CHINESE TEMPLES AND RITUALS

CHINESE TEMPLES


Chinese temples are often comprised of many buildings, halls and shrines. They tend to be situated in the middle of towns and have north-south axises. Large halls, shrines and important temple buildings have traditionally been dominated by tiled roofs, which are usually green or yellow and sit atop eaves decorated with religious figures and good luck symbols. The roofs are often supported on magnificently carved and decorated beams, which in turn are supported by intricately carved stone dragon pillars. Many temples are entered through the left door and exited through the right.

Pagodas are towers generally found in conjunction with temples or viewed as temples themselves. Some can be entered; others can not. The Chinese have traditionally believed that the heavens were round and the earth was square. This concept is reflected in the fact that pagodas have square bases rooted to the earth but have a circular or octagonal plans so they look round when viewed by the gods above in the sky.

In the Mao era, temples were often used as storehouse for the local production team. Since Mao's death many temples have been reclaimed for religious observances and thousands of new temples, many devoted to local gods in rural areas, have been built. More than 1,300 temples were built in Shaanxi province alone in the 1990s.

In many cases, these temples have not only become a place to worship but have become a center of social and welfare activity. The Black Dragon Temple in Shaanxi, for example, sponsors deforestation and irrigation projects, builds schools and provides assistance for the poor.

Religious buildings in China are traditionally built in secluded, auspicious locales on mountains or hilltops, tucked in among trees. The aesthetics of the physical setting is of paramount importance in the placement of religious buildings in China, as the physical setting contributes greatly to the overall religious experience. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

Good Websites and Sources: Traditional Religion in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Religion Facts religionfacts.com; Deities Worshipped by Farmers China Vista ; Mazu China Vista ; Video: “Ancestor Worship, Confucian Teaching, featuring Myron L. Cohen Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu; Feng shui Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Feng Shui Crazy fengshuicrazy.comfengshuisociety.org ;Skeptic’s Dictionary on Feng Shui skepdic.com ; Qi Gong Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Classical text sources neigong.net ; Qi Gong Institute qigonginstitute.org ; Qi Gong association of America /www.qi.org ; Skeptic’s Dictionary on Qi Gong skepdic.com

Folk Beliefs and Superstitions: Chinatown Connection chinatownconnection.com ; New York Times on Earthquake superstitions nytimes.com ; Old Book on Superstitions archive.org/ or Old Book PDF Fileus.archive.org/2/items ; Five Elements chinatownconnection ; I Ching Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; China Vista chinavista.com ; Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu;

Funerals and Death: Chinese Beliefs About Death deathreference.com ; Death and Burials in China chia.chinesemuseum.com.au ; Grief in China Culture www.indiana.edu ; Chinese Funeral Customs China Vista; Lucky Numbers Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times article nytimes.com ; China View article xinhuanet.com ; News in Science abc.net.au ; Symbols Chinese Symbols. Com chinese-symbols.com ; Chinatown Connection chinatownconnection.com ; What’s Your Sign whats-your-sign.com

Good Websites and Sources on Religion in China: Chinese Government White Paper on Religion china-embassy.org ; United States Commission on International Religious Freedom uscirf.gov/countries/china; Articles on Religion in China forum18.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Council of Foreign Relations cfr.org ; Brooklyn College brooklyn.cuny.edu ; Religion Facts religionfacts.com; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org ; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy stanford.edu ; Academic Info academicinfo.net ; Internet Guide to Chinese Studies sino.uni-heidelberg.de

Books: 1) James Watson and Evelyn Rawski, eds., “Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China” (Berkeley, 1988); 2) the chapter by Maurice Freedman in “The Study of Chinese Society,” ed. G. William Skinner (Stanford, 1979), pp. 296-312; 3) Laurence Thompson, “Chinese Religion” (Belmont, 1979), Chapter 3; 4) C. K. Yang, “Religion in Chinese Society” (Berkeley, 1961), pp. 40-43, 52-53; 5) Henri Doré (1914-1933), “Researches into Chinese Superstitions,” trans. M. Kennelly, 6 vols. (Shanghai), vol. 4, pp. 417 ff.]; 5) Addison, James Thayer. “Chinese Ancestor Worship: A Study of its Meaning and its Relations with Christianity” (London: The Church Literature Committee of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, 1925); 6) Graham, David Crockett. “Folk Religion in Southwest China” (Washington: The Smithsonian Institution, 1961); Hsu, Francis L. K. “Under the Ancestor’s Shadow” (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971); 7) "The Way of Qigong" by Kenneth Cohen (Ballantine Books). You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com.

Types of Chinese Temples


Confucian temple

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: In imperial times, before Communism, “the state was deeply involved in other areas of life that had a major impact on religious practice and belief. Some have referred to this as the State Cult. The arrangement of state ritual below the emperor was coordinated exactly with the national administrative system. At each administrative level -- province, prefecture, and county -- there was a city or town serving as the administrative seat, where in addition to the government compound (yamen) which was the officiating magistrate’s headquarters, there were several official religious establishments: Among the most important were the Confucian or civil temple (wen miao), and the military temple (wu miao), which were the ritual foci of the two major divisions in the Chinese bureaucracy; and also the City God temple (chenghuang miao). [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia <|>]

“Confucian Temples: The Confucian temple housed a spirit tablet dedicated to Confucius himself, along with a collection of spirit tablets dedicated to various important scholars in the Confucian canon (many of these being Confucius’ own disciples; others would be eminent Confucian scholars from later times). Rites at the Confucian temple were held by and for government officials of the district, as well as for the vastly larger number of degree-holders not in office. All the degree-holders of a district were required to attend the annual worship at the temple of Confucius on his birthday. <|>

Military Temples: The military temple was the major temple for local people who had obtained degrees in the military examination system and were part of the military bureaucracy, which was subordinate to the civil bureaucracy. The military temple was devoted to the god of war, Guan Yu, and housed spirit tablets dedicated to Guan Yu as well as other figures who represented loyalty and patriotism, the two key values promoted in the military temples. <|> religion.(1)<|>

City God and Military Temples


Buddhist temple drum tower

In the old days, most Chinese cties and large towns had a city god temple (chenghuang miao). A city serving as both prefectural seat and county seat would have two sets of state temples. On the City God temple in Shanghai, Asian Historical Architecture reports: “Like the Ancient Greeks, the Chinese traditionally believe that guardian gods watch over their cities. The first temple to the God of Shanghai was founded in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) when a shrine was erected to the City God of Huating County. However, the Huating shrine was located in Danjing Temple, far from its current location. The present site was first used during the reign of Emperor Yongle (1403-1425) in the Ming Dynasty. A statue of General Huo Guang of the Han Dynasty was enshrined in the front hall, while a statue of Qin Yubo, the god of the City, rested in the back hall. [Source: Asian Historical Architecture orientalarchitecture.com <+> ]

“Qin Yubo is a Taoist deity renowned for his character and learning. Legends say that in the early Ming dynasty Qin Yubo was a righteous scholar who, out of disdain for politics, refused to become a court official. Upon his death in 1377, the emperor lamented that he never succeeded in luring the honest official to the central government, which was rife with corruption. The emperor decided to honor him posthumously by bestowing on him the status of Deity. Charged with protecting the land, the spirit of Qin Yubo is thought to be active in Shanghai even today. The area around the temple has grown into a thriving market, with over 100 stores selling all kinds of traditional products. Most of the store buildings are nearly a century old. <+>

On the General Yue Fei Memorial temple in Hangzhou, an example of a military temple, Asian Historical Architecture says: “This temple was built in honor of Yue Fei, a general of the Southern Song dynasty when the capital of China was in Hangzhou. He was falsely accused and executed at the behest of the Prime Minister, Qin Hui, in 1141. Twenty years later the emperor recognized the general's loyalty and had this tomb and temple complex built to honor him. At one time the temple was an active center of worship, under the direction of the state cult, with semi annual sacrifices. Today it is a memorial to the spirit of loyalty and patriotism, which General Yue displayed, but has no religious significance. The buildings are all in excellent condition and constitute a museum of sorts. They have obviously undergone major renovation in recent years. The tombs and the tomb sculptures date from the 12th century, and have been meticulously restored.” <+>

Chinese Temple Features

20080219-construction of shaolin temple beifan3.jpg
Temple under construction
Temple under construction Many temples have courtyards. Often, in the middle of the courtyard is a small bowl where incense and paper money are burnt. Offerings of fruit and flowers are left in a main hall at the intricately-carved altars, often decorated with red brocade embroidery with gilded characters.

Traditional Chinese temples contain wall paintings, carved tile walls and shrines to gods and ancestors that in turn are wonderfully decorated with wood carvings, murals, ceramic figures and plaster moldings with motifs that the Chinese regard as auspicious.

On the outside of temples there are often stone walls with simple carvings; gates with statues of fanged, bug-eyed goblins, intended to keep evil spirits away; and monuments of children who displayed filial piety to their parents and virgins who lost their fiances before marriage but remained pure their entire life.

Wealthy Chinese temples often contain gongs, bells, drums, side altars, adjoining rooms, accommodation for the temple keepers, chapels for praying and shrines devoted to certain deities. There is generally no set time for praying or making offerings---people visit whenever they feel like it---and the only communal services are funerals.

At Chinese temples orange and red signifies happiness and joy; white represents purity and death; green symbolizes harmony; yellow and gold represents heaven; and grey and black symbolize death and misfortune. Swastikas are often seen on Chinese temples. The Chinese word for swastika (wan) is a homonym of the word for "ten thousand," and is often used in the lucky phrase "chi-hsiang wan-fu chih suo chü" meaning "the coming of great fortune and happiness." See Hinduism, Buddhism

Chinese Temple Practices

20080219-lightingshaolinjosssticks beifan.jpg
Lighting joss sticks
Busy Chinese temples are smokey places crowded with people lighting bouquets of smoking joss sticks, saying prayers, leaving jade orchid blossoms as offerings, throwing sheng bei (fortune-telling wooden blocks) and donating ghost money to variety of ancient gods in return for things like good luck on the lottery, good scores for children on important exams and good business.

Temple goers burn fake money for longevity and set fire to paper cars and TV sets at funerals. In 1995, the Chinese government banned the practice of burning money during ancestor worship ceremonies because the custom was officially deemed a fire hazard and a superstition.

Temples in China are not good places to visit if you have respiratory problems: burning incense coils, some of them 50-feet in length when unraveled, hang from the ceiling; joss sticks smoke away in urns; and pieces of ignited rice paper are tossed into the air by worshipers.

In January 2006, 36 people were killed in an explosion when devout Buddhists in the central province of Henan burned incense and prayed at a temple near warehouse storing firecrackers, igniting the fireworks.

Kowtows

K’o t’ous (kowtows) are bows performed as acts of worship. Worshipers at local temples for the Dragon King bow three times before an image of deity, place incense sticks before it, cast lots of numbered bamboo sticks and make donations. Pilgrims visiting temples sometimes line up and stop every few steps and bow.


kowtowing to an altar

Kowtowing was a kind of daily etiquette in the feudal society. According to the ancient book Zhouli Chunguan Dazhu, there were 9 kinds of kowtow, illustrating that the etiquette was popular as far back as in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC-256 BC). In the following year of the Revolution of 1911 (also known as the Xinhai Revolution), Sun Yat-sen (first president and founding father of the Republic of China) abolished the etiquette. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “When the emperor worshipped at the Temple of Heaven, he worshipped through a ritual called the “three prostrations and nine kowtows.” The emperor would be commanded by a high-ranking bureaucrat to prostrate himself, which he would do. He would then be told to kowtow once, then to kowtow a second time, then a third time. Each time he did so, he would touch his head to the ground. (The word “kowtow” is an Anglicized rendering of the Chinese word ketou, meaning “to knock the head” against the ground.) The emperor would then be told to arise, then to prostrate himself again and begin another cycle of this sequence, which would have to be repeated a total of three times -- three successive prostrations, each with three kowtows, for a total of nine kowtows. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos <|>]

“This ritual of the Three Prostrations and the Nine Kowtows was an important one, for it was also what an ordinary farmer would perform at the funeral of his father. Indeed, the phrase “from the imperial court down to our village” was commonly found in widely circulated documents during those days. People used this phrase again and again to express the interconnection and commonality amongst all Chinese people, regardless of social position. <|>

“The fact that high government officials were commanding the emperor himself to kowtow during the ritual of the Three Prostrations demonstrates how these two key institutions -- the imperial and the bureaucratic -- were intertwined and in fact, interdependent. Consider that by the time of the Qing dynasty the governmental bureaucracy in China had already been around for hundreds of years. The ceremonies that the new Qing emperors were taking up were not invented by the Qing, or even the Ming who preceded them. These rituals were ancient, and the continuity of these rituals and the traditions they expressed were in the hands of an enduring bureaucracy.” <|>

Joss Sticks


Joss sticks (incense sticks) have traditionally been an important component of Taoist religious practice. Worshippers believe the smoke helps waft prayers towards their deities. Today the sticks are also fixtures of Confucian and Buddhist worship. Sometimes they are even part of Christian rituals. Worshippers normally light three joss sticks in the courtyard of the house of worship, and place them in sand-filled containers or in specially prepared racks. Then moving to the center of the patio or pagoda front, they perform the prayers three times. "Money" made of golden or red crepe paper may also be burned at this time in an outdoor fire so that the ascending smoke may supply the needs of the spirits or gods. Unless specifically invited to do so, it is not proper for non-adherents of the faith to light joss sticks. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

Joss sticks and incense burners are found in family altars, spirit houses, and temple courtyards and before the figures of Buddha. Not all joss sticks are fragrant as some are primarily for smoke and have only the faintest odor. However, the more favored joss sticks are the ones with incense which serves both as a means of veneration and as a practical deodorizer. Few homes are without a joss stick to be utilized for some reason. Traditionally, joss sticks have been handmade. Basically the joss stick is made with a thin bamboo stick, which is painted red, Part of the stick is rolled in a putty-like substance-the exact formulae are guarded by their owners. ++

The putty-like substance is composed of the sawdust of such materials as sandalwood and other fragrant plants mixed with water or another evaporating liquid. Normally at least three different kinds of sawdust are mixed for the best result. The ideal woods for this sawdust come from the mountain forests and from Laos. Once the sticky brown mixture is placed on 1/3 or more of the painted bamboo stick, it is placed in the drying racks in the sun. It takes about two days of sunshine to dry the mixture satisfactorily, and then these are brought indoors and placed so that several additional days of drying time is allowed. This helps to insure that all moisture has evaporated and makes a firmer better product. ++

Once completed, the joss sticks may be placed into packages along with a couple of candles for the altar, or placed loosely in larger boxes for wholesale or retail distribution. Most of the work is done by girls, who, with training and practice, can make about three thousand joss sticks a day. It is possible for a hard worker to earn perhaps the equal of a dollar for a full day's labor. ++

Joss sticks are very reasonably priced, and it is good for the common people that this is so, for few acts of devotion could be complete without the lighting of joss sticks. These may be placed in sand-filled containers either in the temple courtyard or in racks located in front or on top of an altar. Sometimes after burning joss sticks are placed in front of a Buddha statue, the ascending smoke from the burning joss stick is thought by some to have beneficial aid in pleasing that power to whom worship is made, or prayers offered. ++

It is possible to purchase spiral or circular joss sticks which will burn as long as one to three months with incense and smoke being cast off night and day. Quite often walls, the ceiling and sometimes the figures of devotion or veneration are smoked or darkened. Where the buildings do not have adequate ventilation, the spaces above the doorway level may be perpetually gray with smoke. The overwhelming fragrance of the burning joss sticks may also cloak any unpleasant odors that might detract the worshipper from his devotion, or which could offend the one to whom petitions are being made. ++

Chinese Spirit Tablets


spirit tablet

According to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Missouri: “Chinese religion, with its complex blend of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and folk traditions, involves a wide variety of practices and related paraphernalia. Spirit tablets are one type of ritual object commonly seen in temples and shrines and on household altars. Usually of wood, these small plaques bear inscriptions honoring ancestors, gods, and other important figures. [Source: Ancestral Tablet,Museum of Anthropology, University of Missouri <<< ]

“Ancestor worship, which is found in many forms in cultures throughout the world, has long been a key religious belief and practice in China. Throughout China, ancestors have traditionally been worshipped with sacrifices, shrines, and ancestor tablets. Ancestor tablets vary in size and shape in different parts of the country, but typically consist of a one- or two-piece tablet set up on a pedestal. The tablets are inscribed with the title and name of the deceased, dates of birth and death, and additional information such as place of burial and the name of the son who erects the tablet. <<<

“The customs involved in installing ancestor tablets in the family shrine also vary by region, although there are some common practices. Often two tablets are made – one of paper and one of wood. A ceremony takes place in which the ancestor’s spirit is transferred to the wooden tablet. Once the transfer is successful, the paper tablet is either burned or buried with the dead person. After the funeral service, the tablet is taken back to the family’s house and housed in a shrine. There are usually three shrines for ancestor tablets per house. The center shrine is reserved for the primary family ancestor, or Shin Chu, who is placed in the middle of the shrine. The rest of the middle shrine is filled with the next most important family members. All the other male family members’ tablets are housed in the other two shrines; occasionally their wives’ tablets join them. <<<

“In addition to ancestor tablets, there are also spirit tablets devoted to the host of deities that preside over the cosmos. These are placed in temples or wayside shrines and serve to honor these figures and to protect the community. This online exhibit presents ancestor tablets and general spirit tablets collected in China in the early 20th century.” <<<

Burning of Votive Paper Objects


burning joss paper

Temples of ancestor worship normally have a fire into which worshippers throw money made of tissue-like paper. History reveals that in times past, when a member of royalty died, and was buried, living persons were often buried along with him so that he might still be waited upon by servants. His personal possessions were often included in this rite. Such customs seem to have been practiced in many lands. In at least one land, the widow was also slain and cremated when the husband died, so that he might have a wife in the "next world". This custom was condemned by Confucius as being inhuman. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

Feeling that such a custom might be unkind, or at least expensive, someone came up with the idea of using wooden or straw figures, representing common objects used in the persons lifetime. These figures were burned or buried with the deceased. Incidentally, such burial customs have provided archeologists with valuable information of bygone ages. According to tradition, about the first century B.C. a government official developed the idea of making votive offerings from the bark of a palm tree. These were used to imitate silver, gold, clothing, common objects, and could be burned as an offering during the funeral in place of valuable objects or human beings. ++

Vuong-Du, the legendary inventor of the votive paper idea, was apparently not able to sell much of his product. But then struck by a "clever" idea, he decided upon a surefire gimmick to sell his product. By agreement with his fellow-makers of votive paper, he arranged for one of his sickly companions to be put to bed and told everyone that he was seriously ill, and a few days later that he was dead. Placed in a coffin (with a previously bored air hole) the funeral proceeded toward the tomb accompanied by a great number of figurines made of votive paper. Just as the heavy coffin was to be lowered into the tomb, the "dead" man was heard to groan and moan; then as the lid was raised, the haggard and pale "corpse" sat up and spoke to the mourners. He told them that while he had been taken to the Infernal Regions (Hell), he had been released because his family had substituted money and paper figures for his person. Apparently, the story was believed at the time, for sales boomed as many hurried to buy these votive items and burn them to the spirits of their ancestors. ++

Regardless of the truth of this legend which is recorded in a number of documents, the burning of votive paper seems to constitute one of the essential rites in homage or worship to the dead. In the courtyard or temples where worshippers may be found will be seen an open fire into which the worshipper casts votive objects including paper money as a part of their worship. Such votive paper, along with joss sticks and candles, can be purchased for a very small fee either on the sidewalk or in front of the temple, or sometimes in the temple itself. Votive paper burning in Vietnam preceded the arrival of Chinese colonists in the first centuries of the present era according to some students of culture. ++

Chinese Paper Gods


Hungry Ghost Festival paper gods

Paper god images are divided initially by usage: Those which were purchased to be burned immediately and serve as emissaries to heaven; and those which were purchased to be displayed for a year while offering protection to the family in a variety of ways, before being burned. The images are further divided by display locations and by the deities they represent. The prints included in this category would be pasted conspicuously throughout the home during the New Year's celebration and displayed throughout the year. At the end of the year, they were burned and replaced with a fresh print. These prints are generally more colorful and exquisitely designed than those intended for ceremonial use.[Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University columbia.edu <|>]

The majority of the prints in ceremonial use category formed part of a ceremony during which they would receive offerings and then be sent off by burning to the other realm to intercede there on behalf of those remaining behind. Others would be pasted on ceremonial altars, in stables, or other relatively inconspicuous places, where they would receive offerings for a period of time before being burned. <|>

Colorful front door prints, usually produced in pairs, were pasted on adjacent double doors, side-by-side on a single door, or on the walls around the front door. Although they originally depicted fearsome gods who would chase away demons, they later came to include gentler images that promised prosperity and good tidings for the household., Back door prints, often depicting Zhong Kui, were placed near the back door to ensure that no demons would sneak in unnoticed by the guards of the front door.

The Kitchen (Stove) God, often depicted with his wife, was on duty in the kitchen throughout the year, keeping watch over the family. At the end of the year, he received ample offerings, and after his immolation he would return to heaven to report on the family. A yearly calendar was often included on prints of the Stove God. Bedroom door prints, which usually portray double happiness or happy children, were pasted on or near the bedroom door. They would assist the happy couple in their pursuit of progeny, encouraging especially the birth of sons. <|>

Domestic shrines often featured colorful and elaborate depictions of the God of Wealth. They were likely displayed throughout the year to ensure prosperity, or at least financial stability. Some of these were produced in pairs like the door prints, and may have been displayed on or around a doorway rather than in a shrine. <|>

Ceremonial Use Paper Gods


Offerings to the gods

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: The majority of the prints used in ceremonies “formed part of a ceremony during which they would receive offerings and then be sent off by burning to the other realm to intercede there on behalf of those remaining behind. Others would be pasted on ceremonial altars, in stables, or other relatively inconspicuous places, where they would receive offerings for a period of time before being burned. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University columbia.edu <|>]

Pantheon prints — some of them enormous — depict "all the gods." “Although the inclusion and positioning of gods does vary from print to print, a number of norms surface after careful comparison. These norms, as well as the inconsistencies among the prints, can tell us a lot about the ways in which the realm of the gods was ordered. The subsections are arranged in a manner that corresponds roughly with the usual arrangement of the gods in the pantheons. <|>

“Buddhas and bodhisattvas occupy an honored position, usually in the uppermost row of the pantheon. There does not, however, seem to be a clear hierarchy among them, and while Guanyin seems to be the most frequently represented in individual prints, she is not generally a central figure in the pantheon. The God of Wealth is included in almost every pantheon, and is well represented in individual prints. This group of prints of the God of Wealth seems to have been intended for ceremonial use rather than display, as were those images of the God of Wealth under "Domestic Shrine." <|>

“Guandi and the Jade Emperor occupy the two most prominent positions in the majority of the pantheons. They are usually found in the center of the pantheon, and the figures that represent them are almost always significantly larger than the other gods. In addition, Guandi can be recognized by his red face. Heaven prints consists of gods that are associated with heaven in some way or another, but that in practice are not easily distinguished from the following category, "Earth." Many of the heavenly gods are anthropomorphic stars that are occasionally referred to by their titles (in characters) alone. In the pantheons, these gods are located along the midline, near Guandi. <|>

The Earth God category is perhaps the most diverse and inclusive of the prints for ceremonial use. It includes all the gods in charge of the natural world (including mountains, water, animals, etc.) as well as those associated with specific pursuits or trades, such as Wenshu, the God of Literature. In the pantheons, these gods are usually located just below the gods associated with heaven. Underworld gods make up the bottom row of the pantheon. They are in charge of hell and care for the newly dead, and ancestors more generally. Also included among the individual prints are images of clothing and money to be burned for use by the deceased in the underworld.” <|>

Mountains and Religion in China

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Huangshan, one of China's most sacred mountains
Huangshan is important in China's religions. The Kun-lun Shan, a range of mountains in northern Tibet, is where Taoists believe paradise can be found. The Kimkang mountains in Tibet are an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. China has five sacred mountains, and many Chinese hope that in their lifetime they can climb all five. Most of these mountains have stairways to the summit, where there are nice views and noodle stands and postcards-selling monks.

Taishan (near Qufu) is China's most sacred mountain and one of China's most popular tourist sites. Revered by Taoists and Confucians, it covers an area of 426 square kilometers and is 4,700 feet high. Many emperors came here to make offerings and pray to heaven. Poets and philosophers drew inspiration from it. Pilgrims prayed on an alter said to be the highest in China.

Confucius is said to have climbed Taishan and proclaimed “I feel the world is much smaller” when he reached the top. The Emperor Wu Di ascended it in his quest for immortality. Taishan means “big mountain” or “exalted mountain” It is the eastern peak among the five holy mountains associated with the cult of Confucius. The five peaks represent the directions---north, south, east, west and central---and Taishan is considered the holiest because it is in the east, the direction from which the sun rises. For many Chinese it is like Mecca. Climbing it is as much a nationalist and spiritual experience as a recreational one.

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p> Image Sources: 7) Temple, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html ; 8) Temple constrcution, kowtowing child and joss sticks, beifan.com <a

Wikimedia Commons,

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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