddha is the "Smiling Buddha" 笑佛, known also as "Happy Buddha" 喜佛. His name in Sanskrit was Amitabha (literally: "infinite light"). According to tradition, the Smiling Buddha was an Indian prince, who after his death met the Sakyamuni Buddha in heaven and was appointed by him to be the next Buddha.
One of the legends about the Smiling Buddha describes him as the ninth reincarnation of the ancient Buddha. Another tells that he was a powerful ruler who gave up his throne to become a monk. According to the Buddhist belief, the Smiling Buddha resides in the Western Heaven 西天 , the land of ultimate happiness in the west, encircled by endless Bodhisattvas (Bodhisattva, literally in Sanskrit: bodhi – enlightenment; sattva- being). From the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368 CE) on, he has been depicted as a fat man with a broad smile and long ears reaching to his shoulders. He sits on the ground with his gown covering his body but exposing his chest and upper belly. A widespread approach among Buddhists is that in order to enter the Heaven of Buddha, one has to chant this Buddha's name (Amitabha).
Another legendary Buddha is Buddha Maitreya (literally in Sanskrit: the Buddha of loving-kindness), the Bodhisattva that will be the next to come after Shakyamuni Buddha. In Chinese, his name is Milefo 弥勒佛. He has a noble appearance and his glance seems to be directed at the eternal future. There are several versions concerning the time of his return, including that of 5,000-13,000 years after the ancient Buddha.
Just as Christianity had influenced the shaping of Western culture, so too did Buddhism influence the shaping of Chinese culture. Buddhism is the only foreign element in the Chinese culture that has penetrated to all levels of the population and continues to the present day. The Buddhists, like the Daoists, claim that there is no contradiction between their approaches and that of the Confucians, which is why they coined the saying "The three religions combine into one" 三教合一.
Legalism 法家(literally: school of law) is a philosophical school for which the essential principle is the rule of law as the foundation of government. The Legalists perceived man as selfish, greedy and fearful by nature; and that reason depends on the rational application of laws that will lead to moral development. The origin of Legalism lies in the writings of Han Feizi 韩非子 (280-233 BCE), who emphasized the idea that laws have to be homogeneous and known to all. While the Confucians believed in the power of education, the Legalists believed in the power of law. They tried to administer the state through the strict application of laws, hoping that the state would become rich as a result of the rule of law. They perceived the citizens as existing in order to serve their country.
The ideas of Legalism that were applied in the Qin 秦 dynasty (221-207 BCE) were based on three principles:
1. The law principle 法, according to which the law has to be written out and made public. All are equal under the law. Law should be universal and all must obey it, no matter what their status or blood relation. The system of law is intended to ensure that the state will run smoothly no matter how weak or unworthy the ruler is. This principle was an innovation compared to previous periods, when every state had its own king, who had absolute authority and laws of his own.
In order to implement the method of reward and punishment, a system of laws and regulations elaborating offences and their punishments was required. A good deed was supposed to reward its doer. In fact, however, punishments for small offenses were relatively severe, while rewards for a good job were not generous.
2. The principle of method, technique, art 术. Special techniques were to be used in order to ensure that ministers or other government officials could not take over control of the state.
3. The principle of legitimacy and authority of the ruler 势 , meaning that the ruler was powerful because of his position and not because of any special qualifications. Thus, even an average person could theoretically rule the state.
In fact, the Legalists expressed hostility to the philosophers' "absurdities". Under their system of rule, power was concentrated in the hands of a ruler who ruled from the center through his government's institutions. In a way, the Daoist notion of non-doing 无为was implemented. Rule was enabled without direct interference by the ruler.
In the view of the Legalists, when a state had effective laws that rewarded a good behavior and severely punished violation of the laws, there was no need for intervention by the ruler. Focusing on human characters such as selfishness, fear and greed, the Legalists ignored the complexity of human nature, of qualities such as loyalty, intelligence and faith.
The Legalists were active in the third century BCE; however, their ideas continued to influence China throughout its history. In later periods Legalism stopped being a separate school, and some of its more efficient ideas merged with those of the Confucians. Mao Ze Dong, who was familiar with the ancient Chinese philosophies, compared himself to Qin Shi Huang Di (259-210 BCE), the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, and adopted some of the Legalist methods. During the Cultural Revolution the communists were at least partially negative toward the idea of the rule of law, arguing that it interfered with the class struggle. Since the 1990s, however, the idea of rule of law has gradually gained in power. All state and party organizations are currently supposed to be subject to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and to its laws.
Mo Zi 墨子 (479-381 BCE) or Mocius (as an analogy to Confucius and Mencius), as he is called in the West, founded a philosophical school known by the name of Mohism. He came from a low-class background and there is some evidence that his father was a slave. At the beginning he was Confucian, but later he founded the school of Mohism and argued strongly against both Confucianism and Daoism.
Like Confucius, he saw in the ancient sagacious kings a role model for honesty and decency, but felt that Confucius had exaggerated in stressing familial ties. Preaching universal love, Mocius thought that one should love not only one's family members and relatives, and not only be loyal to one's feudal society, but that one should also love other people from other families and countries as much as one's own family.
Mocius believed that man's nature is basically good. Being practical, he thought that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome; in other words - the ends justify the means.
Like Confucius, Mocius too opposed war and its destructive influence. He aspired to a world kingdom based on love, and considered war as the worst crime. Whereas Confucius focused on rule and morality, Mocius believed in a universal god who is also a loving god. Heaven 天 (god) is good and takes care of the world with infinite love. The will of god is that people will demonstrate unbounded love for each other.
Unlike Confucius, Mocius did not ascribe importance to ceremonies and music, which held a central place in Confucius' perception of how to achieve harmony. For Mocius, the standards of his time (the Warring States period) were immoral. He criticized the fancy funerals and the long (three year) mourning period for a parent, because of the high expense involved in these activities.
The importance of Mocius' philosophy lies in his idea of universalism and in his rational approach.
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We have seen that Chinese religions intertwine with Chinese philosophy. Confucian principles such as the importance of family ties, connections and hierarchy are still prevalent in China. The latter two are especially practiced in business and in the work place. Likewise, feng shui, which originated in Daoism, is still practiced when seeking a suitable location for a building, as well as in architecture; while the Ghosts Festival, which is a traditional Chinese holiday (on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month) celebrating the connection between the living and the dead, has its roots in Buddhism. When asked if they have any religion, however, the people of present-day China often answer in the negative. Nonetheless, though they may not consider themselves religious, Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism remain deeply rooted in their everyday lives.
 See more on Pan Gu in the chapter on cosmological conception in the Chinese tradition.
 The God of Earth was the registrar of births, marriages and deaths. He was involved in the personal problems of the people and they prayed to him to obtain his help.
 See more on ancestor worship in the chapter on death and mourning.
 Fu Zi was a term used when speaking to a scholar.
 See the chapter on literary sources.
 An ancient Chinese theory that guides on how to organize a space in order to achieve maximum harmony.
 See the chapter on the Chinese perception of the world.
René Descartes (1595-1650): a noted French philosopher and scientist whose views have been widely influential over the last three centuries.
 Zen is the Japanese version of Chan.
 The founder of Buddhism.
 Unlike the Western conception of the rule of law that emphasizes the way in which law limits the power of the government and prevents arbitrary action, the contemporary Chinese conception of the rule of law tends to emphasize the way that law enhances the power of the government.