Tag Archives: ritual

The Chinese perspective on religion and belief

From Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundations of Village Life in North China, by David Johnson:

…My point is that the foundations of Christianity are complex structures of carefully formulated definitions and tightly argued conclusions created by medieval theologians using tools providedd by Greek logic and metaphysics. The Christian church was virtually created out of centuries-long theological disputes about highly complex an abstract concepts such as Original Sin, the Trinity, the Real Presence, and so on, and the same presumably can be said of Islam and Judaism.

Chinese philosophers, to say nothing of ordinary people, were simply not interested in that sort of thing. But tremendous debates concerning what we call ‘ritual’ took place in every dynasty. How imperial rituals were to be performed, whether certain actions were ritually correct or not–issues such as these were as close to the heart of Chinese religion as theological disputes were to Christianity. The leaders of the Christian churches were intensely concerned with heresy–improper beliefs–and punished heretics mercilessly. By contrast, Chinese thinkers, following Xunzi, usually assumed that if people’s actions conformed to the proper patterns, the beliefs could be left to take care of themselves. And ritual supplied the proper patterns. This was an idea that was shared by virtually all Chinese, of all classes and stations, from chief minister to farmer.

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