The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 6461

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-3902, USA
Interests: Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity; medieval Chinese social and cultural history; modern intellectual history; the cultural construction of religious studies as an academic discipline in modern China
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Global China Studies, New York University in Shanghai, Shanghai 200122, China
Interests: Chinese Buddhism; Chinese Religion; dunhuang & turfan manuscripts; silk road; buddhist rituals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In the past decade, the study of Chinese religions has flourished across the globe. By raising new issues and examining new materials, scholars have made tremendous contributions to the study of both traditional Chinese religions and their modern and contemporary developments. This Special Issue will move forward to push new thinking about the history of religions in China, and their rise, fall, and return.

China is a multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic nation. We seek contributions that could bridge dialogues among scholars from various national, ethnical, gender, linguistic, and religious backgrounds.

This Special Issue aims to bring together a group of young scholars who aim to open the new frontiers of Chinese religious history by exploring old themes with new materials and raising new issues with old materials, or both. We are particularly interested in papers looking into the intermingled relations between two or more different religions or between two different sets of materials, including both transmitted texts and excavated materials as well as inscriptions, and between organized religions and cultic practices or rituals in the history of Chinese religions. We welcome discussions crossing the conventional boundaries of nations, religions, and disciplines, both in ancient and modern times.    

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following: Chinese Buddhism; Daoism; Confucianism; Manichaeism; Islam; Judaism; Nestorianism; Silk Road; Dunhuang studies; manuscript studies; ritual studies; and material culture.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Huaiyu Chen
Dr. Minhao Zhai
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • Daoism
  • Chinese religions
  • Dunhuang
  • popular religion
  • Manichaeism
  • Nestorianism
  • manuscripts
  • ritual
  • material culture

Published Papers (6 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

12 pages, 387 KiB  
Article
The River God Cult and the Reshaping of Political Authority—Reading Inscriptions from the Hezhong Area in Tang China
by Aihua Jiang and Longxiang Ma
Religions 2024, 15(2), 229; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020229 - 16 Feb 2024
Viewed by 643
Abstract
The River God cult held a significant place in state rituals in imperial China. While scholars have primarily focused on the evolution of the River God sacrificial system, with its interplay of the official granting of noble titles and popular beliefs, this paper [...] Read more.
The River God cult held a significant place in state rituals in imperial China. While scholars have primarily focused on the evolution of the River God sacrificial system, with its interplay of the official granting of noble titles and popular beliefs, this paper offers a further examination of the River God cult. By reading the “Stele of the (Shrine) Temple for the River God honored as the Duke of Numinous Source” (hedushen lingyuangong cimiao bei 河瀆神靈源公祠廟碑), created in the Tang Dynasty, this study explores the interactive relationship between the River God cult and state power in the Hezhong 河中area during that time period. We contend that the traditional River God cult and the participation of both officials and civilians in common rituals throughout past dynasties not only created a concentration of historical memories and reverent emotions but also established a strong social foundation for belief in the River God within the Hezhong region. This cult attracted both state endorsement and popular support. Thus, Guo Ziyi 郭子儀 (697–781), a famous military general in the Tang Dynasty, sought to renovate a temple and erect a monument for the River God. This monument was to serve as a cultural symbol that would strengthen the connection between the state and the local community, and hence ease the social tensions in the Hezhong area after the An Lushan Rebellion. In sum, such a construction would enhance the psychological and cultural identity of the people with both the mandate of heaven and the Tang imperial authority. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return)
26 pages, 526 KiB  
Article
The Gods among Us: A Shared Recipe for Making Saints in Early Jewish and Daoist Hagiographies
by Jianyu Shen
Religions 2024, 15(2), 222; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020222 - 16 Feb 2024
Viewed by 794
Abstract
This article examines the earthly journey of the saints in early Jewish and Daoist hagiographies. The major texts for comparative reading are Sefer Shivchei Ha-Ar”i and Shenxian Zhuan, namely, the foundation stones of each hagiographical tradition. Emphasis is laid on the most [...] Read more.
This article examines the earthly journey of the saints in early Jewish and Daoist hagiographies. The major texts for comparative reading are Sefer Shivchei Ha-Ar”i and Shenxian Zhuan, namely, the foundation stones of each hagiographical tradition. Emphasis is laid on the most significant phases in the process of making saints while the candidates dwell in the worldly domain as quasi-divine beings: (1) Mystical Birth, (2) Life in Seclusion, and (3) Divine Encounters. During these stages of transition, the sages were imparted with the esoteric wisdom and the godly features that rendered them extraordinary exemplars of religiosity. My investigation demonstrates that this recipe is shared by both hagiographical traditions, despite the distance in time and space, to construct the image of saints, each expressed with culturally distinct characteristics of their own. I argue that both traditions display a pattern of human-centered sainthood instead of the divine-endorsed type—while the birth myth shows a discernible degree of predestined sagehood, painstaking periods, such as self-isolation and learning with the true masters, are more crucial to the sages’ transformation of identity in the realm of Earth, the dynamic incubator that breeds holiness for the most qualified souls. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return)
28 pages, 12683 KiB  
Article
Cao’an in the Ancestral World: Contemporary Manichaeism-Related Belief and Familial Ethics in Southeastern China
by Yanbin Wang
Religions 2024, 15(2), 185; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020185 - 1 Feb 2024
Viewed by 967
Abstract
The Cao’an (草庵), situated in the Fujian Province of China, stands as a rare Manichean relic that has long attracted scholarly interest. In the Sunei (苏内) village where the Cao’an is located, there are numerous texts, narratives, and religious practices related to Manichaeism [...] Read more.
The Cao’an (草庵), situated in the Fujian Province of China, stands as a rare Manichean relic that has long attracted scholarly interest. In the Sunei (苏内) village where the Cao’an is located, there are numerous texts, narratives, and religious practices related to Manichaeism which are often cited as evidence of local Manichaean activities since the Song and Yuan Dynasties. However, drawing from anthropological fieldwork, this paper points out that the local villagers have a more complex and seemingly contradictory attitude towards Manichaeism. On the one hand, they are enthusiastic about worshipping “Moni guangfo” (Mani the Buddha of Light, 摩尼光佛) and collecting narratives of their Manichaean ancestors. On the other hand, they resist the local government’s attempts to strengthen the “Manichaean” characteristics of Cao’an and related village temples. Their familial ethics provides a critical and coherent perspective. The villagers have gradually accumulated a wealth of Manichaean-related texts and narratives to demonstrate the moral virtues of their ancestors. Their beliefs and rituals concerning Mani the Buddha of Light are also grounded in traditional familial ethics. This helps us grasp the reality of Manichaeism-related culture in contemporary China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return)
Show Figures

Figure 1

15 pages, 394 KiB  
Article
In Search of the Dao: Process Cosmology, Epistemology, and Ritual in the Xunzi and the Xici zhuan
by Wei Zhao
Religions 2024, 15(2), 178; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020178 - 31 Jan 2024
Viewed by 797
Abstract
This paper investigates, in a comparative fashion, the common quest for the Dao by authors of the Xunzi and the Xici zhuan of the Book of Changes to come to terms with political and social crises in Warring States China. Since the two [...] Read more.
This paper investigates, in a comparative fashion, the common quest for the Dao by authors of the Xunzi and the Xici zhuan of the Book of Changes to come to terms with political and social crises in Warring States China. Since the two texts adopt both similar and divergent methodologies in their search of the Dao, this paper first examines their similarities in terms of process cosmology, epistemology, and practice of ritual, and then analyzes the divergences in their approaches to the Dao. In particular, the practice of ritual is unveiled as the marker of the Dao within the philosophical framework of both texts, albeit with differing connotations. In the final analysis, this paper discusses both the underlying pragmatic applications of the two approaches in the nuanced philosophical insights they provide into the coordination of human beings with the processes of the cosmos, and their implications in understanding what A.C. Graham calls “the disputers of the Dao”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return)
17 pages, 1657 KiB  
Article
Changes in Sacrifice by Burning and the Transfer of the Space Inhabited by Ghosts in China: Philological and Linguistic Perspectives
by Cong Li and Yiyun Zhang
Religions 2024, 15(2), 158; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020158 - 27 Jan 2024
Viewed by 884
Abstract
This paper analyzes changes in sacrifice by burning and the space inhabited by ghosts in ancient China from philological and linguistic perspectives. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, rulers believed that they could convey their offerings and reverence to their ancestors in heaven [...] Read more.
This paper analyzes changes in sacrifice by burning and the space inhabited by ghosts in ancient China from philological and linguistic perspectives. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, rulers believed that they could convey their offerings and reverence to their ancestors in heaven by burning firewood and sacrifices (尞). From the Spring and Autumn Period to the Han dynasty, the ancient Chinese metaphors for naming the underground space inhabited by ghosts experienced a transformation from a natural space (Yellow Spring (黄泉)) to human settlements (li (里), big cities (都)) and then to government institutions for criminal penalty (government (府), prisons (狱)), which symbolized the gradual establishment of a living order in the space inhabited by ghosts based on the human society. When the new living order of the space inhabited by ghosts was established, the ancient Chinese began to reconstruct sacrifice by burning during the Wei and Jin dynasties, and the objects burnt were represented by joss paper. The use of the term “transforming (化)” to refer to sacrifice by burning suggests that people believed that burning with fire was a way to transfer objects from the real world to the world of ghosts. The act of burning joss paper not only embodied the Chinese concept of ancestor worship to “treat the dead as if they were alive” but also gave “fire (火)” rich religious connotations while greatly simplifying the process and cost of sacrificial rituals, thus gradually becoming popular. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return)
Show Figures

Figure 1

15 pages, 873 KiB  
Article
The Transnational Experience of a Chinese Buddhist Master in the Asian Buddhist Network
by Xing Zhang
Religions 2023, 14(8), 1052; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081052 - 17 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1068
Abstract
Wuqian (1922–2010) was one of the most important modern Buddhist masters in the modern history of Sino-Indian Buddhist relations. In his early years, he studied all the major schools of the Buddhist tradition, focusing on Yogācāra philosophy, probably due to Xuanzang’s influence and [...] Read more.
Wuqian (1922–2010) was one of the most important modern Buddhist masters in the modern history of Sino-Indian Buddhist relations. In his early years, he studied all the major schools of the Buddhist tradition, focusing on Yogācāra philosophy, probably due to Xuanzang’s influence and in alignment with contemporary Buddhist trends. Furthermore, he became one of the few masters from the Central Plains who received systematic training in Tibetan Buddhist tantric rituals. He went to India in the middle of the 20th century. He dedicated his life to the revival of Buddhist thought in India, especially promoting Chinese Buddhism in Calcutta by establishing Buddhist institutions, managing Buddhist sites, organizing Buddhist activities, and building the Xuanzang Temple. In his later years, he devoted himself to facilitating mutual Buddhist exchanges and monastic visits between Buddhist organizations in mainland China, Taiwan, and India. In 1998, he presented two Buddhist relics to the Daci’en Temple in Xi’an. At the beginning of the 21st century, he established the Institute of Buddhist Studies at Xuanzang Temple in Calcutta. He organized the translation of many important Buddhist treatises, again reflecting his intention of following the spirit of Xuanzang to contribute to Chinese Buddhism. His transnational journey manifested that there was an active Asian Buddhist network during the Cold War era, despite various difficulties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The History of Religions in China: The Rise, Fall, and Return)
Back to TopTop