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Religion in China China Study Tour,2004 Susan Daly Communism & Religion
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Religion in China China Study Tour,2004 Susan Daly
Communism & Religion • All of our local guides told us that religion was not acceptable for communist party members who want to advance but that anyone else could feel free to practice their religious beliefs openly. The only exception is Falun Gong. • In our three weeks traveling across 9 cities from north to western and southern China we visited many active temples full of people. One of my fellow teachers commented, “ For a communist country, there sure are an awful lot of worshipers”
Buddhism in China Susan Daly
Buddhism came to China along the Silk Roads from India where it was started in the 5th century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama.It brought with it several symbols shown in many Buddhist images. The most familiar is the lotus flower, a symbol of purity, renunciation and divinity. Buddha is often shown sitting on a lotus.
Another important symbol is the Golden Wheel. The wheel represents motion, continuity and change, forever moving onwards like the wheel of heaven.The eight spokes point in the eight directions and symbolize Buddha’s Eightfold Path: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Buddhist monk, Xuangzang leaving X’ian on pilgrimage to India and the sacred places of Buddhism.His travels took him over 25,000 miles.
Since the Taliban blew up the 2 Buddha’s at Bamyan, Afghanistan, Leshan is the largest carved statue of Buddha in the world. It is mainly visible from the river because it was carved where 3 rivers converge to stop the many drownings which took place there and quiet the water. It did stop the rapids.There are stairs which circle the statue to allow you to get several views of it as you climb around it.
Even though this is an old statue of Buddha, children were allowed to climb on it.
Buddhist Pilgrimage in western China Mt. Emei – a sacred Buddhist mountain
Mt. Emei is over 10,000 feet tall. The act of climbing it, is also an act of worship. There are five different Buddhist monasteries at different levels of the mountain. At each stage, pilgrims can stop, pray, and rest. There are four mountains sacred to Buddha in China.
Pilgrims offer incense at this stop along their journey up Mt. Emei. There were several large racks like this one to hold the burning bundles of incense. The smell was incredible but it was also smoky.
Lingyan Temple Bell All temples have a large bell which is part of specific ceremonies.
Interior painting of a Lion which looks to westerners like a certain breed of dog.
To reach the next level of Mt. Emei, we took a cable car but most pilgrims walk up the mountain as part of the pilgrimage. It was a cloudy, overcast day with lots of mist so our trip up the mountainside was lovely but not spectacular as a sunny day would have been.
Wannian Monastery • Wannian monastery was a beautiful, peaceful place to contemplate and study Buddhism. It had incredible butterflies and wild monkeys which we never saw. The monks here were as intrigued by us as we were by them. • This place was the first time, I truly felt like a curiosity since few westerns go here.
While we visited Wannian, there was a ceremony which involved a large group of pilgrims chanting. It was an incredible sound but all of us felt it would be wrong to photograph them in a religious ceremony.
In every Buddhist temple we visited, there was a line of prayer wheels. As people would walk through the temple grounds, they would give the wheels a turn so there was always this gentle sound coming from the row of wheels. Children loved to get all of the wheels spinning at one time.
As we toured the 2 Buddhist monasteries on Mt.Emei, we were a curiosity for many of the pilgrims we saw along our travels. It was the most foreign I felt in all of China. One blonde teacher had people ask if they could have their picture taken with her because she was so different.
John waited a long time to try on his monks robe. The shop would not sell him an actual robe but one made for tourists. Once he posed for us with it on, one of the monks came out and asked us to take his picture with John. Without a word of Chinese we communicated with him and took his camera for the photo.
Mt.Emei is a beautiful natural environment with 5 monasteries leading up to its peak. We saw 2 and along the way saw gorgeous scenery and many types of butterflies. We did not see the monkeys who also live on its slopes. Since they are quite wild, our group was relieved not to have seen the monkeys.
Daoism • We visited several Taoist temples in China. They were not as brightly colored as Buddhist temples but were also well attended by worshipers. • Daoism is native to China and was developed during the late Zhou and Warring States period when much of China was engulfed in wars.
Laozi is the person associated with Daoism and his main work is the ,Classic of the Way. In Daoism, humans have separated themselves from the Way ( Tao) by plotting, planning, organizing when they should instead be accepting and surrendering to events. Daoists were critical of Confucian activism. They focused their energy on reflection so they could learn to live in harmony with the natural world.
Islam in X’ian Islam came to China across the Silk Roads which ended in X’ian. There is still a small Muslim community in X’ian today. There are approximately 8,000 Muslims active in X’ian’s mosques.