Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com
Asian Religions


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Chinese Religion

Popular Religion and Shamanism by Edited by Ma Xisha and Meng Huiying (Religious Studies in Contemporary China Collection: Brill Academic) addresses two areas of religion within Chinese society; the lay teachings that Chinese scholars term folk or `popular' religion, and shamanism. Each area represents a distinct tradition of scholarship, and the book is therefore split into two parts.
PART I: Popular Religion discusses the evolution of organized lay movements over an arc often centuries. Its eight chapters focus on three key points: the arrival and integration of new ideas before the Song dynasty, the coalescence of an intellectual and scriptural tradition during the Ming, and the efflorescence of new organizations during the late Qing.
PART II: Shamanism reflects the revived interest of scholars in traditional beliefs and culture that reemerged with the 'open' policy in China that occurred in the 197os. Two of the essays included in this section address shamanism in northeast China where the traditions played an important role in the cultures of the Manchu, Mongol, Sibe, Daur, Oroqen, Evenki, and Hezhen. The other essay discusses divination rites in a local culture of southwest China.
Both sections of Popular Religion and Shamanism will introduce Western readers to the ideas of Chinese scholars, not just their data.

Excerpt: It can be a hard task to describe the big picture view of religion in China. The most natural place to begin is with the three canonical beliefs of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. Focusing on these three teachings provides some obvious advantages: each one is a more-or-less concrete entity with a founder, scriptures, and discrete intellectual genealogy. This tactic also represents an important and lasting political reality: since the time that doctrinal Buddhism became firmly established in the fifth and sixth centuries AD, the governments of China's various dynasties interacted with religion (not always with approval) largely in terms of these three big teachings. While the teachings of Confucius came to be synonymous with the imperial state itself, Buddhism and Daoism were incorporated differently, enjoying approval and even support, in return for accepting state regulation of their doctrine and affairs. The present-day Chinese state roughly follows an elaboration of this policy, with officially sanctioned bodies representing Buddhism and Daoism, as well as Christianity and Islam. So to a large extent do scholars, including the editors of this series, who have published separate volumes on each of the canonical religions.

But working with the canonical teachings also has some very important shortcomings. For one, it artificially separates them. While Buddhism and Daoism each constituted a discrete and self-contained intellectual world, they also interacted with each other: even the classic canons of Buddhist and Daoist scripture show how easily ideas, concepts and even deities crossed the lines between the two teachings. More importantly, lived religion freely integrates what it calls the "three teachings." Both visually and in scripture, Confucius, Laozi and the Buddha are commonly portrayed together, and their statues frequently share the same space in temples and shrines. A Buddhist temple in China that did not have some representation of Daoist deities or Confucian moral exhortations would be the exception, rather than the rule. Conversely, a great deal of religious practice falls between the three canonical teachings. Most of China's lived religion: temple fairs, village processions, local deities, as well as healing, exorcistic and mortuary ritual—the real stuff of Chinese religious life at all levels of society—are in some ways linked to the canonical teachings, but do not belong exclusively to any one of them.

Half a century ago, the sociologist C. K. Yang (Yang Qingkun) proposed the model of two types of religion in China: the "institutional" religions that we would associate with formal, organized clergies, and thus with the three canonical religions, and the ocean of local and personal practices that he termed "diffused" religion.' This model is not perfect no model is—but it remains a useful way of thinking about the long path from individual devotion to formal and organized religious institutions. History shows us that many factors shape this process. Religious ideas and piety themselves play a large role, but not a total one. Ideas also contend with the good or ill will of states, conditions of economic rise or decline, and a society that may be peaceful or may be unsettled. Moreover, there are many types of institutional religion. The term may mean an organized church, but it may also signify a lay movement, an established tradition of practice, or any generally accepted tradition of ideas. Beyond the three canonical teachings, Chinese religion also incorporates these many other types of institutionalization.

The first part of this volume traces the rise of one of the most unique and important of these institutions, the one that the title identifies as "folk religion." This term, often translated as "popular religion" (minjian zoneao), has a very specific meaning: it is a shorthand used by scholars in China to refer to the particular religious tradition that most Western historians would call "sectarianism," or more broadly, the "White Lotus Teaching." (Neither name is precisely accurate, a point to which we will return later.) These terms will certainly be familiar to any student of China's modern history, most commonly in the context of religious rebellion. Religious groups in the White Lotus tradition are often given credit for overthrowing the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and led the series of domestic military disasters—the Nian and Taiping Rebellions and Boxer Uprising that laid low the mighty Qing during the nineteenth century. Most will know these groups for their integration of religion and warfare: the use of magical charms to ward off bullets, the claims to turn beans into soldiers, and most notably the political messianism that justly struck terror into the ruling elite. But these occasional flashes of violence were only one manifestation of a much deeper and more prevalent tradition, one that had already begun to form centuries earlier. The essays in this volume show the entire arc of this long-term evolution, focusing on three key points: the arrival and integration of new ideas before the Song dynasty, the coalescence of an intellectual and scriptural tradition during the Ming, and the efflorescence of new organizations during the late Qing.

Part 1: Intellectual Antecedents

The first chapter by Ma Xisha examines the integration of Manichaeism, which entered China from Central Asia via the Silk Road, into a preexisting tradition of beliefs surrounding the Maitreya Buddha. The Maitreya Buddha has a long history as a salvationist figure in China. As early as the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), this Buddha was worshipped as the lord of a paradise called the Maitreya Pure Land. This was a postmortem paradise, a repose for individual souls, in what scholars often refer as the "ascending" motif of salvationism.2 Maitreya was also the central figure of a "descending" motif, in which he was prophesied to come down from heaven and establish a physical paradise on earth. Over time, it was the latter image that came to dominate the worship of Maitreya. Beginning in the Wei Dynasty, a corpus of "false scriptures" elaborated the cosmology of Maitreya worship, including the characteristic tripartite division of time, and the story of the Dragon Flower Assembly, an event which inaugurates the reign of the messiah Buddha. To this, Manichaeism easily added its own conception of the "three times," as well as its characteristic belief in the antagonistic "two principles" of light and darkness, the idea of original sin, and a harsh devotional regimen. Maitreyan and Manichaean belief systems had fully merged by the Sui Dynasty (581-618), the same time that sources began to report the existence of groups of faithful who wore white robes, buried their dead naked, and conducted secret nocturnal rituals, "meeting at night and dispersing at dawn." Groups that combined the descent of Maitreya with the Manichean "King of Light" (ming wang) were quickly seen as a threat to public order, and banned during the Tang and Song dynasties. But they continued to spread underground, most famously to reappear in the late Yuan as the "Incense Army" (xiangjun) that participated in the overthrow of the Mongol dynasty.

Lin Wushu *Win examines the establishment of Manichaeism in greater detail, focusing specifically on the many names used for Manichaeism to show the path taken by the teaching as it was driven underground. He has a very difficult task. It is never easy to follow an organization that wishes to remain hidden, but this case is made even more difficult by that fact that Manichaeism in China was never centralized, and freely broke into splinter groups and local communities. Moreover, many of the names for Manichaeism that appear in historical sources were coined by outsiders, in some cases by the same forces that sought to eradicate the teaching. Yet another difficulty is the fact that sources themselves are exceedingly rare: one of the more complete accounts is a mere four hundred sixty seven characters, and has already been mined by earlier generations of Sinologists such as Edouard Chavannes, Paul Pelliot and Wang Guowei. Lin combs over every available scrap of evidence, including stelae and Dunhuang fragments, to determine what terms contemporary believers would have used referred to themselves, their religion, and their founder. To demonstrate the many problems inherent in tracing an organization through its changing name, he raises the example of two other foreign religions, Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity. Through this analysis of names, Lin shows how Manichaeism was transformed in China, especially after 841, when the teaching was outlawed in conjunction with the Huichang persecution of Buddhism. During this time, Manichaeism became known by a wide variety of pseudonyms, most notably the "Teaching of Light" (ming jiao), as well as by a variety of euphemisms such as the "people of the double collar crossings," some of which were given by outsiders, others used by the teaching itself in order to avoid detection.

Part 2: Formation of Tradition

The next two chapters move forward to the Ming, the point at which many of the diverse ideas in this tradition began to take on a more clear, organized form. The impetus for this change was certainly not a more favorable political climate. Teachings such as Manichaeism had been suppressed during the Tang, and even if some were briefly rehabilitated, the role that groups such as the "Incense Army" had played in organizing resistance to the Yuan had convinced Zhu Yuanzhang, their erstwhile ally and founding emperor of the new Ming dynasty, to outlaw them even more strictly than before.' Rather, the chapter by Lin Guoping shows that this change was due at least in part to an intellectual shift: the consolidation of a tradition of ideas into a coherent theology. Lin examines the transformation of Ming literatus Lin Zhao'en from Confucian intellectual to religious leader during his lifetime, and into a cult figure after his death. Lin Zhao'en is well known for his synthesis of Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist elements into a single teaching, one that followed upon the "heart-mind learning" of Wang Yangming. Initially, Lin spread his ideas only among fellow literati, but his fame and his teachings soon began to spread, buoyed in no small part by the role Lin played in spending his own fortune to alleviate the suffering caused by pirate attacks on the Fujian coast. By the 1580s, Lin had developed a widespread reputation for morality and benevolence, an extended network of missionaries and temples devoted to his teaching, and a large number of followers, many of whom revered Lin as a divine figure. Lin's apotheosis accelerated after his death. At the same time, his "three-in-one" teaching (Sanyijiao) continued to evolve, as new generations of followers added elements such as Buddhist karma and Daoist incantation. Alarmed by its rapid spread, early Qing emperors banned the teaching, but even this did not stop the ideas and apotheosis of Lin Zhao'en from continuing to evolve locally in Fujian.

The subsequent chapter by Ma Xisha traces the evolution of one of the most influential early organizations: the Luo Teaching (Luo jiao), and its offshoot society called the Green Gang (Qngbang). Ma uses a combination of Qing archives and sectarian scriptures, known as "precious scrolls" (baojuan) to trace the origins of the Luo Teaching to its founder, Luo Jing TO-, a soldier detailed with the task of transporting grain from the south to the frontier garrison at Miyun, near Beijing. After Luo's death, his teaching broke into branches, which continued to spread among the sailors who plied the riverine grain transport system along the Grand Canal. In this form, the Luo Teaching gave spiritual comfort to this displaced group, but the real attraction of the teaching was as trade and mutual aid organization. Most sailors on the canal belonged to one of three branches, which provided solidarity, lodging, and occasional opportunities for plunder. The relocation of grain transport from the canal system to the open sea during the early nineteenth century decimated the entire industry of riverine transport, prompting many to reorganize into a smuggling gang called the "Friends of the Way of Tranquility and Purity" (anqing daoyou). This group (the apparently ironic title was actually an amalgam of two place names) would eventually transform into the Green Gang, one of the most famous and feared "secret societies" of the modern era. The point that Ma makes in this chapter is that the entire evolutionary trajectory from Luo Teaching to Green Gang was driven by the financial and social needs of its members. The rise of the organization was less a function of religious evolution than of the economic transformation of Qing society.

Part 3: New Teachings and Organizations

The third section introduces the wave of new teachings that appeared in the nineteenth century. Like Ma Xisha's chapter on the Luo Teaching, these chapters focus primarily on how the teachings functioned in society, but working with the richer sources of a later period, they are able to present a much more detailed image of who led and joined these groups, and how different sorts of individuals, both insiders and outsiders, interacted with the teachings intellectually, economically and socially. One advantage that scholars in the study of more recent events have over their counterparts in the previous sections is the ability to conduct fieldwork, that is, to interview eyewitnesses or their descendants, and occasionally to see the remnants of ideas and practices that still survive in villages today. Among earlier chapters, Lin Guoping had employed fieldwork to sketch out the remnants of the cult of Lin Zhao'en. Two chapters in this section use this sort of data to even greater effect.

The first chapter is Han Bingfang's examination of the Yellow Cliff Teaching (Huangya jiao). Like the discussion of Lin Zhao'en's mid-Ming Three-in-One Teaching, this chapter traces the process by which the eclectic ideas of a Confucian literatus came to absorb a variety of religious ideas and practices, and later became the core of a religious and social movement. The ideas that would eventually come to be known as the Yellow Cliff Teaching were formed by the mid-Qing scholar Zhou Taigu who like Lin Zhao'en, saw each of the three teachings not as competing entities, but as various expressions of a greater truth. In a theme that was echoed by many of his contemporaries, Zhou Taigu saw his synthetic theory not as a personal innovation, but as the authentic essence of the three teachings, particularly of Confucianism. He thus traced his intellectual lineage through a line of scholarly luminaries, including Zhu Xi, Mencius, and finally to Confucius and the Duke of Zhou. Zhou's teaching was banned during his lifetime, but like the Three-in-One and Luo Teachings of previous chapters, continued to evolve as separate movements after the death of the founder. Many of these branches died out, but some survived, most notably the Taigu School that moved with its leader Zhang Jizhong to establish a utopian community in the mountains of central Shandong province. This community maintained a strict hierarchy of religious authority, a communal ritual regimen, and all of the moral admonitions of a Confucian society, but also took the practical step to arm itself against intrusion from the outside. Their seriousness of purpose cannot be doubted: when government troops moved to dislodge the community in 1866, members fought to the death, and when hope of resistance was lost, many of the remaining members committed suicide.

The second chapter comes from Lu Yao'sx pathbreaking work on the Yihetuan (Society of Righteousness and Harmony). This group is better known in English as the eponymic Boxers of the Boxer Uprising, an episode that was of pivotal importance to the history of modern China. It marked the death knell of the long-decaying Qing dynasty, and ended with the occupation of Beijing by foreign troops. The political significance of this event has left the earlier origins of the Yihetuan movement deeply mired in controversy. One view that was common to the nationalist scholarship of an earlier era, and has more recently been expressed by Western scholars as well, was that the Yihetuan was primarily an anti-foreign movement, goaded into action primarily by the callousness of Catholic missionaries operating in Shandong. Another view casts the Yihetuan was another expression of a more enduring tradition of underground militant organizations, one that that shared the religious orientation of groups such as the Luo Teaching or the Yellow Cliff Teaching. Lu Yao falls firmly into this latter camp. He begins by tracing the origins of the Yihetuan to a style of martial arts called the Plum Blossom Fists (Meihua quan), and to the "martial field" (wu chang) of the Li Trigram Teaching (Li gua jiao IF C). From there, Lu continues to trace the axis of militarized religion back to groups that flourished in the transition from Ming to Qing, to demonstrate that the Yihetuan did not merely resemble these earlier organizations, it was in fact directly descended from them. In this way, he shows how the late nineteenth century Yihetuan was a continuation of much earlier instances of religious violence, notably the Wang Lun TM- Rebellion of 1774, and Linqing sill Rebellion of 1813. Of course, this chapter is only concerned with the origins of the Yihetuan, leaving readers to look elsewhere for the story of its spread and evolution during the uprising itself. Here, it is interesting to refer to earlier chapters, which show the once-unified Luo and Three in One Teachings (not to mention more dispersed Manichean tradition) splintering into sects and schools. The Yihetuan underwent a similar process, but much more quickly. The lightning fast transformation of the Yihetuan into a mass movement in 1899 was not a splintering, so much as a river bursting its banks. Once it was loosed, the violence of the movement took on a life of its own, propelled by religious or anti-foreign ideals, but also by economic motives and personal grudges.'

Zhou Yumin's A' seventh chapter examines the rise of another well-known religious teaching, the Yiguandao —Vat, or Way of Penetrating Unity. Like many of the chapters in this volume, this piece seeks to unravel the genealogy of an underground organization—no easy task even in the present day. In this chapter, the task is further complicated by the subsequent history of the Yiguandao. While the Yihetuan has been praised by nationalist historians as a patriotic organization, the Yiguandao has trod a more tortuous path: it rose to national prominence as an apocalyptic sect during the 1930s, was crushed in a 1951 campaign, but has since come to flourish in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Given all that has transpired in the subsequent history of the Yiguandao, understanding its early origins becomes all the more important. As with the Yihetuan, the fundamental question is whether the teaching rose as a response to uniquely modern pressures (in the case of the Yiguandao, this would be the brutality of the Japanese occupation of northern China from 1937-1945), or whether it evolved out of an earlier organization. Here again, a close examination of the historical sources reveals it to be the latter. But the Yihetuan is not merely a point of comparison: Zhou demonstrates that the two movements were concretely linked through a common ancestor in the mid-Qing Blue Lotus Sect (Qnglian jiao WAR). As the other chapters in this section demonstrate, the wave of teachings seen in the late Qing and early Republic were themselves nothing fundamentally new. Rather, what was new was the ability of these organizations to organize on a large and increasingly public scale, and conversely, the decreasing ability of strict hierarchies of patriarchs to maintain unity and order within the teaching. The same process that allowed the Yihetuan to transform into a mass movement also produced a sea of lesser movements such as the early Yiguandao that easily merged, split and cooperated with other teachings.

The final chapter by Yu Songqing UMW is something of a departure from the others in this section, and indeed from the volume as a whole. While earlier chapters trace individual ideas or teachings, this chapter examines "secret popular religion," (minjian mimi zongjiao 117 Wt) and specifically the place of women within it, as a single, evolving social phenomenon. It begins by examining the presentation of women in scripture: including both moral admonitions for women's behavior, and the elaboration of female deities, most notably the characteristic sectarian deity, Eternal Venerable Mother (wusheng laomu) a name that literally translates as the "unborn mother" but more correctly connotes her transcendence of birth and death.) Beyond the importance of maternal deities, Yu notes that teachings in this tradition often held a special attraction for women devotees, and moreover that women frequently rose to positions of real power in them, both as teachers and even as military leaders. The source of this attraction was partially a matter of opportunity, but more fundamentally the fact that these shadowy teachings were an organized rejection of the elite Confucian patriarchy. Certainly the elite themselves saw things this way. In his famous anti-sectarian polemic, "A Detailed Refutation of Heretical Teachings" (Poxie xiangbian), the early nineteenth century magistrate Huang Yupian named the mingling of sexes at illicit midnight meetings as among the worst improprieties committed by these groups. Even if these meetings were not themselves sexually promiscuous, Yu holds that they were nevertheless a threat to the fundamental hierarchy of Confucian society, one which both subordinated and feared women. This essay is interesting not merely because it takes such a unique approach to the topic of sectarianism, but also because it is so overtly political. Originally published in 1985, years before most of the other chapters, it reflects the strong Marxist coloring that ran through an earlier generation of scholarship on religion. Yu is certainly correct that these religions had a special attraction for the dispossessed, and were indeed a threat to orthodox hierarchy. The fact that this essay occasionally wanders into the self-reflexive class-based approach of an earlier era (i.e., the landlord class is definitionally hypocritical and lecherous) need not let it distract us from its scholarly contribution.

Themes and Contributions

These essays comprise the best work of some of the most important scholars in the field. Their contribution is as enormous as it is varied. The first chapters weave a detailed picture of an evolving system of belief, all the more remarkable since both authors were forced to work with such scant evidence: scriptures of which nothing remains but a title, incomplete stone stele, or scraps of documents preserved in the sands of Dunhuang.

As we move forward in time, authors of subsequent chapters have far more evidence at their disposal, but not necessarily an easier task. The tradition of scriptures known as known as baojuan began to form during the early Ming dynasty, and presents the theology and history of the new teachings in their own words. The problem is that such scriptures are heavily stylized, and tend to conform to a fairly well-established set of parameters and conventions. The founding of a teaching, for example, will often be written to include a number of stock elements: the moral decay of the world, the sending of a divine messenger, and miraculous proof of the founder's power. Some conventions were specifically meant to disguise a teaching's movements or structure from outsiders, but even these need not be a liability. In some cases, they constitute a kind of code, which this volume's authors use to their advantage. One recurring theme is reference to the Eight Trigrams (ba ,gua These eight symbols, each consisting of a combination of three whole or broken lines, are both a system of divination, and an expression of a universal cycle of natural phenomena, such as seasons, colors or compass directions. It was a fairly common practice for religious teachings to base their organization on the Eight Trigrams. The founding patriarch of a teaching would name eight disciples, who were then sent off in the eight directions, each to found a lineage named after the corresponding trigram. Thus the disciple of the Li Trigram would travel to the south, the Dui Trigram to the West, and so on. One example is the Heaven and Earth Teaching (Tiandimen jiao), which was founded by patriarch Dong Sihai in Shandong Province during the early Qing. According to scriptures preserved locally, Dong sent the disciple Ma Kaishan to the north, the direction corresponding to the Kan A' Trigram. This branch extends in a more or less straight line to the north of Shandong, corresponding in part to Ma's actual travels: to Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, and into Manchuria. The teaching remains active in these areas today, and still refers to itself as the Kan Trigram. The chapters of this volume delve much more deeply into the clues that are coded into this system. Being expressions of basic universal forces (specifically, combinations of yin and yang), the eight trigrams also correspond to elements such as colors, all of which can give clues to a group's identity. Thus, from a record of a rebel army that "wore black caps, black clothes and shoes, so that they looked like ghosts" Lu Yao concludes that this group belonged to the Kan Trigram, which corresponds not only to the direction north, but also to the color black. Moreover, it is likely that the official who wrote the original record himself did understand the significance of this color, but to a sect insider, such references were commonplace.

Sources that preserve the views of outsiders, such as criminal investigations, local gazetteers, and the writings of literati, also become more plentiful during this period. Such sources come with limitations of a different sort. As much as scriptures, these writings are also heavily coded, albeit often in a way that hides more about the sects themselves than it reveals. Government accounts, for example, are by nature concerned with criminality, and thus portray religious groups primarily in terms of deviant, treasonous or heretical behavior. This problem is not unique to China: historian of Spanish religion William Christian once compared the use of Inquisition records to "trying to get a sense of everyday American political life from FBI files." What these chapters reveal is how enduring this official code, what we may think of as the language of orthodoxy, has proven over the course of many centuries. Phrases such as "abstaining from meat and worshipping demons" (chicai shimo) appear in nearly every account of banned teachings, and on their own tell us very little apart from the expectations of the writer and his audience. The same may be said for stock concerns about the illicit mixing of sexes at nocturnal meetings, expressed in set phrases such as "gathering at night and dispersing at dawn." The first chapter in this volume recounts the claim of Song dynasty Manichaeans that: "Those who do not keep the two sexes separate are considered devils, and those who do not allow men and women to touch hands while giving and receiving are considered Manichaeans. Manichaeans will not eat food that has been cooked by a woman." This strong defense suggests that the group was facing down charges or at least rumors of deviant sexual behavior that (like theft and sorcery) so often among the stock charges levied against any suspicious religious teaching. Interestingly, the exact phrase about not touching hands while giving and receiving also appears in the last chapter, as well. I would argue that part of what makes the evolving tradition of "popular religion" a discrete institution is precisely the continuity of how and why it was criminalized by the imperial state. In this sense, the tradition continues. The charges raised during the movement to crush the Yiguandao in the 1950s, and more recently, the campaign to suppress Falungong almost always returned to sexual promiscuity, specifically the charge that sect leaders routinely kept brainwashed female followers in a state of sexual slavery.

This brief discussion of sources all points to one of the greatest obstacles to understanding this religious tradition: the problems of naming and terminology. Barend ter Haar has been the most insistent and incisive critic of the categories used in sources. The most notable and problematic of these is the aforementioned "White Lotus Teaching" (bailian jiao AR), a term that was employed by sources, and until relatively recently by scholars to refer generally to the entire religious tradition covered in this volume. The problem is that historically, no White Lotus Teaching, as such, ever existed. Ter Haar's point is that the use of the term in sources (and thus in official discourse) was more than merely a shorthand convention, it was a way of collapsing this very broad range of groups and teachings into a single category, while at the same time painting it with a single criminalizing brush.' In that way, references to these teachings as White Lotus are essentially synonymous with the equally ubiquitous "heresy" (xie jiao literally a "crooked teaching," sometimes translated as "heterodoxy"). Neither term is in any way revealing about the teaching itself, although both are unequivocal statements of official attitudes. "Heresy" was more than just a pejorative, it was a legal category that if applied to a teaching demanded (according to Ming and Qing penal codes) execution for leaders and exile for followers. Thus, while the actual criminal investigations that followed upon an outbreak of religious violence, or occasional treatises such as the Detailed Refutation of Heterodox Teachings (poxie xiangbian) might attempt to examine or discuss the teachings in detail, other sources such as local gazetteers were happy to speak in general terms precisely because what was important to them, the criminality of these groups, was summed up very nicely in terms such as "White Lotus." Something very similar could be said for the use of terms like "superstition" (mixin) by official publications during the twentieth century and today.

The problems of naming and the accuracy of terminology are a recurring theme in many of the essays. Thus, chapters build their arguments around questions such as what exactly was meant by terms such as "Father of Light," or whether religions recorded with different names in the sources were in fact the same organization. But it also raises the question of the choice of terms used in the study of religion. The "folk religion" title of this volume is one variation of many terms employed by Chinese scholars. Others would include the "secret popular religions" used by Yu Songqing and many others, or the "secret societies" (mimi jieshe, mimi shehui) that also runs through a broad swath of historical scholarship. It need hardly be said that even if scholars are themselves more sympathetic to these religions than the generations of imperial officials who styled them heresies, the effect is still largely the same: naming a tradition essentially creates, in retrospect, a religious institution. The problem lies in the fact that using a term such as "popular religion" suggests a degree of uniformity and coherence that might have been appropriate in the case of the later teachings, but cannot be written to retroactively include the Ming Luo Teaching or Song Manichaeism into a single line of evolutionary destiny. Such implications do not come from the essays themselves, but rather by their combination into a single volume, and should be taken into account by the reader.

The pitfalls of translation are further complicated by the layers of meaning implied by the English language terminology. It is common, for example, to translate jiao IA as "sect," and the so-called White Lotus tradition as "sectarianism." Some, however, have objected that terms such as "sect," themselves suggest an air of illegality, and could be taken to imply an illegitimate offshoot of a properly authorized religion. The language used in English translation thus has the danger of simply repeating the pejorative biases of the original Chinese. However, our purpose in this volume was simply to reproduce the Chinese original as faithfully as possible, and not to edit the English in order to fit Western scholarly conventions. "Jiao" thus appears as "teaching" or occasionally as "sect," as we felt context better suggested. Nor did we alter or comment on those places where a Chinese approach might grate against Western scholarly sensibilities: such as when Lin Guoping asks whether the Three-in-One Teaching was a religion "in the strictest sense," or when Yu Songqing includes the perspectives of class struggle. Beyond the obvious fact that we as translators would have no right to do so, we feel that the whole point of this series is to introduce Western readers to the ideas of Chinese scholars, not just their data.

Finally, although I was given the honor of writing the introduction, I would like to express my thanks to my good friend and collaborator Dr. Chi Zhen for having done the hard work on the translation. My own contribution to this effort paled in relation to his, a fact that I gratefully acknowledge here. For entirely selfish reasons, I would also like to thank Brill for inviting me to participate in this project. I had already read many of these classic essays in their Chinese original, but this project required much closer and more detailed attention than I had ever been able to devote to them before. I have learned an immense amount in the process, and hope that the readers of this volume will gain as much from it as I have.

GREAT PERFECTION: Religion and Ethnicity in a Chinese
Millennial Kingdom by Terry F. Kleeman (Hardcover, 248 pages University of Hawaii Press; ISBN: 0824818008)

This study provides the first sustained account of the social and political dimensions of Daoism as illustrated in the Great perfection kingdom and its history in China. This study should contribute significantly in the reshaping the western image of the history of Daoism in China.

GREAT PERFECTION tells the story of the Ba people and of the Li family in particular. Engaging the most recent scholarship in Western, Chinese, and Japanese languages (including archaeological and ethnological publications), the study begins in the mists of prehistory, traces the early history of the Ba, chronicles the rise of the Daoist faith and their role in it, then sets forth in detail a chronicle of the state of Great Perfection. Central to the work is a translation of all surviving historical records concerning the state, which have been conflated here in an attempt to reconstruct the lost Book of the Lis of Sichuan, a contemporary first-hand source by the state's historian. As the first study in any Western language devoted to the Ba or to the Great Perfection kingdom, this volume breaks new ground in Chinese ethnography and history. As the first book-length treatment of a Daoist millennial kingdom, it is a major contribution to the history of early Daoism and a significant addition to scholarship on apocalyptic thought worldwide.

THE ANALECTS: Confucius translation and notes by David Hinton ($24.00, hardcover, 252 pages, Counterpoint, ISBN: 1887178635)
MENCIUS translation and notes by David Hinton ($24.00, hardcover, 288 pages, Counterpoint, ISBN: 1887178627)
CHANG TZU: The Inner Chapters translation and notes by David Hinton ($12.50, hardcover, 144 pages, Counterpoint Press; ISBN: 1887178791)

Hinton approach to translation is a poetic rendering well grounded in meticulous scholarship and a good ear for idiomatic English. These handsome volumes offer contemporary renderings of this axle works of Chinese classic civilization in a sensitive nuanced English that is faithful to a spiritual reading of the texts.

MORAL VISION AND TRADITION: Essays in Chinese Ethics by A. S. Cua  ($66.95, hardcover, 350 pages, Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Vol 31, Catholic University of America Press; ISBN: 0813208904)

This volume offers a comprehensive philosophical study of Confucian ethics-its basic insights and its relevance to contemporary Western moral philosophy. Distinguished writer and philosopher A. S. Cua presents fourteen essays which deal with various problems arising in the philosophical explication of the nature of Chinese ethical thought.

Offering a unique analytical approach, Cua focuses on the conceptual and dialectical aspects of Confucian ethics. Among the topics discussed are: the nature and significance of the Chinese Confucian moral vision of tao; the complementary insights of Classical Taoism, namely of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu; and the logical and rhetorical aspects of Confucian ethics.

Perhaps more relevant to contemporary East-West ethical discourse, several essays present an introduction to a systematic Confucian moral philosophy. Cua explains the idea of a living, Confucian, ethical tradition and highlights the problem of interpreting the cardinal concepts of Confucian ethics as an ethics of virtue. Much of the effort is spent in shaping concepts such as jen (humanity), i (rightness), and li (ritual propriety) in the light of the Confucian ideal or vision of tao. Among the topics discussed are: the nature and significance of the Chinese Confucian moral vision of tao; the complementary insights of Classical Taoism, namely, of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu; and the logical and rhetorical aspects of Confucian ethics. Perhaps more relevant to contemporary East-West ethical discourse, several essays introduce a systematic Confucian moral philosophy. Cua concludes with a discussion of the possibility of reasoned discourse, aiming at a resolution of intercultural, ethical conflict.

This book will appeal to a broad spectrum of scholars interested in ethics, Chinese philosophy, comparative Chinese and Western ethical thought, and Confucianism.

1. Reasonable Action and Confucian Argumentation
2. Confucian Vision and Experience of the World
3. Forgetting Morality: Reflections on a Theme in Chuang Tzu
4. Chinese Moral Vision, Responsive Agency, and Factual Beliefs
5. Opposites as Complements: Reflections on the Significance of Tao
6. Morality and Human Nature
7. Harmony and the Neo-Confucian Sage
8. Competence, Concern, and the Role of Paradigmatic Individuals (Chun tzu) in Moral Education
9. Between Commitment and Realization: Wang Yang-ming's Vision of the
Universe as a Moral Community
10. The Possibility of a Confucian Theory of Rhetoric
11. A Confucian Perspective on Self-Deception
12. The Confucian Tradition (Tao-t'ung)
13. Basic Concepts of Confucian Ethics
14. Principles as Preconditions of Adjudication
Index of Names
Index of Subjects

A. S. Cua, professor emeritus of philosophy at The Catholic University of America, is the author of numerous articles and books, including Ethical Argumentation: A Study in Hsun Tzu's Moral Epistemology (1985), The Unity of Knowledge and Action: A Study in Wang Yang-ming's Moral Psychology (1982), and Dimensions of Moral Creativity (1978). He also serves as coeditor of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy, associate editor of the International Journal of Philosophy of Religion, and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy.

IN SEARCH OF PERSONAL WELFARE: A View of Ancient Chinese Religion by Mu-chou Poo ($21.95, PAPERBACK, a volume in the SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture, David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, editors, State University of New York press, SUNY) HARDCOVER

This book is the first major reassessment of ancient Chinese religion to appear in recent years. It provides a historical investigation of broadly shared religious beliefs and goals in ancient China from the earliest period to the end of the Han Dynasty. The author makes use of recently acquired archeological data, traditional texts, and modern scholarly work from China, Japan, and the West. The overall concern of this book is to try to reach the religious mentality of the ancient Chinese in the context of personal and daily experiences. Poo deals with such problems as the definition of religion, the popular/elite controversy in methodology, and the use of "elite" documents in the study of ordinary life.

This emphasis upon the religious mentality and everyday practice of religion brings into focus new ways of appreciating the documentary evidence of archaic Chinese religion. In many ways, this is a immoderate thesis in terms of its focus on the ‘common’ religion of everyday life and its discussion of the overlap and interaction between the ‘elite’ and ‘common’ levels of religion in early imperial China and will be controversial in the best sense of the expression. There is nothing on ancient Chinese religion (in any language) that is quite like Poo’s book. It is truly pioneering in this respect to its analysis of fundamental documents.

"One of the most illuminating studies on early Chinese religion I have read in a long time, it is well written, cogently argued, and based upon impeccable research. Poo has been able to make use of the great mass of new archaeological material that has been accumulating through the last two or three decades in China and Japan, and he has also mastered the best Western scholarship on Chinese religion. His grasp of both sets of materials is pertinent, accurate, and fascinating. I frankly think that anyone interested in Chinese religion would want to buy this book. I believe it will become something of a standard reference." John Berthrong, author of All Under Heaven: Transforming Paradigms in Confucian-Christian Dialogue

Mu-chou Poo is Research Fellow and Professor at the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. He is the author of several works, including Wine and Wine Offering in the Religion of Ancient Egypt (Kegan Paul International); Literature by the Nile: An Anthology of Ancient Egyptian Literature; and Burial Styles and Ideas of Life and Death.

COMPASSION AND BENEVOLENCE: A Comparative Study of Early Buddhist and Classical Confucian Ethics by Ok-Sun An ($42.94, HARDCOVER, PAPERBACK, bibliographical references, Asian thought and culture,Vol. 31 Peter Lang, ISBN 0820438014)

COMPASSION AND BENEVOLENCE reveals the heart of early Buddhist and classical Confucian ethics in a comparative way. It explores compassion (karuna) and benevolence (jen) by analyzing their mechanisms, their moral ground-works, their applications, and their meta-ethical nature. Compassion and benevolence are taken as self-transformative virtues on the way to becoming an enlightened one and a sage. This exploration intends to reject the popular theses: early Buddhism is only self-liberation concerned soteriology and classical Confucianism is only society-concerned thought requiring self-effacement.

Ok-Sun An studied comparative ethics and received a Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Currently she is concerned with interpreting Buddhist and Confucian ethics from a feminist perspective. She teaches philosophy in Korea.

There maybe a more dialogical relationship between the ethics of Buddhism and Chinese thought, especially Confucianism. A daughter of a professor of Chinese philosophy in Korea,  Ok-Sun An, is well equipped with the knowledge of classical Chinese and who studied Sanskrit and Pali at the University of Hawaii. She has worked out in great detail the philosophical relationship between early Confucianism and early Buddhism, the Pali Nikayas as being her sources for the latter. She  focuses on their ethical theories by beginning to redefine what is meant by self-transformation in Buddhism and Confucianism. She distinguishes it from the popular Western conceptions, for self-transformation is the foundation of any reasonable ethical theory. Then she undertakes a detailed analysis of the Buddhist and Confucian virtues and follows it up with a comparison of the Buddha’s concept of ‘compassion’ and the Confucian notion of ‘benevolence,’ which is the meat of her thesis.

The realization of these virtues in early Buddhism and early Confucianism draws her attention next. Finally, she deals with the philosophical problem of the objectivity of virtues, so important for both traditions that she was dealing with, placing them in the context of the materialistic and emotivistic schools of the East and the West.

An is not attempting to present an exaggerated identity between Buddhism and Confucianism. She faces directly some of the important differences between them and presents a sympathetic, but not apologetic, analysis of the thoughts of two remarkable philosophers of the world. Her work should eliminate any doubts as to the philosophical appeal of Buddhism to the Chinese mind.


The present volume aims to interpret and compare early Buddhist ethics with classical Confucian ethics from the perspective of self transformation. The early Buddhist philosophical and moral tradition is strikingly different from that of classical Confucianism. Since early Buddhism and classical Confucianism developed their own unique traditions in different cultural settings, philosophical and moral differences are inevitable. However, we also find significant similarities in these different paradigms of thought. These similarities are revealed when one focuses on the conceptions of self transformation.

The similarities originate in a shared position. The major concern of both systems is the cultivation and development of a desirable character through the process of transforming oneself. One may call this "character building ethics."

In both ethical systems, self-transformation is perceived as a constant and challenging task. It is constant because it is achieved not at one moment, but through gradually accumulated effort. It is challenging because changes of the situation of the transforming person, and interactions with others are involved. The core task of self-transformation embodying compassion or benevolence is to follow the path toward realization of the highest moral goal which is freedom or happiness (nibbana tao) of the self and others. This virtue cannot be perfectly accomplished by pursuing it for oneself. This means that an emphasis on transformation only of oneself will involve misinterpretation of both systems of ethics. In this way, the following common interpretations will not be found: (1) Early Buddhist ethics is concerned with liberating the self alone and is less concerned with others. (2) Classical Confucian ethics is concerned with the happiness of the collective group and is less concerned with individual happiness.

In comparison, we might discuss all and sundry similarities and differences indiscriminately. Focusing on self transformation will allow us to limit the scope of comparison. From this perspective, similarities between the two systems will emerge regarding self-transformative ideas, methods, and modes of realization. However, a consideration of the reasons for self transformation and of the metaphysical backgrounds of the two moral systems will reveal differences between the two traditions. In this context, the main goals of this study can be addressed: From the perspective of self-transformation, early Buddhist ethics are similar to classical Confucian ethics in spite of some major differences between the groundwork of their respective metaphysics of morals. This study will also show that compassion (karuna) is the core virtue of early Buddhist ethics and that it is very similar to the core virtue of classical Confucianism, benevolence. I will refer to these two terms together in this study as "the virtue." I maintain that the realization of compassion/benevolence is indispensable for the highest moral achievement of the self and others.

To sum up: Chapter one will be a preliminary study. In order to fully understand the two ethical traditions, their social milieu and views on human nature need to be sketched. In chapter two, the frameworks of the metaphysics of morals of the two traditions will be discussed in order to show the theoretical foundations of self-transformative morals in both systems. In chapter three, I will discuss the main moral virtue necessary for the transformation of the self. Following my claim that a realization of the main moral virtue, that is, of compassion/benevolence, is a way of self-transformation, I will analyze its functional mechanism through a consideration of modem theoretical perspectives. In chapter four, I will discuss how the main virtue is applied to educational and political institutions. In the last chapter, I will examine the virtue in light of the problem of moral objectivity. In this chapter, we will come to an understanding of the nature of this virtue, and of the characteristics of the two ethical systems as well. In conclusion, I will briefly summarize the results of this study. In addition, I will interpret the moral goal, nibbana tao, in the framework of the two ethical systems and consider the life pattern of the self-transformed person.

As long as we consider the clarification of human thought, and especially ethical thought as one of the tasks of philosophy, the method of comparison suggests itself as an effective tool. The method of comparison taken in this study will help us to clarify the ethical ideas of early Buddhism, and also of classical Confucianism. Furthermore, the comparative method will help us to identify some hidden assumptions, and enable us to understand certain concepts. I will adopt the method of reviewing early Buddhist texts in a direct comparison with classical Confucian texts. For the purpose of these comparisons, it win be useful to identify and to analyze equivalent concepts in both systems. Finally, in interpreting the ethics of both systems, I will apply modem ethical perspectives and modem legal thoughts.



A. SELF-RESTRAINT AND COMPASSION IN EARLY BUDDHISM (1) Self-restraint (2) Development of Compassion
A. EARLY BUDDHISM (1) An Educational Activity (2) Politics a. Politics by Righteousness, b. The Way to Maintain Righteousness, c. The Principles of Politics, d. Politics and Nature,  A Compassionate Action of Lay People
B. CLASSICAL CONFUCIANISM (1) An Educational Activity (2) Governing a. The Quality of a King 8. A Proposition of Politics: Rectification of Names c. The Principles of Governing d. Governing and Nature 98 e. Governing and Wealth



Special Contents

insert content here