Chinese and Japanese Religions
Religion and culture in China and Japan have always been important. Together with the rest of early Chinese civilization, Buddhism had an influence. The local traditions were compelled to identify themselves as an alternative to the Chinese influence since Buddhism was a cohesive system of beliefs. Meanwhile, Confucian ideas about society and politics made their way to Japan. My inquiries about these faiths’ similarities and differences, social effects, and interactions with other religions have all been prompted by Unit 3’s study of them. I found some of the answers to these queries with the aid of the course materials, but other issues remained.
One of the most significant concepts to me is the importance of Confucianism and Shintoism, which are fundamental aspects of Chinese and Japanese cultures. The Five Virtues of Benevolence, Fidelity, Righteousness, Wisdom, and Propriety were emphasized by Confucianism. Confucianism was a guiding ideology that impacted Chinese rites and practices throughout the four phases of life—birth, maturity, marriage, and death—and put specific stress on the importance of the family. Japan is a conformist society where peace, respect for one another, and collective judgment are prized (Corduan, 2013). The requirement for societal peace gives rise to other values like cooperation, diligence, and conflict avoidance, and the notion that family comes first is a distinctive cultural element that influences Chinese culture. Common Japanese values are influenced by Japanese religion as well. Both faiths stress the need to coexist peacefully with people and the natural world.
The first religion practiced by Japan’s native population was Shinto, which dates back to the third century B.C.E. Although having no founder or holy book, Shinto represents a set of principles that may coexist peacefully with any other religion. When Buddhism first arrived in China in the sixth century, Shinto began to incorporate certain Buddhist practices. Since Japanese society is essentially nonreligious, many people now see Shinto more as a tradition than a religion.
Unlike many other religions, there is no such thing as good and evil in Shinto. People are seen to be good, while bad spirits create evil. Believers must perform sacrifices, prayers, and purification rites to protect themselves from evil spirits. Cleaning is seen as a method to purge the inner mind of contaminants. Shinto, which loosely translates as “the path of the Gods,” is based on the belief in kami, or “spirits of the dead,” which may be found in plants, animals, rivers, mountains, and other natural phenomena (Corduan, 2013). In other words, when a person passes away, they turn into kami, and the kami of important people are kept in Shinto shrines.
Since animals are said to contain the spirits of the deceased, who serve as guardians of their successors, Shinto is an animalistic religion. Some spirits have many skills and tasks, including being guardians of the earth and protecting their families. The adherents will get protection and approval from spirits if they live by Shinto beliefs (Corduan, 2013).
The “So You Meet” section on how Christians should interact with non-Christians also supports honesty, which can be seen in anything that people do, whether it be their job or relationships, when they do it the best they can and with a true heart. The author encourages respecting, understanding, and loving people of various religions, and I wholeheartedly agree with this position. According to the author, this approach encourages religious tolerance. One may better comprehend their values by listening to others. One may appreciate and comprehend a people’s traditions by being familiar with its religion and culture. By accepting and loving people for who they are as people, one may forge real ties with them and get over prejudice. This strategy is necessary for the peaceful coexistence of people from different faiths and cultural backgrounds. The author strongly emphasizes valuing diversity and acknowledging the range of opinions and actions present in the world (Corduan, 2013). It demonstrates to Christians how to have meaningful and polite interactions with non-Christians.
Through studying various faiths, one might have a deeper understanding of their ideas and beliefs. The author recommends exploring beyond compatibility when investigating diverse religions. Instead, approach the subject with openness and interest while honoring and appreciating diversity. This sentence encourages readers to consider how other religions align with their own beliefs while keeping an open mind and a willingness to learn. There may be connections between studying Chinese and Japanese religions and various careers and personal relationships. For instance, those who work in international commerce or politics may find it beneficial to comprehend the cultural norms and practices of various faiths. Understanding diverse cultures also improves personal relationships, encouraging tolerance and respect for others.
The intricacy of the faiths and the challenge of remembering the many thoughts and ideas put forward during the learning sessions were two issues I encountered. Nevertheless, after dissecting the larger themes, I could comprehend the subject matter better. It would be beneficial to have more interactive sessions, such as group discussions or debates, to promote critical thinking and consider other points of view.
In conclusion, Unit 3’s study of Chinese and Japanese religions has been interesting. I was able to better grasp the components of different faiths’ lifestyles, beliefs, and practices within a specific culture thanks to the course materials, which provided a variety of intriguing concepts and behaviors. Understanding different faiths allows for a better understanding and acceptance of diversity in various vocations and personal settings.
Corduan, W. (2013). Neighboring faiths: A Christian introduction to world religions. InterVarsity Press.