Chinese folk religion

Chinese folk religion

Overview
Chinese folk religion or Shenism (pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

: Shénjiào, 神教), which is a term of considerable debate, are labels used to describe the collection of ethnic
Ethnic religion
Ethnic religion may include officially sanctioned and organized civil religions with an organized clergy, but they are characterized in that adherents generally are defined by their ethnicity, and conversion essentially equates to cultural assimilation to the people in question. Contrasted to this...

 religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 traditions which have been a main belief system in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and among Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 ethnic groups for most of the civilization's history until today. Shenism comprises Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

 and includes the worship of shens
Shen (Chinese religion)
Shen is a keyword in Chinese philosophy, Chinese religion, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.-Pronunciation:Shén is the Modern Standard Chinese pronunciation of 神 "spirit; god, deity; spiritual, supernatural; awareness, consciousness etc". Reconstructions of shén in Middle Chinese Shen is a...

 (神, shén; "deities
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

", "spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s", "awarenesses", "consciousnesses", "archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

s") which can be nature deities, Taizu
Taizu
Taizu is an imperial temple name typically used for those who founded a particular dynasty. It may refer to :*Shi Hu of Later Zhao *Emperor Taizu of Liao...

 or clan deities, city deities, national deities
National god
The concept of a national god is most closely associated with the God of Israel who in the Torah is described as the sole God to be worshipped by the nation of Israel...

, cultural heroes
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

 and demigods, dragons
Chinese dragon
Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs...

 and ancestors
Veneration of the dead
Veneration of the dead is based on the belief that the deceased, often family members, have a continued existence and/or possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living...

.
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Encyclopedia
Chinese folk religion or Shenism (pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

: Shénjiào, 神教), which is a term of considerable debate, are labels used to describe the collection of ethnic
Ethnic religion
Ethnic religion may include officially sanctioned and organized civil religions with an organized clergy, but they are characterized in that adherents generally are defined by their ethnicity, and conversion essentially equates to cultural assimilation to the people in question. Contrasted to this...

 religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 traditions which have been a main belief system in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and among Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 ethnic groups for most of the civilization's history until today. Shenism comprises Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

 and includes the worship of shens
Shen (Chinese religion)
Shen is a keyword in Chinese philosophy, Chinese religion, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.-Pronunciation:Shén is the Modern Standard Chinese pronunciation of 神 "spirit; god, deity; spiritual, supernatural; awareness, consciousness etc". Reconstructions of shén in Middle Chinese Shen is a...

 (神, shén; "deities
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

", "spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s", "awarenesses", "consciousnesses", "archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

s") which can be nature deities, Taizu
Taizu
Taizu is an imperial temple name typically used for those who founded a particular dynasty. It may refer to :*Shi Hu of Later Zhao *Emperor Taizu of Liao...

 or clan deities, city deities, national deities
National god
The concept of a national god is most closely associated with the God of Israel who in the Torah is described as the sole God to be worshipped by the nation of Israel...

, cultural heroes
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

 and demigods, dragons
Chinese dragon
Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs...

 and ancestors
Veneration of the dead
Veneration of the dead is based on the belief that the deceased, often family members, have a continued existence and/or possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living...

. "Shenism" is a term was first published by A.J.A Elliot in 1955, and is described as a misleading terminology among scholars.

It is sometimes categorized with Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

, since over the centuries institutional Taoism has been attempting to assimilate or administrate local religions. More accurately, Taoism can be defined as a branch of Shenism, since it sprang out of folk religion and Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...

. Chinese folk religion is sometimes seen as a constituent part of Chinese traditional religion, but more often, the two are regarded as synonymous.
With around 454 million adherents, or about 6.6% of the world population, Chinese folk religion is one of the major religious traditions in the world
Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice...

. In China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 more than 30% of the population adheres to Shenism or Taoism.

Despite being heavily suppressed during the last two centuries of the history of China
History of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

, from the Taiping Movement
Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty...

 to the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, it is experiencing a major revival nowadays in both Mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

 and Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

. Various forms have received support by the Government of the People's Republic of China
Government of the People's Republic of China
All power within the government of the People's Republic of China is divided among three bodies: the People's Republic of China, State Council, and the People's Liberation Army . This article is concerned with the formal structure of the state, its departments and their responsibilities...

, such as Mazuism in Southern China
Northern and southern China
Northern China and southern China are two approximate regions within China. The exact boundary between these two regions has never been precisely defined...

 (officially about 160 million Chinese are Mazuists), Huangdi worship, Black Dragon
Dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

 worship in Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

, and Caishen worship.

Overview


Chinese folk religion retains traces of some of ancestral primal religious
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 belief systems such as animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

 and shamanism
Shamanism
Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy." Shamanism encompasses the...

, which include the veneration of (and communication with) the Sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, the Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, and various star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s, as well as communication with animals. It has been practiced by the Chinese people for thousands of years, and since the start of the Common Era
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

 alongside Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 and various other religions.

Rituals, devotional worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

, myths sacred reinactment, festival
Festival
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....

s and various other practices associated with different folk gods and goddesses form an important part of Chinese culture today. The veneration of secondary gods does not conflict with an individual's chosen religion, but is accepted as a complementary adjunct, particularly to Taoism. Some myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

ical figures in folk culture have been integrated into Chinese Buddhism, as in the case of Miao Shan. She is generally thought to have influenced the beliefs about the Buddhist bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and...

 Guanyin. This bodhisattva originally was based upon the Indian counterpart Avalokiteśvara
Avalokitesvara
Avalokiteśvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism....

. Androgynous in India, this bodhisattva over centuries became a female figure in China and Japan. Guanyin is one of the most popular bodishisattvas to which people pray.

There are many free folk religion texts such as Journeys to the Underworld distributed in temples, or sold in gods material shop
Gods Material Shop
A prayer material shop is a shop specializing in supplying materials used in the practice of Shenism, Taoism and Chinese Buddhism.These shops are abundant in Chinese areas, from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, to Malaysia , and several Chinatowns.-Items for...

s or vegetarian shops. Temples for Shenist worship are different from Taoist temples and Buddhist monasteries, being administered by local managers
Management
Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

, associations and worship communities.

Characteristics



Gods and goddesses


There are hundreds of local gods and goddesses as well as demigods. After apotheosis
Apotheosis
Apotheosis is the glorification of a subject to divine level. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre.In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature...

, historical figures noted for their bravery or virtue are also venerated and honored as ancestral "saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

s", xians
Xian (Taoism)
Xian is a Chinese word for an enlightened person, translatable in English as:*"spiritually immortal; transcendent; super-human; celestial being"...

, or heightened to the status of shens
Shen (Chinese religion)
Shen is a keyword in Chinese philosophy, Chinese religion, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.-Pronunciation:Shén is the Modern Standard Chinese pronunciation of 神 "spirit; god, deity; spiritual, supernatural; awareness, consciousness etc". Reconstructions of shén in Middle Chinese Shen is a...

, deities. The following list represents some commonly worshipped deities.
  • Pangu
    Pangu
    Pangu was the first living being and the creator of all in Chinese mythology.- The Pangu legend:...

    (盘古), the creator god
    Creator deity
    A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

     in certain myths. He is usually depicted as a primitive, hairy giant
    Giant (mythology)
    The mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed examples: the gigantes of Greek mythology.In various Indo-European mythologies,...

     with horns on his head and clad in furs. Pangu set about the task of creating the world: he separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth
    Earth
    Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

     (murky Yin) and the Sky
    Sky
    The sky is the part of the atmosphere or outer space visible from the surface of any astronomical object. It is difficult to define precisely for several reasons. During daylight, the sky of Earth has the appearance of a pale blue surface because the air scatters the sunlight. The sky is sometimes...

     (clear Yang).
  • Fuxi (伏羲), also known as Paoxi, a divine patriarch reputed to have taught to humanity writing
    Writing
    Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

    , fishing
    Fishing
    Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

    , and hunting
    Hunting
    Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

    . Cangjie
    Cangjie
    Cangjie is a very important figure in ancient China , claimed to be an official historian of the Yellow Emperor and the inventor of Chinese characters. Legend has it that he had four eyes and four pupils, and that when he invented the characters, the deities and ghosts cried and the sky rained...

     is also said to have invented writing.
  • Nüwa
    Nüwa
    Nüwa is a goddess in ancient Chinese mythology best known for creating mankind and repairing the wall of heaven.-Primary sources:...

    (女娲), also Nügua, an ancient mother goddess
    Mother goddess
    Mother goddess is a term used to refer to a goddess who represents motherhood, fertility, creation or embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother.Many different goddesses have...

    , attributed for the creation of mankind. In later traditions she is described as the twin sister or/and wife of Fuxi.
  • Shennong
    Shennong
    Shennong , which names mean "Divine Farmer", but also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains , was a legendary ruler of China and culture hero reputed to have lived some 5,000 years ago...

    (神农), also identified as Yandi (炎帝), a divine patriarch said to have taught the ancient Chinese the practices of agriculture
    Agriculture
    Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

    . He is often represented as a human with bull
    Bull (mythology)
    The worship of the Sacred Bull throughout the ancient world is most familiar to the Western world in the biblical episode of the idol of the Golden Calf. The Golden Calf after being made by the Hebrew people in the wilderness of Sinai, were rejected and destroyed by Moses and his tribe after his...

     horns.
  • Huangdi (黃帝), or "Yellow Emperor", the divine patriarch of the Huaxia
    Huaxia
    Huaxia is a name often used to represent China or Chinese civilization.-Etymology:According to the historical record, Zuo Zhuan, the ancient Xia Dynasty of central China was a state that held propriety and justice in high esteem...

     culture lineage. He is regarded as the founder of China.
  • Guan Yu
    Guan Yu
    Guan Yu was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China. He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period, of which Liu Bei was the...

    (关羽), also known with the templar names of Guandi and Guan Gong (literally 'Emperor Guan' and 'Lord Guan' respectively), the red-faced, bearded hero of Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century, is a Chinese historical novel based on the events in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history, starting in 169 and ending with the reunification of the land in...

    and symbol of loyalty. He is the patron god of policemen, war, fortune, and law, as he shows forgiveness, and often also serves as Wu Sheng, the Martial Saint.
  • Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝), a divine physician, whose powers extend to raising the dead. Worship is especially prevalent in Fujian
    Fujian
    ' , formerly romanised as Fukien or Huguing or Foukien, is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, and Guangdong to the south. Taiwan lies to the east, across the Taiwan Strait...

     and Taiwan
    Taiwan
    Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

    .
  • Caishen (财神 "God of Wealth"), who oversees the gaining and distribution of wealth through fortune
    Luck
    Luck or fortuity is good fortune which occurs beyond one's control, without regard to one's will, intention, or desired result. There are at least two senses people usually mean when they use the term, the prescriptive sense and the descriptive sense...

    . He is often the deified manifestation of certain historical personalities such as Zhao Gongming or Bi Gan. His shape is sometimes that of a giant blue whiskered cat.
  • Shoushen (寿神 "God of Longevity"), who stands for a healthy and long life. He is portrayed as an old balding man with a walking stick in his right hand and a peach in his left.
  • Fushen (福神 "God of Happiness"), he looks like a traditional Chinese feudal lord with red clothing. He symbolizes happiness and joy.
  • Lushen (禄神 "God of Prosperity"), a god of success in work and life. In ancient times he was the patron god of success in imperial bureaucracy.
  • The Baxian
    Eight Immortals
    The Eight Immortals are a group of legendary xian in Chinese mythology. Each Immortal's power can be transferred to a power tool that can give life or destroy evil. Together, these eight tools are called "Covert Eight Immortals" . Most of them are said to have been born in the Tang Dynasty or...

    (八仙), the "Eight Immortals", are important literary and artistic figures who were deified after death and became objects of worship. In Taoism
    Taoism
    Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

     they're worshipped as xian
    Xian (Taoism)
    Xian is a Chinese word for an enlightened person, translatable in English as:*"spiritually immortal; transcendent; super-human; celestial being"...

    s.
  • Huye (虎爺), a guardian spirit, often found at the bottom of Taoist temple shrines. Worshipers revere the tiger spirit to curse spiritual enemies. Rituals include stomping an effigy of a spiritual enemy in front of the tiger spirit, as well as sacrificing meat offerings, paper gold, and others.
  • The Jiuhuang Dadi (九皇大帝) refer to spirits of nine emperors, worshiped as emanations of Mazu
    Mazu
    Mazu may refer to the following Chinese topics:* Mazu , deity in South China and Taiwan* Mazu Daoyi , Zen teacher in medieval China* Matsu Islands, administrative region of the Republic of China...

    , patron goddess of sailors. A festival is held over the first nine days of the ninth lunar month to celebrate the return from heaven to earth of the Nine Emperor spirits. This is celebrated primarily in Malaysia.
  • Mazu (妈祖 "Ancient Mother"), the patroness, also considered as the goddess of sailors. Shrines can be found in coastal areas of Eastern and South-Eastern China. Today, belief in Mazu is especially popular in the South and South-East, including Fujian
    Fujian
    ' , formerly romanised as Fukien or Huguing or Foukien, is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, and Guangdong to the south. Taiwan lies to the east, across the Taiwan Strait...

     (福建), Guangdong
    Guangdong
    Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

     (廣東), Hainan
    Hainan
    Hainan is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China . Although the province comprises some two hundred islands scattered among three archipelagos off the southern coast, of its land mass is Hainan Island , from which the province takes its name...

     (海南), Taiwan
    Taiwan
    Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

     (台灣), Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

     (香港), and Vietnam
    Vietnam
    Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

     (越南). She is also a significant deity where emigrants from the provinces have settled, including in Singapore
    Singapore
    Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

     and Malaysia.
  • Qiye (七爺) and Baye (八爺), two generals and best friends, often seen as giant puppets in street parades. 8 is black, because he drowned rather than miss his appointment to meet with 7, even though a flood was coming. 7 has his tongue sticking out, because he hanged himself in mourning for 8.
  • Shangdi
    Shangdi
    Shangdi , also known as Di in Oracle Bone Inscription and Thirteen Classics, refers to the supreme god or a divine power regarded as the spiritual ultimate by the Chinese people from the Shang Dynasty. He controlled victory in battle, harvest, the fate of the kingdom, and the weather...

    (上帝) is originally the supreme god, synonymous with the concept of Tian
    Heaven
    Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

    . This title/name was later applied to the supreme deity of various religions, including Yu Huang Dadi and the Christian God.
  • Cheng Huang (城隍), commonly known as "City God" in English, a class of protective deities: each city has a Cheng Huang who looks after the fortunes of the city and judges the dead. Usually these are famous or noble persons from the city who were deified after death. The Cheng Huang Miao (城隍廟) or "City God Temple" was often the focal point of a town in ancient times.
  • Tudi Gong
    Tu Di Gong
    Tu Di Gong , also known as Tu Di , Tu Gong , and Dabo Gong , is a Chinese earth god worshipped by Chinese folk religion worshippers and Taoists. A formal name for Tu Di Gong is , meaning the earth god of wealth and merit....

    (土地公 "God of the Earth"), a genius loci
    Genius loci
    In classical Roman religion a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted in religious iconography as a figure holding a Cornucopia, patera and/or a snake. There are many Roman altars found in Western Europe dedicated in whole or in part to the particular Genius Loci...

    who protects a local place (especially hills), and whose statue may be found in roadside shrines. He is also the god of wealth, by virtue of his connection with the earth, and therefore, minerals and buried treasure.
  • Wenchangdi (文昌帝), god of students, scholars, and examination. He is worshiped by students who wish to pass their examinations. Inept examiners in ancient times sometimes sought "divine guidance" from him to decide rank between students.
  • Xi Wangmu
    Xi Wangmu
    Xi Wangmu, literally Queen Mother of the West , is an ancient Chinese goddess, also known in Japan and Korea. Her origins can be traced back to oracle bone inscriptions of the 15th century BCE that record sacrifices to a "western mother". Even though these inscriptions illustrate that she predates...

    (西王母), the "Queen Mother of the West", also known as Yaochi Jinmu (瑤池金母 "Golden Mother of the Jade Pond"), a mother goddess
    Mother goddess
    Mother goddess is a term used to refer to a goddess who represents motherhood, fertility, creation or embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother.Many different goddesses have...

     who reigns over a paradisaical mountain and has the power to make others immortal. In some myths, she is the mother of the Jade Emperor
    Jade Emperor
    The Jade Emperor in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon...

     (玉帝).
  • Yuexia Laoren (月下老人 "Old Man Under the Moon"). The matchmaker who pairs lovers together, worshiped by those seeking their partner.
  • Zaoshen
    Zao Jun
    In Chinese folk religion and Chinese mythology, the Kitchen God, named Zao Jun or Zao Shen , is the most important of a plethora of Chinese domestic gods that protect the hearth and family with the addition of being celebrated...

    (灶神), the "God of the Kitchen", also Zao Jun (灶君), mentioned in the title of Amy Tan
    Amy Tan
    Amy Tan is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships. Her most well-known work is The Joy Luck Club, which has been translated into 35 languages...

    's novel, The Kitchen God's Wife. He reports to heaven on the behavior of the family of the house once a year, at Chinese New Year, and is given sticky rice to render his speech less comprehensible on that occasion.
  • Songzi Niangniang
    Songzi Niangniang
    Songzi Niangniang , also referred to in Taiwan as Zhusheng Niangniang , is a Taoist fertility goddess. She is often depicted as Guan Yin herself in drawings, or alternatively as an attendant of Guan Yin; Guan Yin herself is also often referred to as "Guan Yin Who Brings Children"...

    (送子娘娘) or Zhusheng Niangniang (註生娘娘), a fertility goddess. She is worshipped by people who want children, or who want their child to be a boy.

Places of worship


Shenist temples can be distinguished into miao (庙), called "joss houses", "deity houses" or simply "temples" in English, and ci (祠), called "ancestral halls" or simply "temples" in English. Both the terms actually mean "temple" in Chinese, and they've been used interchangeably many times. However miao is the general Chinese term for "temple" understood as "place of worship", and can be used for places of worship of any religion. In Chinese folk religion it is mostly associated to temples which enshrine nature gods and patron gods. Instead ci is the specific term for temples enshrining ancestry gods, human beings apotheosized as gods.

"Joss" is a corrupted version of the Portuguese word for "god", deus. "Joss house" was in common use in English in western North America during frontier times, when joss houses were a common feature of Chinatown
Chinatown
A Chinatown is an ethnic enclave of overseas Chinese people, although it is often generalized to include various Southeast Asian people. Chinatowns exist throughout the world, including East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Americas, Australasia, and Europe. Binondo's Chinatown located in Manila,...

s. The name "joss house" describes the environment of worship. Joss stick
Joss stick
Joss sticks are a type of incense used in many East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, traditionally burned before a Chinese religious image, idol or shrine. They can also be burned in front of a door, or open window as an offering to heaven, or devas...

s, a kind of incense
Incense
Incense is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term "incense" refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification, aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, and for...

, are burned inside and outside of the house.

Shenist temples are distinct from Taoist temple
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

s (观 guan or 道观 daoguan) and Buddhist monasteries (寺 si) in that they are established and administered by local managers
Management
Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

, associations and worship communities; only few or none priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s stay in folk temples. Shenist temples are usually small, very colourful (by contrast with Taoist temples which by tradition should be black and white in color, and Buddhist temples which are characterised by a prevalence of yellow and red tonalities), and decorated with traditional figures on their roofs (dragons and deities), although some evolve into significant structures. Other terms associated to templar structures of Shenism and other religions in China are 宫 gong ("palace"), often used for large temples (even if mostly Taoist) built by imperial officials, and 院 yuan, a general term for "sanctuary", "shrine".

Societal impact


Scholars have studied how Chinese folk religion-inspired society, elastic and polytheistic
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 in spirit, provided the groundwork for the development of dynamic grassroots Chinese-style pre-modern capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 in Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 China and modern capitalism in contemporary Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

. Chinese folk religion with its ritual economy is also a key in the contemporary economic development in rural Mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

.

Demographics


With around 400 million adherents Chinese folk religion is one of the major religions in the world
Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice...

, comprising about 6% of world population. In China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 more than 30% of the population adheres to Shenism or Taoism. In Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

, Shenism is highly institutionalised under the label and the institutions of "Taoism", which is adhered by 33% of the population.

In Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 about 8.5% of the total population is Taoist, and 10% of the Chinese Singaporeans identify as Taoists. In Malaysia, 10.6% of Chinese Malaysians are Shenists-Taoists, corresponding to 3% of the whole country population. In Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Taosu Agung Kusumo, leader of the Majelis Agama Tao Indonesia, claims there are 5 million Taoist followers in the country as of 2009.

See also


  • Ancestor worship
  • Animism
    Animism
    Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

  • Chinese creation myth
  • Chinese mythology
    Chinese mythology
    Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

  • Chinese spiritual world concepts
    Chinese spiritual world concepts
    Chinese spiritual world concepts are cultural practices or methods found in Chinese culture. Some fit in the realms of a particular religion, others do not...

  • Feng shui
    Feng shui
    Feng shui ' is a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive qi. The original designation for the discipline is Kan Yu ....

  • Gods material shop
    Gods Material Shop
    A prayer material shop is a shop specializing in supplying materials used in the practice of Shenism, Taoism and Chinese Buddhism.These shops are abundant in Chinese areas, from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, to Malaysia , and several Chinatowns.-Items for...

  • Malaysian Chinese religion
    Malaysian Chinese religion
    Malaysian Chinese religion refers to religious beliefs of Chinese origin as practiced by the sizable Chinese minority of Malaysia. These beliefs and practices are heavily influenced by the three faiths practiced by Chinese communities, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.According to The...

  • Religion in China
    Religion in China
    Religion in China has been characterized by pluralism since the beginning of Chinese history. The Chinese religions are family-oriented and do not demand the exclusive adherence of members. Some scholars doubt the use of the term "religion" in reference to Buddhism and Taoism, and suggest "cultural...

  • Singaporean Chinese religion
    Singaporean Chinese religion
    Singaporean Chinese religion refers to religious beliefs of Chinese origin as practiced by the Chinese in Singapore. These beliefs and practices are heavily influenced by the faiths practiced by Chinese communities, such as Taoism, Buddhism, Chinese folks religion and Confucianism.According to the...

  • Tengri
    Tengri
    Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger (Old Turkic: ; Mongolian: Тэнгэр, Tenger; Chinese: 腾格里, Mandarin: Ténggélǐ, Hungarian: Tengri, Turkish: Tanrı, Bulgarian: Tangra (Тангра) is a sky god, formerly the chief deity of the early Turkic peoples, including the Xiongnu, Huns, Bulgars,...

    ism
  • Tian
    Tian
    Tian is one of the oldest Chinese terms for the cosmos and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang Dynasty the Chinese called god Shangdi or Di , and during the Zhou Dynasty Tian "heaven; god" became synonymous with Shangdi...

    li


Further reading

  • Manchao, Cheng, The Origin of Chinese Deities, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1995. ISBN 7-119-00030-6
  • Paper, Jordan D., The Spirits are Drunk: Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion, Albany, New York : State University of New York Press, 1995. ISBN 0-7914-2315-8

External links




Clan temples networks - more here http://www.google.it/webhp?hl=it#hl=it&source=hp&biw=1440&bih=785&q=%E5%AE%97%E4%BA%B2%E7%BD%91&aq=f&aqi=g1g-m9&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=e8a523108e0202cf



Deities temples networks