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Fortuneteller in 1901
Chinese religions incorporate a considerable amount of what is regarded as superstition in the West. Chinese seek out fortunetellers in Buddhist temples and burn ghost money at Taoist temples to win the favor of gods that patronize certain professions. Feng shui — the Chinese technique of harnessing the powers of supernatural forces by making sure objects are in harmony with the universe — is used to position buildings, windows, beds, ancestors graves and even Christian churches. According to an old Chinese folk tale if you can peel the skin from an apple at midnight in one unbroken piece you can see the future in a mirror. If the peel breaks a ghost appears.

According to the Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology: In China, there have been many instances of the employment of magical means and the belief in a supernatural world peopled by gods, demons, and other beings. One writer comments: "Although the Chinese mind possessed under such a constitution but few elements in which magic could strike root and throw out its ramifications and influence, yet we find many traces giving evidence of the instinctive movement of the mind, as well as of magical influence; though certainly not in the manner or abundance that we meet with it in India. The great variety of these appearances is, however, striking, as in no other country are they so seldom met with.[Source: Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“"It is easy to understand from these circumstances wherefore we find so few of these phenomena of magic and the visionary and ecstatic state, in other parts of the East so frequent, and therefore they are scattered and uncertain. Accounts are, however, not wanting to show that the phenomena as well as theories of prophecy were known in more remote times. Under the Emperor Hoei Ti, about 304 A.D., a mystical sect arose in China calling themselves 'the teachers of the emptiness and nothingness of all things.' They also exhibited the art of binding the power of the senses, and producing a condition which they believed perfection."

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Modern fortuneteller in Chengdu
The October 2020 issue of the Made in China Journal focuses on how individuals in China and other contexts in Asia live and interact with the supernatural. In some cases, ghosts, fortune-tellers, shamans, sorcerers, zombies, corpse brides, and aliens merely assist people to get by and cope with the difficulties they face in their daily lives; in others, these beings play subversive roles, undermining the rules that underpin contemporary society. In both cases, they challenge the status quo, hence the title ‘spectral revolutions’. Emily Ng draws from her fieldwork in Henan to explain the cosmological role of Mao in ritual and spirit mediumship in rural China, highlighting the cosmic reverberations of Mao’s earthly rule. William Matthews describes how Chinese fortune-tellers use the classical text of the Yijing, contending that their naturalistic worldview provides an excellent method for people to navigate day-to-day economic decisions by forecasting fortune in a way that is trustworthy and morally blameless. Chris K. K. Tan retells some stories reported by Chinese media about criminal grave robbing and murder for the purpose of selling the corpses for use in ‘ghost marriages’, arguing that the cadavers perform a sort of macabre affective labour. Malcom Thompson excavates the strange history of UFOlogy in post reform China, asking if there is, or ever was, revolutionary potential in the movement. Sylvia J. Martin analyses the 2002 Hong Kong–Thai movie The Eye within the context of the occult economies of organ transplantation, contending that through the genre of a horror film cultural meanings of vision are highlighted and heightened that go beyond the political economic analysis of extraction and exchange. [Source: October 19, 2020]

Websites and Sources: Traditional Religion in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Religion Facts; Folk Beliefs and Superstitions: Chinatown Connection ; New York Times on Earthquake superstitions ; Old Book on Superstitions or Old Book PDF ; Five Elements chinatownconnection ; I Ching Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Robert Eno, Indiana University, Chinatxt Ancient Chinese History and Religion chinatxt ; < Lucky Numbers Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times article ; News in Science ; Symbols Chinatown Connection ; What’s Your Sign

Beliefs in Superstitions and Fortunetellers

According to one survey, 80 percent of Chinese visit fortunetellers, the majority of business people believe in the god of fortune, one sixth believe in the existence of gods and demons, and one twelfth said they had seen a ghost. Some critics have asserted that Chinese seek out superstitions as solutions to their troubles rather than facing their problems directly.

Many Chinese are obsessed with lucky numbers, talisman and auspicious dates. Businessmen consult fortune tellers about important business decisions. Farmers make offerings to rice field gods before planting their crops. Families consult astrologers to fix wedding dates. Chinese with problems seek help from fortunetellers or monks rather than psychiatrists or counselors. Sometimes it seems like the only Chinese who do not embrace superstition are the Communists, who dismiss it as feudal and bourgeois.

11th century, Song-era fortuneteller

The prevailing view is that Communism mitigated superstition in mainland Chinese China and the Chinese there are less superstitious than Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. But that may not necessarily be the case. After the Shanghai-based Want Want Co. ran an advertisement for snack with the slogan “If you eat this cracker you’ll get rich,” sales for the snack soared. The company was forced to pull the plug on the ads after people began complaining about losing their opportunity for riches if they didn’t eat the cracker.

Arthur Henderson Smith wrote in “Village Life in China”: “Linked with this dense ignorance and more impenetrable indifference is a most unbounded credulity. Faith in the fêng-shui, or geomancy of a district is still as firmly rooted as ever in the minds of the leading literary men of the empire, as is shown by memorials in the Peking Gazette calling for changes in buildings, the erection of lucky towers, etc., because the number of successful competitors is not greater. A scholar who thinks it necessary to beat drums in order to save the sun in an eclipse from the “Dog” which is devouring it, receives with implicit faith the announcement that in Western lands the years are a thousand days in length, with four moons all the time. If some one who has dabbled a little in chemistry reports to him a rudimentary experiment in which carbonic dioxide poured down a trough extinguishes a row of burning candles, he is at once reminded that The Master refused to speak of feats of magic, and he dismisses the whole topic with the verdict: “Of course it was done by malign spirits.” [Source: “Village Life in China” by Arthur Henderson Smith, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899, The Project Gutenberg]

J.M Peebles (1822-1922) wrote in “The Demonism of the Ages, Spirit Obsessions, Oriental and Occidental Occultists”:"Naturally undemonstrative and secretive, the higher classes of Chinese seek to conceal their full knowledge of spirit intercourse from foreigners, and from the inferior castes of their own countrymen, thinking them not sufficiently intelligent to rightly use it. The lower orders, superstitious and money-grasping, often prostitute their magic gifts to gain and fortune-telling. Their clairvoyant fortune-tellers, surpassing wandering gypsies in 'hitting' the past, infest the temples, streets and roadsides, promising to find lost property, discover precious metals and reveal the hidden future."

Fortunetelling in China

To offer advise, bring good luck and predict the future, fortunetellers in China use Chinese astrology (based on Chinese New Year signs and date and time of birth), palm and face readings, feng shui, name analysis, various kinds of divining coins and objects such as I Ching hexagrams.

Once banned by the Communists, fortunetellers are consulted today by brides searching for ideal marriage partners; by supervisors making hiring choices; and by store owners picking names of their business, the most auspicious time to open, and the best floor plan and orientation of the rooms.

Fortuneteller clients generally want advise on their love life or predictions on money, business or success in the future. After consulting a fortuneteller one restauranteur told the New York Times he decided to open his business in the slow season because the date was auspicious and to relocate his kitchen because rooms with fire should face south.

Often fortunetelling is regarded more as form of scholarship than mysticism and is often associated with Taoism. One fortuneteller told the Times of London, “Every country has astrologers, but in the West it is not based on a system of disciplines and the handing down of learning, but rather on inspiration.”

Mao is said to have often sought the advise of fortunetellers, usually asking them questions about his appointments, enemies and allies.

Fortunetellers in China

Fortunetellers sometimes are asked to analyze the Chinese characters in the names of a young men and women to see if they are suitable for marriage. Some modern fortunetellers stake out gynecology clinics, offering to provide the fortunes of future children using special computer programs. Peng Yining and He Na wrote in the China Daily, “Running alongside the Lama Temple in Beijing is a 500-meter-long strip known as "The Street of Fortune Tellers", which has become a gathering place for the city's diviners, palm readers and feng shui masters. The sidewalks bristle with people hawking their services and "magic" accessories, including bracelets, necklaces and blessed Buddha figures.[Source: Peng Yining and He Na, China Daily, March 18, 2013]

Taoist fortunetellers display 100 varnished bamboo slivers and ask their customers to choose one. The fortunetellers then look up the numbers that appear on the slivers and read the corresponding fortunes, which are something like: “Everything you are doing is in harmony with the heavens. All the people you will meet are good.”

One Taoist fortunetller told the Times of London he began his studies at age 15 after a Taoist priest told his parents they better hand the boy over to him or something terrible would happen. The parents refused and the boy became ill and lost his sight. After starting his Taoist training his sight returned. Today the Taoist fortunetller is sought out by government officials and wealthy businessmen. “It’s a normal human need to want to know,” he said. The fortuneteller is a strong believer in the unalterability of fate, saying you can’t change the future, “You can only change the scale of events.”

Hong Kong Face Readers

19th century divining

"Physiognomists" are people who predict the future by reading faces and palms. Among the things they look for are big ear lobes, like those often found on statues of Confucius and Buddha, which connote wisdom and fame, and a gap between the teeth, which predicts wealth. Findings from these observation are usually described in conjunction with information about personality characteristics based on the year, date and hour of birth listed in ancient charts. Palm readers. Book: "Chinese Palmistry" by Henning Hai Lee Yang (Chrysalis Book, 2003).

Stalls with practitioners of face-reading, which dates back more than 2,000 years, can still found in market streets and near temples in Hong Kong. AFP reported: “Want to improve your performance at work, or solve relationship problems? Li Chau-jing has the solution — plucking your eyebrows to help achieve those life goals. A trained face reader, Li has taken the ancient Chinese tradition one step further, making slight changes to her client’s brows to bring them better luck. [Source: AFP, September 27, 2016]

Practitioners of face reading “believe they can determine a client’s fate by interpreting their features — a strong brow translates to the person’s ability to plan ahead, high cheekbones can point to power. The face can be read like a book, they say, a showcase of a person’s wealth, health and family. But Li claims she can help alter the path of destiny with a few flicks of her tweezers. “It’s an instant change and you can change it for everyone,” she told AFP, describing her clientele as ranging from just a few years old to in their 70s. “I can help a person in the shortest amount of time, by bringing them energy and happiness and the goal they want to reach,” Li said.

“Wearing a long white dress with a ruffled high collar and purple polka-dots, the former make-up artist says she has studied the art of face reading with a mentor. She has been running her shop in the working class neighborhood of Sham Shui Po for six years and its walls are covered with photos of her clients’ eyes and brows. Women tend to come to her to solve emotional or relationship problems, men for better luck at work, she says.

“Li, who refused to give her age but said she has worked for 43 years, believes straight brows will bring more luck and happiness than curved. “If the brows are very straight, then those people will not have to suffer through many hardships,” she says. “Customer Edward Lam, a 35-year-year old technician for a television station, said he felt more energetic after having his brows modified. “The biggest goal I have for fixing my eyebrows is to find jobs and to have better networking, and that my career will improve,” Lam told AFP. “I believe that the impression I gave was better,” he said of job interviews since having his brows worked on by Li.

Face Reading and Face Reading Customers

According to AFP: “Traditional Hong Kong face reader Chow Hon-ming says the art is a scientific discipline that ties in with some of the tenets of traditional Chinese medicine. Face reading has been practised in China for thousands of years but became a popular practise in the 10th century because the social upheaval in the dying days of the Tang Dynasty prompted many to worry more about their fate, Chow said. “There are turning points in a person’s life, and when you can’t make a decision at those points, you might want to seek a (face reading) master,” Chow said. [Source: AFP, September 27, 2016]

“A face reader starts with the left ear, which tells the story of the first seven years of a person’s life. The right ear reflects the next seven years, followed by the nose, eyes and chin, which are used to predict later life. “Different parts of the face also represent different topics. A jutting chin and a squarish jaw mean a person will have power as they get older, while large exposed nostrils mean they are bad at saving money. “The nose represents wealth, just look at (actor) Jackie Chan’s nose, it is very big,” says Chow, who also predicted Hillary Clinton to win the US presidential election as her chin is “stronger” than rival Donald Trump’s.

“Chow said tweaking features like eyebrows could give fortunes a short-term boost — but warned against making drastic changes, describing plastic surgery as potentially doing more harm than good. While some may prefer eyebrow-plucking Li’s proactive approach, others are happy to stick to tradition.

“Dozens of packed stalls next to Hong Kong’s popular Wong Tai Sin Temple offer face reading to thousands of worshippers and tourists visiting the religious hot-spot. Chinese tourist Fu Xiaohong, 26, says she came here to have her face read in order to deal with a personal matter. “I have some longing in my heart,” she said near one stall where diagrams of faces and palms were displayed. Fu said she felt more confident after her session, but that she also took the advice she was given with a grain of salt. “I don’t fully believe in it — I just came to try it out.”

Demand for Soothsayers Increases as China Eases One-Child Law

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House good luck symbol
In December 2013, after One-Child Policy rules were relaxed, Reuters reported: “In a dimly-lit arcade in downtown Shanghai, shopkeeper Xia Zihan holds out a glinting, yellow-glass carving of the fertility goddess Guanyin, a range she says is starting to sell well after China relaxed its single-child policy. "Since the news allowing a second child, we've already asked our factory to increase production of the Guanyin statues," said Xia, adding she expected to see around a 10-20 percent increase in demand for the figurines that cost around one thousand yuan ($160) each. [Source: Adam Jourdan, Reuters, December 2, 2013]

“The fertility market, especially at the value-end of the scale, could see a short-term spike. The main demographic likely to benefit from the policy change is urban mothers in their late thirties, a group more likely to seek methods to boost their chances of having a second baby, said Peng. Some families will turn to Guanyin figurines, fertility-boosting foods or China's $13 billion traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) market to give birth quickly. Medicine men who promise to ensure the birth of a boy child are also in demand.

“Analysts said the more mainstream market for pregnancy-related supplements could receive a $40-50 million boost. "The two child policy could bring a wave of women having babies, which would have a positive effect on our sales," said Snow Jin, manager of a herbal store that sells ingredients for "fertility soup" on China's eBay-like online market Taobao. "Parents having a second child are usually older, and so will likely have greater demand for fertility products." The soup, filled with herbs such as Chinese angelica and honeysuckle, as well as red dates, black beans and eggs, is thought to help boost the chances of conception.

“The increased demand will be focused on major coastal cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, and will affect public sector workers most, a demographic for whom the one-child policy has traditionally been more strictly enforced. "If the policy hadn't changed I would not have been able to have a second baby. My husband isn't an only child and as I work in the state sector, if I break the rules and have a second child then I would lose my job," said Lily Cai, 30, a civil servant in Shanghai who has a 16-month-old baby girl.

“Cai said her husband and his family were keen to have a second child, and have often said it would be better to have a boy, a traditional preference in China. "Almost all my clients are people looking to have a child. Perhaps they've already had a girl, but now want to have a boy to continue the family line," said medicine man Sun Daoguo, who runs a Shanghai store. Parents pay up to one thousand yuan for him to help raise the chances of a boy being born, he said. Sun said he advises mothers-to-be on how to adjust their feng shui, the traditional Chinese concept of balance between a person and the environment, to increase the likelihood of giving birth to a son. More conventional medicines, over-the-counter supplements and treatments such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) could also see a surge in sales, although analysts said high-cost procedures like IVF would see the least benefit.

Superstitious Customs in China

Busy Chinese temples are smokey places crowded with Chinese lighting bouquets of smoking joss sticks, saying prayers, leaving behind jade orchid blossoms as offerings, throwing “sheng bei” (fortune-telling wooden blocks) and donating ghost money to a 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.

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 the 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.

Ghost Month Superstitions

meal for a hungry ghost

Ghost Month is widely observed by Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, home to many Taoists and Buddhists, who believe that the living are supposed to please the ghosts by offering them food and burning paper effigies of homes, maids and other daily items for spirits to use in the after-life. According to Reuters: For those who maintain these traditional beliefs, all sorts of activities may grind to a halt. In modern but still superstitious Hong Kong, people have begun to wind down their usually frenzied nightlife. "All unusual activities must stop. I have ordered my husband to go straight home after work," said Winnie To, an executive at a foreign company. [Source: Reuters, August 5, 2006 /+]

“In Taiwan, property and car sales usually enter a lull period during the festival, prompting retailers to provide generous offers or discounts to try to boost sales by appealing to the younger generation which is less superstitious. "When we were young, our parents used to tell us not to go to the beach during the "hungry ghosts" festival because they were afraid that we might be captured by ghosts in the water," said Kate Peng, 32, who owns a drinks stall in Taipei. /+\

“Few people in mainland China, especially in urban areas and among the younger generation, follow ghost month traditions. Many superstitions and traditional practices were stamped out during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, because the Communists frowned on them as relics of China's feudal past. /+\

Lucky Numbers in China

Three, six, eight and nine are lucky numbers for Chinese. Groups of these numbers are even luckier. Six is valued because it has traditionally been associated with smoothness, stability and luck. Peoples pay thousands extra for cell phones and license plate numbers with lots of sixes, threes and nines. A Beijing man paid $215,000 for the lucky cell phone number 133-3333-3333. Phone calls to the number are not answered.

In Chinese culture, the numbers 6, 8, and 9 are believed to have auspicious meanings because their names sound similar to words that have positive meanings.Many auspicious numbers are homonyms of Chinese characters associated with good fortune, prosperity and longevity. Many inauspicious ones are homonyms of Chinese characters for death or bad luck.

Four is considered an unlucky number because the words for "death" and "four" have similar pronunciations. Many hospitals and other buildings used by Chinese don't have a forth floor, the same way some Western buildings don't have a 13th floor. Also, things like dishes and utensils, which are sold in sets of four in the United States, are sold in sets of five in China. In the Wenzhou dialect 20 (“ershi”) is an unlucky number because it sounds a lot like starving to death (“esi”).The number seven can be regarded as both lucky and unlucky. It is sometimes regarded as unlucky and associated with ghosts because the Chinese word for seven rhythms with the Chinese word for "certain death." It is often regarded as lucky because the word for "seven" (“qi” or “chi”) is the same the word for "positive energy" and "life force." In northern China, you never see the price 250 yuan. That is because to say “250": is the same as calling a person crazy.

Auspicious Days, Months and Years in China

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Ancient Chinese zodiac

The 3rd and 17th days of the month are considered unlucky. Many Chinese don't work on these days. Double Ten Day, October 10th, is really, really unlucky. Couples also try to get married on auspicious days foretold by fortunetellers. “Shengcheng bazi” — the year, month, day and time the bride and groom were born are important in determining whether couples are compatible. See Marriage. One fortune teller told the International Herald Tribune, “The majority of Chinese believe in horoscope readings and do not merely consult them for fun."

The year of the horse began in February 2014. It was generally considered an auspicious time and business-savvy residents hoped for vigorous growth. "For the Asian economies, especially Hong Kong and China, their luck will be the same ... it will be an economically active year," Peter So, a master of feng shui, told Reuters.

The year 1995, was not only the year of the pig, it was also a leap year in which an extra eight month was added. Chinese believe that bad things are more likely to occur on a leap eighth month than any other time. According to an old Chinese proverb: "Better a leap seventh month than a leap eighth month, for a leap eight month means death." A leap eighth month occurs once every 20 to 50 years.

During the 1995 leap month between September 25 and October 23, Chinese in the northeast China wore blue socks, people in the southwest wore red socks and people in Beijing tied red threads around their wrists to ward off the harmful effects of the unlucky month. In Gansu province, many people slept outdoors out of fear that a major earthquake was going to occur.

To waylay fears a folklore scholar in Beijing announced the "fear that a leap eighth month brings disaster is sheer superstition" and an article in a leading intellectual newspaper reported that "according to history, there is no certain link between a leap eighth month and natural disasters." The artcile was accompanied by data that showed that none of the 10 major earthquakes between 1841 and 1980 fell on the five leap eight months in that period.

Still people were worried. Around the time of the previous leap eighth month in 1976, Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong died and 250,000 people were killed in the Tangshan earthquake. In 1995, many people thought Deng Xiaoping was going to die during the leap month but in the end nothing really disastrous happened.

Lucky Number Nine

The number nine is considered to be the luckiest number because all odd numbers are considered heavenly and nine is the highest single digit odd number; and the Chinese word for nine ("jui") sounds like the Chinese word for "long" as in longevity or long life. Nine also symbolizes the nine layers of heaven and is associated with yang, male energy. Multiples of nine such as 18, 27, 81 (9 x 9) and 243 (9 x9 x 9) are regarded as auspicious. The number three is also considered lucky because it divided into nine three times. Five is important because it is halfway between 1 and 9. Imperials dragons have five claws; others have three.

Fox with Nine Tails

The ninth day of the nine months month is regarded as an especially good time to get married. Some even chose to do it at 9:09am. On September 9, 2010, 163 couples were married in a mass wedding in Taipei that was held on the ninth day of the ninth month of the 99th year since the beginning of Republic of China. In the ceremony the couples were pronounced man and wife at 9:09am. In 1994, a Hong Kong businessman paid $1.7 million for an automobile license plate with "9", a number that was particularly lucky that year because the Chinese word for "nine" sounds like the Chinese word for "dog," and 1994 was the year of the dog.

September 9, 1999 (9-9-99), or Infinity day, was regarded with some trepidation by Chinese. Although nine is regarded as lucky the ninth of September is regarded as the time when ghosts return to earth from the other world.

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a good illustration of how Chinese numerology works in conjunction with the number nine. It has three stories, representing from top to bottom: the heavens, earth and humankind. The top level has nine rings, each composed of nine stones, for a total of 81 stones. The middle level has 10 through 18 rings, each with nine stones. The bottom level has 19 to 27 rings, each with nine stones, with the final and largest ring having 243 stones. The stairs and balustrades are also organized in multiples of nine.

Eight Immortals and Five Talks

The number eight is also considered auspicious and numbers like “888" and "888,888" are even more so because they have more than one eight in them. In China, there are Eight Taoist Symbols, Eight Buddhist Treasures, and Eight Immortals. Hosting the Olympics in 2008 is regarded as auspicious as well as an honor. The time of 8:08pm was selected as the starting time for the Opening Ceremonies which begin on August 8th (August is the 8th month).

Eight Taoist Immortals

Eight is considered lucky because the Chinese word for "eight" ("ba") sounds like "fa" the Cantonese word for "prosperity," “making money” and "good fortune," and the number itself has a smooth shape and looks like the symbol of infinity (associated with immortality and longevity). The number 38 is sometimes called “triple prosperity” in Chinese because it has a “3" and an “8" in it. Dates with eights are viewed as especially auspicious for weddings because eights look like knots — representing a successful union.

The Chinese like to group things in numbers. Tourist visit the "Eight Most Beautiful Places" and the "Three Most Beautiful Mountains." During the Cultural Revolution Mao exhorted the Red Guard to destroy the "Eight Antis" and knock down the "Four Olds." After Mao, Deng encouraged the Chinese to abide by the "Five Talks" (politeness, civil behavior, morality, attention to social relation and practice of good hygiene) and practice the "Four Beauties" (beautiful language, beautiful behavior, beautiful heart and beautiful environment).

AFP reported in November 2011, Chinese couples flocked to registry offices to marry on Friday in the belief that the '11/11/11' date is the most auspicious in a century.Nov 11 has been celebrated as an unofficial 'singles' day' in China since the 1990s - as the date is composed of the number one - and it is seen as a good day to marry and leave the single life behind. But this year is viewed as particularly special because the year also ends in the number 11. More than 200 couples packed into a marriage registration office in downtown Shanghai on Friday morning, some having queued for hours before its doors opened to ensure they were among the first to marry. [Source: AFP, November 12, 2011]

Beijing’s Effort to Discourage Superstition

In 2013, Ben Blanchard of Reuters wrote: “ China is struggling to get its estimated 100 million religious believers to banish superstitious beliefs about things like sickness and death, the country's top religious affairs official, told a state-run newspaper. Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said there had been an explosion of religious belief in China along with the nation's economic boom, which he attributed to a desire for reassurance in an increasingly complex world. [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, April 21, 2013 \=]

“While religion could be a force for good in officially atheist China, it was important to ensure people were not mislead, he told the Study Times, a newspaper published by the Central Party School which trains rising officials. "For a ruling party which follows Marxism, we need to help people establish a correct world view and to scientifically deal with birth, ageing, sickness and death, as well as fortune and misfortune, via popularizing scientific knowledge," he said, in rare public comments on the government's religious policy. "But we must realize that this is a long process and we need to be patient and work hard to achieve it," Wang added in the latest issue of the Study Times, which reached subscribers on Sunday. "Religion has been around for a very long time, and if we rush to try to push for results and want to immediately 'liberate' people from the influence of religion, then it will have the opposite effect and push people in the opposite direction." \=\

three-legged toad of good fortune

“Wang did not address specific issues. Beijing also takes a hard line on what it calls "evil cults", like banned spiritual group Falun Gong, who it accuses of spreading dangerous superstition. China had avoided the religious extremism which happened in some places with the collapse of the Soviet Union or the religious problems seen with immigrants in Europe and the United States, Wang added, something to be proud of. Still, China could not rest on its laurels."Religion basically upholds peace, reconciliation and harmony ... and can play its role in society," Wang said. "But due to various complex factors, religion can become a lure for unrest and antagonism. Looking at the state of religion in the world today, we must be very clear on this point." \=\

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons; University of Washington; United College in Hong Kong; Luo Ping ghost painting from the Met in New York, Nelson-Atking Museum, Ressel Fok collection; Asia Obscura

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2021

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