Andrew McGreevy was back again to finish explaining religion in China. He spoke of more modern times this time – 1949 to present. For those of you who are not up on the history of the 20th century, the cut-off date of 1949 was chosen because that was when Mao took control of the country and turned it into a non-religious dictatorship… that is to say he made it a comunist nation.
In 1911 there was a Nationalist Revolution in China that ended the imperial dynasty and brought Sun Yat-Sen to power. This new lot did not look favorably on traditional religions. After the Chineese Civil War from 1946-1949 that brought Mao to p0wer, it was officially declared that there will be no religion in China at all. The State was declared to be the only legal landowner. The State ran everything.
By 1958 the economic output of the country was less that the United Kingdom. Something had to be done, and Mao himself decided he would manage the economy from the top. Western religion was banned, Teachers were punished for teaching people to think for themselves. Mao thought that birds were eating too much grain so he advocated for the eradication of the birds. He, of course, discovered that birds also eat insects and with no one to eat the insects, the insects were eating more grain than the birds. This was the great leap forward. Approx. 45 million people died.
in 1976 Mao died. Deng Xiaoping renade China. China was admitted to the World Trade Organization. This allowed outsiders to invest in China and it allowed Chinese to invest in businesses in other countries. The country’s new identity became the capitalist economy with a comunist government.
Inevitably, personal reforms accompanied the economic reforms. Since the identity of the comunist nation no longer rested on being anti-religious, the nations leaders were able to allow much more outward demonstrations of religiosity. But, in typical bureaucratic fashion, they decided that there were only 5 categories of religions worth having around; Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Taoist, and Other. The problem being that people don’t like to fit themselves into patterns of belief simply because the government sanctions only specified patterns.
The old ancient religious practices began cropping up. “House” religions paid homage to the traditional gods… gods that embodied the spirit of places and inanimate objects. (I, myself am not convinced that there is not a home for some mischievious god inside my computer. -ed) Confucianism crops up in these systems of belief as well (although it is sometimes dismissed as a philosophy instead of a religion.) Confucianism provides a sense of morality even if it does not provide an explanation of the cosmos.
The pantheon of gods and goddesses fill the “house” religions with a way to bring harmony into the house and a way to bring festivals to the community. It also helps bring tourists into the country because there is a plethora of beautiful shrines to visit. The human spirit finds its divinity in many different ways.