Understanding the importance of harmony in China

January 7, 2014

Most Chinese do not like anarchy—but who does except the libertarian anarchist.

The Chinese have had their fill of anarchy. Every time a dynasty collapsed, decades or centuries of anarchy would be ushered in and chaos ruled. For instance, when Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping put a stop to the madness of the Cultural Revolution and ushered in an era of harmony and prosperity that continues to this day.

In fact, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism all place a heavy emphasis on harmony and because of this, harmony is probably the most cherished ideal in Chinese culture from the leader to the poorest peasant.

While some claim that Confucianism is promoted by the Chinese Communist Party as a way to maintain order, these same critics often miss the Taoist message of living in harmony with the Tao. The term Tao means “way”, “path” or “principle” and may also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. 

Taoism in general tends to emphasize wu-wie—action through non-action—and the Three Treasures: compassion, moderation, and humility. In addition, Buddhism, for instance, has six rules of harmony taught by the Buddha to his followers in order to bring about unity and harmony.

And that explains why most Chinese—even today—do not like talking about the “white elephant” in the family or country to strangers.

With that in mind, it should not be surprising that when Google was complaining about being hacked by China’s government and refused to censor their search engine in China (eventually they did so they could keep doing business there), many Chinese turned to Baidu, which operates China’s most popular Internet search engine.

Because of Google’s behavior in 2010, Baidu now controls 65.74% [up more than 20% from 2010] of China’s search engine market compared to Google’s 3% share. Source: Search Engine Watch.com

It would seem that Google became the “white elephant” in the room by complaining publicly. It is also a mistake to think that because China cracks down on the few democracy advocates who speak out publicly criticizing the CCP, that most Chinese citizens support these advocates who often end up living in the United States after China kicks them out. The truth is that most Chinese probably think these outspoken few are fools.

In China, instead of shouting “give me liberty or death”, most Chinese would say, “Give me harmony and life,” because of several thousand years of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism that are all much older and maybe much wiser than Christianity or Islam.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Making the Hajj from China: Part 2/2

May 28, 2013

Another devout Chinese Muslim in Xian is proudly transcribing the Quran into Chinese using traditional Chinese brush calligraphy. He says it took him over a year to transcribe the entire Quran this way. Now he is working on a second copy.

He has also taught his son and his grandsons how to write with the Chinese brush wanting to pass down this tradition to the next generation.

His son says that every generation should try their best to transcribe the Quran with the Chinese brush, as it is also a good way to reinforce our faith.

The original copy of the Quran in this family is over four hundred years old, a priceless relic transcribed by the Chinese imams. There are only a few remaining copies left in the world.

Jia Wen Yi, a Hajj pilgrim, says the trip to Mecca is important to him and his wife, an elderly couple. They have done a lot of preparation for the hajj. Mr. Jia goes into detail about the planning.

Going on the hajj for Yi and his wife, Jia Wang Yi, has been a dream for over two decades as they saved to have enough money.

Mr. and Mrs. Jia will be part of a group of 250 pilgrims leaving for the hajj from the city of Xian. It was a matter of saving most of their lives until they could afford the trip.

Since these Muslims are considered a minority in China, they are not restricted by the one-child policy, as you would see in the video when the family and friends gather to say goodbye before Mr. and Mrs. Jia leave on the long journey to Mecca.

There is no direct flight from Xian to Mecca, so the pilgrims will take a train to Beijing where they will board a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Whenever pilgrims leave Xian to go on the hajj to Mecca, thousands of Chinese Muslims show up at the railway station to say goodbye. This is the first time Mr. and Mrs. Jia have left China. They have never been apart from their family before.

Return to Making the Hajj from China: Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Making the Hajj from China: Part 1/2

May 27, 2013

This two-part post may come as a surprise to many in the West that think there is no religious freedom in China.

In fact, China handles religious freedom similar to how Singapore does, and Singapore is seldom if ever criticized in the Western media for this practice.

The U.S. Department of State says that Singapore’s government has broad powers to limit citizens’ rights and handicap political opposition, which it uses. One of those restrictions is a limited freedom of religion.

However, the Constitution for the Republic of Singapore offers the same fundamental liberties China and the US does, which includes freedom of speech, assembly and association and freedom of religion.

For example, Singapore bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church by making public meetings illegal. The Falun Gong has also had problems in Singapore.

China, on the other hand, recognizes five religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism but has banned certain new religious movements that are considered cults. China does not recognize cults as religions.

In the video embedded with this post, Al Jazeera follows Chinese Muslims as they prepare to undertake the hajj pilgrimage.

The ancient city of Xian in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.

Xian claims it has a Muslim history going back more than thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Xian during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese Imam Ma Yi Ping speaks both Chinese and Arabic. He studied at the Islamic University of Medina and has made the hajj several times. He was taught to be a devout Muslim by his parents during Mao’s time when the mosques in China were closed.

Despite the persecutions that took place during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), Islam survived in China.

Ma Yi Ping says that after Mao and the Gang of Four were gone and China opened for trade with the world, he did not have to study the Quran in secret anymore.

Since the 15th century, Xian Muslims have been going to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

In the past, during the ancient days of the Silk Road, these journeys started and ended in Xian’s Muslim quarter. Today is no different.

Continued on May 28, 2013 in Making the Hajj from China: Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Taoism and Religion in Communist China – Part 3/3

March 29, 2012

Until Communism arrived, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org says, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions — they were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else…

However, under Deng Xiaoping, in 1978, the ban on religious teaching was lifted. In fact, since the mid-1980s there has been a massive program to rebuild Buddhist and Taoist temples.

Then in December 2004, China’s government in Beijing announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily: “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens. Even so, worship outside designated religion remains forbidden. Source: Facts and Details – Religion in China

There are five religions recognized by the state, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Return to Taoism – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Taoism – Part 1/3

March 27, 2012

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” -Lao-tzu

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised as a Christian in a Christian culture.  For this reason, Jean Delumeau, the narrator of the video and an honorary professor of the College de France, will tell you something about this religion.

Delumeau says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth serving to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Continued on February 26, 2012 in Taoism – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on December 5, 2010


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