Religion in China and Japan
Religion in China and Japan
This paper majors on the comparison of the religion in China and Japan. It explores the rise of Buddhism in the two countries from the ancient period. The paper covers the similarities of religion in the current and the past period in both Japan and China. The major religions outlined in the paper include Buddhism, Christianity, Traditional Folk beliefs and practices, Judaism and Baha’i’s Faith. Similarly, the paper shall show how the political influence of the past impacted on the spread of the religion and the demographic distribution. Majority of the population in the two nations are non-religious as they practice traditional beliefs.
Keywords: Comparison of the religion in China and Japan.
Religion in China and Japan
Religion is a basic way of living for all communities in the world. Every human being has a religious belief in the existence of a Creator that guides human being. In Japan, the majority of the citizens are non-religious as they practice their traditional beliefs (Blair, 2013). Some of the religions in Japan include Shinto, Islamic, Christianity, and Buddhism. China as a country also has various religious beliefs that can be categorized into Buddhism, Islamic, Confucianism, Taoism, and Christianity. China regards religion as cultural practices simply because the majority of the citizens are non-religious as they practice traditional religions. The religions that are in China are the same religion found in Japan. There is a close relationship between China and Japan in the way Buddhism religion entered into the two countries as a popular religion. The paper shall cover the comparison between the religion of China and that of Japan (Blair, 2013). Buddhism and traditional folk practices will be highlighted to a great deal since it forms the largest part of the religion in both countries. The paper shall also highlight some of the differences in the religious practices of the two nations. The paper shall also summarize the findings of the relationship between the religion in China and that of Japan.
Comparison of the religion
A majority of people in China practices Chines folk religious activities. For instance, the Han people practice local traditional religions whereas other minor communities undertake their unique cultural activities in the name of religion. Intellectuals in China stick to Confucianism as their chosen religion (Mueggler, 2003). The situation in China is similar in Japan as the majority of the citizens are non-religious. Additionally, religion in Japan is attached to those individuals who belong to organized groups that have set doctrines that are to be met by members. The citizens who do not belong to any religious organizations are thought to be non-religious, and they form the majority group (Yang & Tamney, 2005). The non-religious groups practice most traditional Japanese cultural activities in addition to involving themselves in the Shinto fellowship and rituals.
Christianity is a minor religion in Japan dating to 1560 conversion by missionaries in the Kyushu communities. The religion has grown rapidly especially in Nagasaki forming about 5.1% by the year 1996. Those who convert practices Christian way of life such as undertaking wedding activities, observing Valentine dates as well as the Christmas celebrations. In China, there are no recognized religions though Christianity has gained popularity in the recent years, especially in Hon Kong (Mueggler, 2003). About 67 million people in China are now Christians thus enjoying the freedom given by the Communist Part hat is ruling. Christian values and practices have taken root to the converted communities with the establishment of schools and churches following the ant-Christian government campaigns. The similarity between the Japanese and Chines Christian growth rate is the hardship that has been experienced in running their activities due to government oppositions and reluctance among the citizens in joining Christianity. Both countries have also had few people being converted to Christianity since most of them believe in their traditional faith and activities that were done by their ancestors.
The cultural beliefs of China and Japan are much related due to the religious similarities. Shinto and Buddhism make the largest part of Japan, but there is a great influence from China that shapes the Japanese view of the entire world (Mueggler, 2003). The main reason behind the relationship is the sharing of the Chines astrological findings and other Chines folk beliefs that are copied in Japan. The Buddhism was experienced in China before spreading to Japan in the later years thus transferring some of the beliefs from China to Japan. The religious beliefs were transferred to Japan during the trading period and the normal migration process.
The Chines folk religion is the indigenous religion of the people of China where the gods of varied nature are worshiped. The religion that mainly consisted of the Chinese Cult worship forms the largest part of the religion in China due to the fewer formalities and regulations attached to it. The religion can be categorized as Taoism and Confucianism that advocated the worshiping of the early fathers of the community through sacred places such as in the temples. The common beliefs of the Chines religion are the growth and waning provision that is believed to be from the universe (Mueggler, 2003). The folk religion has revived after the tapping movement and the Cultural Revolution gaining the recognition by the government. For instance, Mazuism and Xia teaching where in the recent years (2015), the majority of the folk religions have been registered by the Zhejiang government. About 30-80% 0f the Chinese population practice cults as they observe the ancestral beliefs.
In Japan, Shinto is the indigenous religion that tries to connect the ancestors and the present generation. It is directed towards action on the spiritual beliefs and practices (Yang & Tamney, 2005). Shinto entails all the native beliefs and mythology that enable people to worship various gods in from the shrines. They undertake the rituals during harvest festivals where they dress uniformly in the ritual styles of dressing. These practices are very old as they originate in the Nara and the Heian periods of the past. Shinto is the largest religion forming 80% of the total population in Japan even though a few people always refer themselves as to Shintoists. Many people attend the Shinto shrines without being members of the group since there are no serious formalities for membership (Hori, Kitagawa & Miller, 1968). It is estimated that the current number of priest hit 78,890 leading 100,000 Shinto shrines in Japan.
Muslims dominated China during the ancient trade in the Song dynasty period. Yeheidie’erding, a Muslim trader, helped in the construction of the Yuan capital of Beijing. The Islamic religion is yet to get root in China after a serious rebellion of 1862 (Yang & Tamney, 2005). The provinces of Quinhai and Ningxia came under the Islamic leadership in the 1920’s which was later destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In China, Muslims are regarded as the minority group that constitutes only 1-2% of the total population of the Chines country. The situation in Japan is not far different from that of China. There are very few Muslims in Japan majority who are foreign immigrants from Asia. The whole region where the two nations are situated have few individuals who are Muslims.
Judaism entered into China during the Tang dynasty by migrants who settled in China particularly the Jews. The Jews arrived in Chines towns such as Shangai, Hong Kong, and Harbin during the economic expansion periods. Their migration was due to the war against the Semitic pogroms in Russia during the beginning of 1900. Other Jews migrants moved into China from Germany and Poland during the 1940’s (Yang & Tamney, 2005). The majority of the Jews moved back to their country leaving Shanghai town with few Jews. The result of the migration of the Jews back to their countries is the small Jewish religion in China that is only found in Beijing Town. Judaism in Japan is similar to that of China. The Jewish migrants who settled in Yokohama in 1861 attribute their migration from Europe and the Middle East. The Second World War also forced some Jews to flee to Japan hence spreading the Hinduism religion. After the Second World War, many Jews migrated to Israel leaving few Jews in Tokyo (Hori, Kitagawa & Miller, 1968). The less Hinduism religion in Japan and China is attributed to the migration of the Jews back to their countries after the Second World War.
The Baha’i religion entered Japan in the year 1875 by Abdu’l-Baha having first converts in Kanichi Yamamoto in Honolulu. The country by 2005 recorded about 15700 people belonging to the Baha’I faith. In China, there is also the Baha’i faith that started at the beginning of the 19th century (Yang & Tamney, 2005). In both countries, the Baha’i faith is very sparsely distributed and forms the smallest group of believers. The existence of this religion has grown slowly due to the existence of few people who believe in the Baha’i faith.
In Japan, The Japan Militant Atheist Alliance was established in 1931 forming a group of people who are against any religious beliefs (Blair, 2013). The organization majored on the opposition of the imperial system of Japan as well as the idea of the founding myth of the nation by Kokutai. Toshihiko Sakai formed the alliance to oppose the religious practices in Japan. He argued that religion was only a tool for the upper class to achieve their personal interest to demean laborers and farmers. Similar to Japan, China has been a secular nation for the period of Confucius. Confucianism does not have a common faith in the law or any other philosophy. The scholar of the Confucianism describes it as a religion of its own that is secular (Yang & Tamney, 2005). China is not bound by any religious superstitions and, therefore, the existence of non-religion for the majority. Comparing Japan and China, there is the existence of people who are non-religious but practice their traditional practices that they consider as sacred.
Rise of Buddhism in Japan and China
Buddhism found itself in China during the first century whereas taking root in Japan in the fifth century. The difference in the period of the religion spread left Japan behind learning the Buddhism religion while China was harassing and prosecuting strong members of the Buddhism religion. The prosecution in China intended to end the religion completely, and this attributes to the few citizens in the current world remaining to observe this religion.
The first appearance of the Buddhism religion in China dates back trade between China and the traders from Central Asia. Moton established a temple, which was referred to as the White Horse Temple in 68 CE enabling the Buddhism religion to spread out in the country. During this period, the Tang Dynasty accommodated all foreign ideas and influence. Buddhism developed quickly due to the favorable environment spreading from Korea to Japan. Emperor Wuzong started prosecution of the Buddhism due to various social-economic and religious grounds. In Japan, Buddhism started in the 467CE by five monks who brought symbols that were attached to the Buddhism religion (Sato, 1999). The spread of the Buddhism was facilitated by the mission at Nara by Seong of Baekje. In precise, the religion started at a different period in China and Japan.
In China, Confucianism had taken root the time Buddhism was introduced. Members of the Confucianism opposed the new religion with a belief that it was going to alter the social beliefs and culture in China. There was a belief that Buddhism could destroy the structure of the society such as the relationship that existed between a father and his son. However, Buddhism received support during the Tang Dynasty period (Yang & Tamney, 2005). The situation in Japan is slightly different. The religion of the time in Japan was the Shinto religion when Buddhism was introduced. It took long before Buddhism could gain ground. It was until the initiative of Suiko to encourage the Japanese to join Buddhism that the religion started to spread in 607 CE.
The introduction of Buddhism in China raised a heated argument by the Wazong emperor on the idea of Taoism religion and Buddhism in China. He believed that the Buddhist were an unprotected group in the society since they did not raise taxes as other communities. He advocated for Taoism in the country since the religion promised immortality for the members. Some people proffered Confucianism to Buddhism because the Confucianism teachings called for a good relationship between a father and his son (Sato, 1999). The Buddhism was viewed as an agent of breaking the unity through their call for leaving families and joining the temple as their new residence. The situation in Japan was very different to that of China when it comes to the spread of Buddhism. In 645 CE, when Emperor Kotuko was in power, the religion of the whole country was turned into Buddhism. It replaced the former Shinto religion (Hori, Kitagawa & Miller, 1968). The Buddhism religion was divided into two schools during the rule of Kamakura. The two schools were Zen and Pure Land of which they still exist in the current years (Sato, 1999). The Zen schools were for the royal and rich families that formed the upper class. The Pure Lands schools, on the other hand, remained for the rest of the society’s class that forms the biggest part of the Buddhism religion in Japan.
Comparing the religious practices as well as the religion in the two countries, it is evident that there is a close correlation in the two nations. There is Christianity, Buddhism, Islamic, traditional folk religions, Hinduism and even Baha’is faith in both China and Japan. The demographic distribution of the religions in the two countries is alike as the majority of the citizens are non-religious (Sato, 1999). Basing on the rise of Buddhism in Japan and China, there are many similarities in the development and the environment that enabled the pioneers of the religion. In both countries, people practice their traditional beliefs that were done by their ancestors. The two nations are close to each other, and this helped them to have shared religious practices and beliefs.
Blair, H. (2013). Religion and Politics in Heian-Period Japan. Religion Compass, 7(8), 284-293. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/rec3.12054
Hori, I., Kitagawa, J., & Miller, A. (1968). Folk religion in Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mueggler, E. (2003). Popular Religion in China: The Imperial Metaphor.:Popular Religion in China: The Imperial Metaphor. American Anthropologist, 105(2), 410-411. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/aa.2003.105.2.410
Sato, T. (1999). Religion of Word and Religion of Sacrament. THEOLOGICAL STUDIES IN JAPAN, (38), 7-14. http://dx.doi.org/10.5873/nihonnoshingaku.1999.7
Yang, F., & Tamney, J. (2005). State, market, and religions in Chinese societies. Leiden: Brill.
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