How Did Chinese Religion and Culture Influence the Religious History of Korea and Japan? Essay

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¶ … Chinese Religion and Culture on the Religious History of Korea and Japan

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Throughout history, the culture and civilization of China has exerted an enormous influence on the societies of its neighbors. The religious histories of Korea and Japan have been heavily shaped by this Chinese contact. To Korea and Japan, China was long a kind of "elder brother" that served as a living model of high civilization, in much the way that the dead civilization of the Classical world served as a model for the nations of the West. Yet, China's influence was all the stronger because China was a real and living culture, and great power. For many centuries, Korea was subject to indirect Chinese rule. Japan, while never actually ruled by China, looked to the larger and older nation as a source of inspiration. Governmental and social institutions in both countries were largely modeled on their Chinese counterparts. The traditional Chinese governmental and social structure was largely grounded in religion, as were the systems of virtually all traditional states. Ancient traditions of ancestor worship and respect for the rhythms of the natural world informed Taoism and Confucianism. Buddhism came from India and was soon added to the mix. All these ideas were transmitted to Korea and Japan where they were further modified and, to a considerable extent, fused with native religious traditions. The religious histories of Korea and Japan owe a great debt to the religious history of China, and like that country, their traditions reflect a blending of many different ideas to produce an amazingly coherent whole that reflects a holistic view of the world and humanity's place within it.

Essay on How Did Chinese Religion and Culture Influence the Religious History of Korea and Japan? Assignment

Chinese religion and culture were based very strongly on the idea of relationships between humankind and nature, and on the idea of a pervasive natural order that extended into the sphere of human society. The doctrines of Confucius stressed the Five Relationships, an arrangement that placed great importance on the respect of inferiors for superiors and vice versa. Each layer of society, from parent and child, up through ruler and ruler, possessed mutual responsibilities. Filial piety became, in many ways, the basis for an authoritarian political system that traced its ultimate source of authority to universal harmonies that were represented by dualities such as Heaven and Earth and Yin and Yang. The oldest known religion in Korea was a form of Shamanism in which shamans performed rites that were intended to obtain benefits for their worshippers. A similar form of belief in natural forces is found in Japan as well. Japanese Shinto and traditional Korean shamanism continue to form part of both national religious traditions to this day. Though similar in some ways to Chinese ideas of natural order it was the Chinese concept of Confucianism that exercised the greatest influence over the nature of the Korean state. Buddhism also came from China but fell out of favor during the government of the Yi Dynasty. Those seeking advancement in public life, "found it to their advantage to be identified as Confucians, staunch upholders of the rules and regulations that held society together."

Traditional beliefs, along with Buddhism were seen as not contributing to the goals of the state. The Korean system copied the Chinese system of an all-powerful emperor and a far-reaching bureaucracy.

As shamanism and, in Japan, Shinto, were largely naturalistic religions, Buddhism featured a highly-complex philosophy that was founded on a belief that the goal of human beings should be to transcend the illusory world of material existence. An authoritarian state that was largely subject to an even more powerful authoritarian state would naturally place a primary emphasis on order in the here and now. Japan, too, whether under the early emperors, or the later shoguns, also possessed an authoritarian system. Nevertheless, Buddhism enjoyed enormous influence during the Nara period in the Eighth Century. It also prospered with the development of Zen during the Middle Ages. By the later part of Kamakura Period, special taxes and tolls were often allotted to the construction and maintenance of Buddhist temples and shrines, a practice that was actually criticized by many Buddhist monks.

Still the practice shows that, in Japan, Buddhism was conceived of as an essential part of the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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