You are on page 1of 3

Chinese Religions and Shinto

Central Problem: Ideology & Statehood

How do you create the idea of a state? Religion plays a key role in the
creation of a state.
States are created using hard power and soft power
Hard Power: Military, Penal System
Relies on the power of punishment and military force to get people to follow
Soft Power: Ideology
From the perspective of the subjects, it relies on beliefs and legitimacy seen
by the people. Get people to obey you because they already believe in the
authority of the state. From the perspective of the throne, you place trust in
the people because you acknowledge that you have limited knowledge. In
your absence, you trust your subjects to maintain control and order (collect
taxes, maintain authority, etc.).
Trust is the glue that holds the state together.
Etiquette & Power Structures
Ritual allowed behavior to be predictable. In Chinese context, ritual was not
only a series of procedures, but a set of rules by which people live by. It
included etiquette (who would sit where on the dining table, etc.), which
would clarify power structures and systems of obligation within families and
the people. Etiquette had a deep importance in the courts because they
could display hierarchy.
The Natural World
Connecting the natural world to structures of authority establish legitimacy,
because people cannot deny how the natural world operates (since they can
observe it directly).
The structure of patriarchal authority is largely present.
Ashoka the Great (India) set out a command to his subjects that one must
obey his/her parents, etc. In a sense, this command is highlighting structures
of obligation that were already present in society, however he is claiming it
as a value of his empire. (He uses structures of obligation to exert power).
Shang Dynasty
-Operated under the feudal system

-Believed in Heaven (in the stars/ constellations)

-They would perform rituals and sacrifices to honor the ancestors of those
that have been conquered. They would sacrifice humans, animals, grains.
This was done to entertain an ancestor, which leads to a tradition that
places great importance on ancestry.
Zhou Dynasty
-The middle of the Zhou Dynasty marks the beginning of Confucius. His
family were members of the court, but lost their jobs. Confucius spends his
life looking for a job.
-During a funeral, elaborate displays of grief were shown, where family
obligation structures were made obvious by exaggerating sorrow over the
loss of a family member/ ancestor. This would tell others how close you were
to the ancestor and to other people. Funerals were a way to show social
-Confucius would observe people at funerals and judge whether they were
being sincere or not. Passing this test would involve a properly executed
emotional display, as well as proper ritual and etiquette in front of others.
Mandate of Heaven & Role of Virtue in Power
-Confucius said that if people properly follow obligation structures and have
virtue, then heaven will allow the kingdom to survive. A successful
government will be virtuous.
-The ideal government does not have to enforce laws through harsh power
and punishment. If the ruler embodies pure virtue, his subjects will feel
obligated to do the right thing and will be embarrassed to do the wrong
thing. Confucius compares the virtuous ruler to the polestar, which holds
the highest position amongst the stars.
-Being virtuous means holding total power over the people. The subjects will
be obedient to a virtuous ruler.
-How does one become virtuous?? Through education. During the Confucian
reforms, they emphasized education.
Daoism/ Taoism
Dao means road, path, method. It is a verb of speech. Yin Yang is a
representation of the universe and harmonious balance.
-The Dao De Jing says that based on the existing ideology of the court, the
Dao (the way) is superior to the Di (God). Daoism becomes in
competition of the sacrificial nature of ancestral traditions.
Warring States Period

-Mencius says that people must extend their sight to see things that people
may not want you to see (ex: killing of an animal for food).
-Xun Zi says the opposite, that people are inherently evil.
Neo Confucianism
-2 camps of thought
1. The School of Principle- One says you need to understand the
writing of the sages/ principles. Zhu Xi is a main thinker here.
2. The School of Mind- The other says you dont need to study history,
because an understanding of the mind would allow you to understand
the universe. This forms a major part of Zen Buddhism. Yuan Yang Zi
is a main thinker here.
-Part of the Yuan Dynasty.

Shinto (Japan)
Kamis are considered as the Shinto gods, or spirit gods.
-People do not refer to Shinto as a separate religion for a long time. It used to
be encompassing of different religions.
-It becomes a separate religion in the 1890s. All temples in Japan had to be
either Shinto or Buddhist, so within 10 years most temples changed to
represent the religion they followed. All temples become either Shinto or
Buddhist. This was under the Meiji Restoration. Shinto used to be connected
to Buddhism, but later separated.
-After this separation, Meiji Restoration declares Shinto as not a religion, so
that there is freedom of religion in Japan. However, everybody still worships
the Shinto Kami, who has authority. This is when the state religion of Japan
is not defined as a religion, but used as a political and cultural tool for