This article, “Religion in Chinese Social and Political History,” written by David A. Palmer, in the volume Chinese Religious Life (Oxford University Press, 2011), shows how the complex diversity of contemporary Chinese religious life is the product of layers of tradition that appeared at different phases of Chinese political and social history, from the third millennium BCE until the early twentieth century CE. Several religious movements and themes appear and recur at different periods of Chinese history, including the ruler’s relationship with Heaven as a source of political legitimacy; the importance of virtue and ritual propriety in social relations and government; millenarian movements sometimes associated with rebellions; interference by the Chinese state in the authority of religious institutions; a commercial ethic associating morality and material prosperity; and the tensions and mutual interactions between the teachings of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as with the later additions of Islam and Christianity. In spite of over one century of reform movements, revolutions, and modernizing campaigns from the nineteenth century until today, these themes continue to influence much of the religious life and sociopolitical relationships in the contemporary Chinese world.
Kristofer Schipper: A brief history of China
Kristofer Schipper, the well respected sinologist presents us another view China history — the macrohistory. He explains the east-and-west interactions in the Ming and Qing dynasty. From Father Matteo Ricci to Embassy of Lord Macartney, Schipper tells us the story of how China makes its way to nation building. He ends with a thought-provoking question, “China would have to become a state, wouldn’t it? That’s how we wanted China to be. But in fact, has China really changed?” Please check the clip.
Vincent Goossaert: Millenarian tendencies in Chinese religion and politics
Thousand years of Chinese history has shown religion is always present in the competing fields of China, between the state and the local, so as between the imperial rule and millenarian movement. Vincent Goossaert, one of the authors of Chinese Religious Life, mentions that the Chinese society always has “a strong impulse for Millenarian regimes, political regimes that would fulfill a hope of a perfect world, a perfect world order, being in complete harmony with the moral order of the universe.” The Yellow Turban Rebellion, the Taiping Heavenly Movement, and even the Chinese Communist Party have shared the communistic and apocalyptic belief of building a uptopian society with perfect moral order where religion may play an important role. Please check the clip and learn more about it.
Vincent Goossaert: Putting religion back into modern Chinese history
Religion is not dead old history, as Vincent Goossaert comments, “And historians have largely been putting religion into the category into the category of the old and traditional, giving religion a place in telling Chinese ancient history,” and, however, the way religion influenced the modern history of China has often been ignored. Is Chinese religion dead in modern history? Let’s see how Goossaert argues.