Throughout the centuries, China has seen its share of religions. Ancient Chinese religions, ancestral worship, Taoism (more properly know as Daoism), Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Communism, and Atheism have all held a strong presence in the Middle Kingdom (i.e. in China). Through customs, beliefs, and practices, each of these religions have influenced each other in one way or another. More specifically, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism share many traits, and they have set the foundation for Chinese culture as we know it today.
Let’s look at Buddhism.
It is often believed that Buddhism came to China from India around the 1st century C.E during the Han Dynasty; however, some claim it came much earlier and was eliminated by the all powerful Emperor Qin. Another detail of disagreement is how it came to China. Some historians argue it arrived over the Silk Road; others argue it came overseas. No matter how and when Buddhism came to China, it has played an important role in Chinese history. Since its beginnings, emperors have either embraced it, or they have banned it. Emperor Wuzong of the Tang Dynasty and Emperor Mao (a.k.a. Chairman Mao) of the P.R.C. Dynasty were two leaders who wanted to do away with this foreign religion. During the Cultural Revolution, which started in the 1960s, Buddhist symbols and temples were destroyed. Movements like these were to encourage the new religion in town – Communism.
Nonetheless, Buddhism has survived in China. Many temples have been restored and it is legal to be a Buddhist today (of course, as long as worshippers pray in state-sanctioned institutions). Buddhist temples throughout China are visited by the faithful who get on their knees to worship a bodhisattva of their choice. They pray for peace for their family and friends. These havens of Buddhist thought are peaceful. One can only breath freely upon entering the walls of a Buddhist temple.
Ancestral worship – Zǔxiān chóngbài 祖先崇拜
Taoism – Dàojiào 道教
Confucianism – Rújiào 儒教
Buddhism – Fójiào 佛教
Christianity – Jīdūjiào 基督教
Islam – Yīsīlán jiào 伊斯兰教
Atheism – Wúshénlùn 无神论
Cultural Revolution – Wénhuà dàgémìng 文化大革命
Temple – Sìmiào 寺庙
Pray to a bodhisattva – Bài púsà 拜菩萨