The preface of this book is by Yin Falu, who comments that it is a book about popular beliefs and customs. These customs develop within society; some are refined, others crude; most are related to superstitions about ghosts and spirits. Belief in gods and divination, etc. However, Yin continues, some myths are about real persons who helped the people; the myths serve as a remembrance of them.
There are also other benefits; the Dragon King watches people so they do not dare destroy dikes, dams and bridges. Tree gods lead to the protection of trees.
This study can help us learn about ancient customs; we can continue the refined and criticize the crude, in the service of culture today. The basic approach of the dictionary itself is to begin each entry with a brief introductory summary, then to quote past historical and literary sources. There is very little anthropological information except for some evidence from minority peoples. The names of the authors of the entries are provided, but there are no notes or references. The entries I have read are objective and accurate, with no negative terminology except in discussions of sorcery and divination, which are described as superstition due to ignorance.
On pp. It is produced by the people themselves, based on a quest for supernatural power chao ziran de liliang. It is not like religions created by humans ren wei zongjiao , which have their own founders; it has neither founders, doctrines nor complete organization. It is practical, concerned with obtaining benefit from the gods, and includes no religious self-cultivation or a quest for moral goodness. It is mystical shenmi xing , believing that all things can have efficacious power ling.
It is local, with many local differences. It is diffuse sanman xing , with many objects of worship. From "Feudal Superstition " to "Popular Beliefs" 1 1 1. The editors add that participants in "popular beliefs" offer grain, vegetables and fruit to the gods and ancestors to seek protection and blessing. Rituals are performed by spirit-mediums, priests or individuals themselves. The spirits worshipped are those of heaven, earth, mountains, streams, the locality gods and others; these spirits have their own world and needs, just like living people.
This attempt to define Chinese popular religion by what it appears to lack in comparison with a Christian or Buddhist model is developed in more detail in several of the books discussed below. The following entry in this dictionary, on popular worship minjian chongbat , describes it as "the reverent and respectful worship of deities and spirits that people believe in, spirits that are considered to have consciousness and supernatural power People seek their aid and fear their power" pp.
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These beliefs have definite teachings, rituals, organization, clergy, moral codes and founders. The three examples given are Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. This entry distinguishes between "natural" ziran religions and those intentionally created by humans ren wet p.
Concerning temple festivals miaohui we are told that they are held on gods' birthdays, but no description of rituals is provided other than noting that in them people pray and make vows to the gods p. There is a fairly detailed discussion of a procession in honor of a City God, but it is based entirely on a Qing local history p.
The entry on the Stove God notes that "the people consider worship of the Stove God to be extremely important," but all the information here is based on old local histories p. These same patterns apply to discussions of jiao rituals, for which no details are provided p.
The entries on divination pp. The entry on physiognomy is good and fair p. I suppose the retrospective approach of this dictionary is politically necessary, but cannot help regretting the total lack in it of evidence from fieldwork.
Chinese salvationist religions
Whether they intend it or not, the Chinese scholars here are further embalming and isolating the objects of their study, which amounts to scholarship in the service of state ideology. The other new dictionary is the Zhongguo minjian mimi zongjiao cidian Dictionary of Chinese secret popular religions , by Pu Wenqi, published in This page dictionary of popular religious sects opens with eight pages.
There is no introduction, but there is a one page "explanation of publication" by the publisher, which notes that this is the only dictionary of Chinese secret popular religions in the world. It contains about entries concerning deities, sects, teachings, rituals and regulations, religious self-cultivation, technical terms, organization, scriptures, personnel, activities, etc. The "explanation" notes that these religions have a history of 1 years, with their own characteristics, and an influence on Chinese history and popular customs that should not be neglected.
It continues by saying that this is an important area of study for Chinese history, popular customs and the society of ordinary people. A dictionary like this has long been lacking. It is a very thorough and wide- ranging study based on the work of many specialists. It is noteworthy that there is nothing in this little preface about superstition, illegality or uprisings — it is a far cry from old discussions of "peasant wars.
In the Postface to the book p. There are two indices in the front of the book, one alphabetical by pinyin romanization, the other based on the categories noted above, plus sects, deities and miscellaneous. The entries in this dictionary that I have read are all objective and relatively detailed, with the only reference to "superstition" occurring in the discussion of spirit-writing, which says nothing about the Daoist background of this practice or its use by some Confucian scholars from the Song period on.
There is also no mention of books produced by spirit-writing, which have been widespread throughout the Chinese-speaking world since the 19th century. No references are provided for the entries in this dictionary. There are good discussions here of specific sects and sect patriarchs, but there are two general problems with this book, the first of which is its use of "secret" in its title, a term not treated as such in the Dictionary. As I have discussed since , though some sects tried to disguise themselves to avoid persecution, secrecy was not a defining characteristic; they practiced openly whenever possible, and were different in origin and structure from sworn- brotherhood associations like the Tiandi-hui for which secret rituals and signs did become important.
A much better Chinese term for the sects is minjian zongjiao jiaopai. In his. Brill , B. After that "White Lotus" was no longer used by sectarians to refer to themselves, but occurred only as a derogatory label in official sources. This name was employed only by outside observers and investigators, regardless of what the groups involved called themselves. My studies of baojuan support ter Haar's view; in them the term "White Lotus" is used as a symbol of Maitreya's future reign, but never as the name of a group by its own members.
Nevertheless, there is much useful information in Pu Wenqi's dictionary, which should be of help to studies of Chinese sectarianism. Beyond these two dictionaries I have three general studies of our topic; the earliest of which is Zhongguo minzhong yishi The mentality of the Chinese people by Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, first published in by the Shanxi jiaoyu chubanshe, and revised in This is a pioneering study among mainland scholars on the ideas, values and beliefs of the ordinary people of China as expressed in proverbs, folksongs, wall couplets, myths and vernacular literature, as well as in operas and paintings.
These themes are discussed in their social context against the background of a predominantly agricultural economy. The last chapter of this book is a survey of popular rituals and beliefs, emphasizing the great variety of deity images in homes and temples, all worshipped for practical reasons to seek their support for prosperity, health, family protection and long life. The approach of the authors is objective and descriptive. They note how the patriarchal structure of ancestor worship influences the veneration of the deified patriarchs of shops, trades, sworn-brotherhood associations and religious sects.
The role of de facto freedom of local beliefs in generating new cults is also mentioned. The author, of Mongolian nationality, is a professor in the Chinese Department of Liaoning University and Chair of its People's Customs Research Center, who has published books on folk literature and customs. This page book is based on written sources and fieldwork among minority peoples in the northeast. In the postface the author says he is indebted to about people! The five chapters of this book, each with many sub-sections, are devoted to the special characteristics of Chinese popular beliefs, the worship of natural objects and powers such as heaven, earth, the sun, moon, rain, wind, mountains, stones, animals and plants, the worship of "illusory objects" such as protective deities, ancestors, ghosts and demons, the worship of immortals, saints and spirit-mediums, and the worship of other objects and images believed to have efficacious power.
The book opens with a resounding preface by Tao Yang, a member of the. This preface deserves to be summarized in full:. It is a grand collection of the myriad spirits and deities of all the peoples of our nation; its careful explanations and abundant materials have been a revelation to me. The popular beliefs of our nation are an extremely complex and difficult [topic of study], because of our long history, vast area, fifty-six nationalities and 1,,, population.
The temporal extent of popular beliefs is vast, from primitive times until the present, and they are extremely wide in scope, varied and difficult to fathom. One can only admire how the author has provided such a rational and organized survey. Popular beliefs in [Chinese] history have always had a very manifest position in society, and a positive jijt function. The people worship creator deities who bring peace to humanity and improve heaven and earth, heroic ancestors who protected the people and shed their blood in struggles against invasions, and who created and developed the special contributions of artisans and craftsmen; [they also worship] sages, worthies and heroes who loved their country; such worship became the mainstream of folk beliefs throughout history.
These vital contributions of folk beliefs have the power to unite the people, to incite their courage and nourish their moral values. This book appears at a time of rapid change and the import of foreign culture, during which the Chinese people continue some of their ancient customs and beliefs because of their inertia and practical goals.
Heterodox Sects in Premodern China - Chinese Studies - Oxford Bibliographies
This is an important issue that concerns everyone. Both the good and bad aspects of popular belief continue to exist. Along with the changes of times and the progress of humanity there are still some backward and superstitious forms of activity. Some of them are changing, some are disappearing and some have been destroyed However, popular beliefs that have long been transmitted throughout history still have a social foundation.
To issue orders to prohibit them is not a wise policy; just like other attempts to wipe out religion, it will not succeed. Popular beliefs were produced by the bad conditions of primitive society. In those times people were overcome by powerful natural forces they could not resist. The best they could do was to imagine that the objects of their belief could support their lives The superstitious and backward beliefs that still exist today continue to exist because of natural and human disasters that people are not able to deal with Only when ideal economic, social, educational and scientific conditions develop,.
This new book is a guide for our study of popular beliefs. Only when we understand and recognize them can we hasten the change of [popular] customs, so as to benefit the establishing of our modern civilization. Following the table of contents is an introduction by the author, which says that the focus of the book is on a form of belief that is the background of worship in Chinese monasteries, temples and [Daoist] guan, "beliefs that are outside collective worship in mosques and churches, which are the beliefs of the majority of ordinary people, based on the family, lineage and village, transmitted down through the centuries The beliefs of the fifty-six different peoples of China have indeed had an extremely important part in the history of Chinese culture Professor Wu then proceeds to define his topic by what it is not, by the shi da meiyou "the ten big [characteristics] it does not have," all of which accept an originally Western concept of religion as normative.
In sum, these supposed "lacks" are listed as follows:. Popular beliefs do not have congregations and the definite organization and structure of religion. Do not have a supreme object of worship. Do not have founders and masters with supreme authority.
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