Cosmology, Divinity and Self-Cultivation in Chinese Thought

Authored by: Karyn L. Lai

The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781844658312
eBook ISBN: 9781315719412
Adobe ISBN: 9781317515920


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This chapter aims to articulate some salient characteristics of religious belief in Chinese thought, with particular focus on its indigenous philosophical traditions, Confucianism and Daoism. The historical period covered here spans roughly from the Shang dynasty (17th.–11th centuries bce) to the Han (206 bce–220 ce). There is substantial archaeological evidence from around the late Neolithic (pre-2000 bce) and the Shang, allowing scholars to envisage plausible pictures of life, society, and religion at that time. At the other end, while the continuing evolution of religion in China becomes exponentially more interesting and complex after the introduction of Buddhism into China at around the second century ce, the focus on the selected period is critical. First, Confucian and Daoist philosophy, among others, arose and were consolidated as separate traditions during the Han. Secondly, a more thorough awareness of developments in this period enables a more sophisticated understanding of the continuing evolution of religious beliefs and practices through time, including the reception of Buddhism by the Chinese.

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