A universal guide for China studies
Chinese Art - Plastic art
Encoding: Unicode (UTF-8) [Location: HOME > Arts > Temple sculpture][bottom]
Buddhist grotto art
Brick stone reliefs
Stone carvings (except calligraphy)
|The three great religions of China are Confucianism (Rujiao 儒教), Daoism (Daojiao 道教) and Buddhism (Fojiao 佛教). In the course of history, many religions like Manicheism (Monijiao 摩尼教), Islam (Yisilanjiao 伊斯蘭教) and Christianity (Catholicism: Tianzhujiao 天主教, Protestantism: Jidujiao 基督教 or Yesujiao 耶穌教; Nestorianism: Jingjiao 景教) came to China but none of them was able to establish more than small parishes. The veneration of Confucius (Kongzi 孔子) as the teacher of teachers started during the Han Dynasty 漢 when Confucianism became state doctrine. Confucian temples (Kongmiao 孔廟) are quite simple and unemotional compared to Daoist temples. Because Confucius laid stress on education by harmony and music, in most Confucian temples three types of music instruments are seen: drums (gu 鼓), bells (zhong 鐘) and sounding stones (qing 磬). All other music instruments are not of Chinese origin or does at least not come the Yellow River basin, the center of Chinese culture.Confucianism means also veneration of the ancestors. Every family in traditional China (and in modern Taiwanese, Hong Kong and oversees Chinese houses) possesses a small shrine in the main room of the house where the grand parents are venerated and given a food offering every day. |
Veneration by incence sticks is also a central point of Daoist religion. Founded as a philosophy of self-cultivation far the daily business, Daoism became a religion of helping heroes and wonderful mighty gods already during the Han Dynasty. It was highly intermingled with deities of popular religion and thus has many different objects of veneration in different regions, different social strata and different occupations. It can be compared to the belief in the many saints of Catholicism. Most popular gods of the Daoist religion are the deified philosopher Laozi 老子, called Laojun 老君 "The Old Lord", the Eight Immortals (Baxian 八仙), the God of the Yellow River (Heshen 河神), the God of Money (Caishen 財神), or the historical hero Guan Yu 關羽, called Guan Gong 關公 "Duke Guan". The colorful thought of Daoism is also expressed in Daoist temples (daoguan 道觀) whose roofs and tiles are covered with dragons, lions and small figurines of groups of immortals. Symbols that are also connected with Daoism are the black-white Yin-Yang 陰陽 disk and the Eight Hexagrams (bagua 八卦). A great part of Daoist belief is not exerted at temples but outside the doors. Technics that serve to promote health and to prolong one's lifetime are the very popular Taijiquan 太極拳 ("T'ai-chi") and Qigong 氣功 and medicine practices like acupuncture and moxibustion. According to a legend, Laozi left China, riding a water buffalo and going to the west.
A religion that came back to China the west was Buddhism. In the first centuries, many common points among Buddhism and Daoism made the first only look like a special sect of Daoism. Indeed, meditating practices and the withdraw worldly affairs made the two religions very similar. The practice of the Falungong 法輪功 sect during the last years make it very clear that in thought, both religions have many similar points: "fa lun" means "wheel of the law", or, in Buddhist terms "dharmacakra".Buddhism came to China Central Asia. It was the branch of the Great Vehicle (dasheng 大乘) that makes it possible for everybody to gain access to Nirvana by simple praying to the Saints of Buddhism, the Bodhisattvas (Pusa 菩薩). The most important of them are the Puxian Pusa 普賢菩薩 and the feminine Guanyin Pusa 觀音菩薩 (sometimes having a thousand benevolent arms). A special group of Bodhisattvas are the so-called Arhats (Luohan 羅漢), persons that are very near to popular belief and some of them having a very odd outlook. The prayer niches are mostly decorated with a main Buddha, two disciples and two Pusas. Heavenly guardians with fierceful faces protect this holy group evil hell demons. The Buddhist monasteries are organized like the great Daoist monasteries with a bishop or an abbot, clearly separated between men and women. The most famous monasteries are the first Buddhist monastery, the "White Horse Monastery" Baimasi 白馬寺 near Luoyang, the Shaolin Monastery 少林寺 where the monks engaged in fighting arts, and the Buddhist island Putuoshan 普陀山 at the seashore of Zhejiang Province.
Christianity came to China during the late Ming Dynasty 明 and was able to attract a large portion of the ruling class. But the clash with Roman orthodoxy concerning ancestral ritus and the prohibition of the very successful Jesuit order ended the great age of Christianity in China.
Islam is widespread in China's western parts, but one can find moschees all over China. One of the oldest moschees in China is that of Quanzhou 泉州/Fujian. The difference between the moschee of main China and the Central Asian moschee is the missing of a minaret in China proper.