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  • East Asian Religions and East Asian CulturesWhat's the Difference?

    Neil Schmid

    Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies


  • In the highest antiquity they prized simplyconferring good; in the time next to this,giving and repaying was the thing attendedto. And what the rules of propriety value isthat reciprocity. If I give a gift and nothingcomes in return, that is contrary topropriety; if the thing comes to me, and Igive nothing in return, that also is contraryto propriety. If a man observes the rules ofpropriety, he is in a condition of security; ifhe does not, he is in one of danger. Hencethere is the saying, The rules of proprietyshould by no means be left unlearned.

    The Book of Rites Liji




    ; ,






  • Interaction Ritual

    [Erving] Goffman concluded: not men and their moments, but moments and their men. Not individuals and their interactions, but interactions and their individuals; not persons and their passions, but passions and their persons.

    Every dog will have its day is more accurately every day will have its dog. Incidents shape their incumbents, however momentary they may be; encounters make their encountees.

    It is games that make sports heroes, politics that makes politicians into charismatic leaders, although the entire weight of record-keeping, news-story-writing, award-giving, speech-making, and advertising hype goes against understanding how this comes about. To see the common realities of everyday life sociologically requires a gestalt shift, a reversal of perspectives.

    Randall Collins, Interaction Ritual Chains, p.5

  • Respectfulness and yielding mark the interactions of superior men with one another.

    Book of Rites Liji

  • Research reported in the Boston Globe:

    Cultural insights : Brain scans support surprising differences in perception between Westerners and Asians



  • Collectivism

  • The Master said, 'The rule of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star which commands the homage of the multitude of stars without leaving its place.'

    Confucius, The Analects

  • Family Filial piety xiao From ( lo) 'elder' and (z) 'child'. Extended families Sense of kinship (grandparents/great grandparents, notion

    of guxiang , sense of place)

    Local community, neighborhood Community solidarity

    Government Community solidarity Respect for hierarchy Bureaucracy

    Primary social groups:

  • Sense of how power in institutions and organizations is distributed among individuals

    Large power difference means it is accepted as very unequal: Age [lo] is for hu 'change'. mo means 'hair'. [(S) [ji]

    old (not new) (cf old, not young; new)] Seniority From fi phonetic over ( ch) 'car'. "Row of

    carriages; row, group, class, rank, sort; generation" Rank Maleness From (tin) 'field' and (l) 'strength'. Vs female Family background

    E.g., siblings No word for brother and sister; instead older brother younger

    brother, etc Do not call older brother or younger sister by their names but by

    their titles. Use of given names is limited what does this mean??

    Large power difference

  • Intragroup harmony and overt conflict in interpersonal relations this is a dominant theme in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture and relations

    peace harmony grain to eat


    Conceived in its broadest sense, relatedness/kinship is simply about the ways in which people create similarity or difference between themselves and others. But in the process you define yourself.

    Sociality & Personal Interaction

  • what does all of the above mean for religions in east asia?

    the supernatural world is an extension of this world

    this world has a government, so does the next

    gods are like bureaucrats (and look like them)

    gods can loose their jobs

    your dead ancestors are not gods but they are powerful and you treat them with respect

    it's not what you believe, its what you do

    you can be buddhist, daoist, shintoist, and confucian all atthe same time

  • --the supernatural world is an extension of this world--this world has a government, so does the next--gods are like bureaucrats (and look like them)--gods can loose their jobs

  • --the supernatural world is an extension of this world--this world has a government, so does the next--gods are like bureaucrats (and look like them)--gods can loose their jobs

  • your dead ancestors are not gods but they are powerful and you

    treat them with respect

  • respect your elders

  • it's not what you believe, its what you doyou can be buddhist, daoist, shintoist, and confucian all at the same time

  • Basic Themes to East Asian Religions

    Family and ancestor worship

    Death and the afterlife

    Personal welfare and its relation to mantic knowledge

    Religious aspects of imperial authority and bureaucracy

    Shamanism/Role of Nature

  • Ancient China

  • Dynamics of Early Chinese Religion


    Oracle bones




    Political Power


    Art and ancestor worship

    Art and writing

  • Divination

    bu foretell predict

    zhanbu practice divination

    bushi divination by milfoil (yarrow stalks)

    dagua divination to divine

    zhaotou omen

  • Oracle Bones

  • Oracle Bones

  • Bronzes: The Semiotics of Food and Life

    / /



  • qi yin yang hundun /

  • Shamanism

    Two general definitions:

    Eliades definition (1964) is that shamanism is defined by ecstasy. From ekstasis meaning derangedstate of being beyond reason, mystic trance.

    ke Hultkrantzs definition is perhaps more appropriate to the Chinese context: a social functionary who, with the help of guardian spirits, attains ecstasy to create a rapport with the supernatural world on the behalf of her group memebers Hultkrantz 1973:34

  • Bronzes

  • Bronzes

  • Bronzes

  • Bronzes

  • Bronzes: Taotie

  • Bronzes

  • Bronzes

  • Early Chinese ReligionDivination, Ancestors, and the State

    Select Bibliography:

    Chang, K.C. Ancient China, Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. New Haven: Yale UniversityPress, 1977, 23-52

    Eno, Robert. Deities and Ancestors in Early Oracle Inscriptions, Lopez, Donald. Religions of China In Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, 41-51

    Hultkrantz, ke. A Definition of Shamanism. Temenos 9 (1973):25-37

    Keightly, David N. Late Shang Divination: The Magico-Religious Legacy, in Explorations in Early Chinese Cosmology. Henry Rosemont, ed. Chico: Scholars Press, 1984, 11-34

    Keightly, David N. The Religious Commitment: Shang Theology and the Genesis of Chinese Political Culture. History of Religions 17 (1978): 211-225

    Keightley, David. "Early Civilization in China: Reflections on How It Became Chinese," In Heritage of China: Contemporary Perspectives on Chinese Civilization. Paul S. Ropp, ed. Berkeley: UC Press, 1990, 15-54

    Keightley, David. Art, Ancestors, and the Origins of Writing in China, Representations, vol. 0, issue 56 (Autumn, 1996):68-95

    Overmyer, D. Introduction to Chinese Religions4000 BCE to 220 BCE JAS 1995:124-128

    Poo, Mu-chou. In Search of Personal Welfare. Albany: SUNY Press, 1998

    Sommer, Inscriptions from Ritual Bronzes, Sommer, Deborah. Chinese Religion: An Anthology of Sources. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 13-16