- Year of publication: 2003
- Source: Show
- Pages: 3-4
- DOI Address: -
THE CHINESE RELIGIOSITY REMARKS ON A DIFFERENT CIVILISATION
The author considers “religiosity” as a universal social phenomenon, whereas “religion” constitutes its particular, cultural form. The study presents particular characteristics of the Chinese religiosity and its essential differences with the Mediterranean religions.
The five “constitutional” religions in PRC are presented (Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and the Catholic and Protestant Churches), as well as the officially registered religions in Taiwan. The author outlines changing attitudes to them and their contemporary development. He indicates great variations in the estimations of their “believers”, and points out the difficulties in “counting” of so called “believers into Chinese religions”. He concludes that the majority of the Chinese practice something that is located beyond these “official”, or “institutionalised” religions, i.e. “popular beliefs”. In some respects they even more resemble our Western religions than the official Chinese “three teachings” (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism). In his opinion, all our Western categories and notions related to “religions” appear inadequate to the Chinese religiosity, although the local Westernised elite tries to apply them.
Among principal characteristic of the Chinese religiosity one can enumerate the absence of the division into sacred and profane, so fundamental to the Indo-Europeans and to the peoples of Mediterranean civilisations, and to their very concept of religion. Therefore, in China “religion” cannot be defined as “the sphere of sacredness or related to sacredness”, and distinguished from the “profane”. Émile Durkheim’s concepts, inherited by Mircea Eliade, appear inadequate to the social realities where everything is sacred-and-profane, although in different degree, and everything could possess greater or smaller, invisible, but not „supernatural” „powers”.
The author points out a particular heritage of the three Mediterranean monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that shaped the Western notions of “religion”. Their common characteristics are outlined, such as a “community of believers”, temples as “sacred places”, “a sacred day of a seven-day week”, the struggle between forces of Good and of the Evil, particular status of “humans” as “God’s creatures”, and a particular relations between God and Man, the eternal truth of God’s words (that allows the distinction of “heretics” and “pagans”), the concept of “metaphysics”, of “spiritual beings”, of “supranatural”, and of transcendence, etc. In addition, these “religions” constituted a very noble sphere, and “priests” – a particular elite.
The author indicates that in China religious affairs enjoyed much less respect, and each community was religious-and-profane. Their heads usually maintained relations with community’s protective spirits (considered its “particular members”!) and represented it vis-á-vis the “outside world” – social-and-spiritual. From the family to the state all structures were semi-religious, and all performed similar functions: administrative, managerial, religious, and educative. Therefore even today the separation of the state from the religious affairs and from moral education of the population – is truly difficult.
The differences are even deeper. In the West believing in some revealed, sacred truths is essential, so orthodoxy is central for its religions. In East Asia, on the other hand, right practice is most essential, whereas various concepts were allowed or propagated, side by side. Therefore orthopraxy is central to its religiosity. Moreover, the followers of the monotheistic religions concentrate their attention on God, and they threat gods with a similar attention and respect, thus their worldview is theocentric. In Chinese religiosity the human beings were central, so the anthropocentric worldview predominated there. There were no “ontological gulfs” between man, God and other spiritual beings, and animals or objects. All “beings/objects” are matarial-and-spiritual/energetical, human beings are divided into numerous “ontological categories” – lower and higher. So they could reach higher forms of existence, including gods and god-type levels, or descend to “lower” forms (which not necessarily appear “lower” to the Chinese). So called “teachings” (jiao) indicate how humans could reach higher ontological forms, whereas other popular religious-type practices help them to obtain prosperity, longevity, and happiness. The Yin-Yang dualism was of complementary nature, nor antagonistic, as the struggle of Evil against God, forces of Darkness against Light. Therefor the concept of “mission” and of “holy struggle” were alien, instead the concept of harmony was presented as the main principle of the universe, and the idea of adapting to the natural order was promoted. The educated scholars and administrators constituted a Chinese elite, not noble warriors and clergy, as among the Indo-Europeans. However, some elementary Indo-European and Mediterranean influences could be detected in China, and their concepts become known to a certain degree through Buddhism, Manicheism and Islam.
The Western religious systems are “closed”, i.e. the communities of believers are “closed”, the pantheons, truths, rites, temples, etc. all are “closed”, or “restricted”. On the other hand, in China all of them are “open”: a “worshiper” could at the morning study Confucian books, at the afternoon visit a Taoist temple, and for funerals of his grandma invite Buddhist monks, a Catholic priest and a rabbi, if he resides near by. He could erect a temple to any spirit he likes, even to a hero of a novel, and he could establish particular rites to him, and such cult could be diffused and eventually approved by the state. Even a living person could be worshipped and become a “tutelary spirit”. Almost each figure could be put on an altar at every temple, so they usually are syncretic. The “temples” are not “sacred”, but could serve to various social purposes. Everybody could enter every temple, every time he liked, and for various purposes, or do not enter any of them. There was no “clergy”, nor organised “churches”, etc.
In addition to personified powers the Chinese acknowledged existence of innumerable invisible forces of the universe, belonging to its natural order. They could not be “worshipped”, but one had adapt one’s actions to them. It was the sphere of “pseudo-sciences”, like geomancy, astrology, the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements, fortune-telling, characteristics of time-space “sectors”, etc. Therefore there is no boundary between “religion” and civic or political life, hence “religion” could not be distinguished and separated there. The practices that resemble mostly our religion were disdained by the Chinese elite, and considered the “superstitions” of uneducated folk.
Gu Hongmin (1857-1928) seems to be right indicating that this elite cultivated and propagated a kind of “religion of good-citizenship” that constituted the superior level of the Chinese “religiosity” but was “religious” in its approach, not in its contents or forms.
Hence the Chinese religiosity is a very complex phenomenon, and the Western categories often obscure its nature and its multiple functions.
THE POPULAR CHINESE RELIGIOSITY IN TAIWAN A FIELD REPORT
The authoress stayed in Taiwan for almost one year, in 2002–2003. She visited numerous temples, participated in various religious functions, and carried out extensive discussions on religious matters with the local Chinese. Her study is divided into the three parts: a) the forms of popular religiosity; b) temples and their contemporary functions; c) the essential types of cults.
Her first conclusion concerns the diffusion of religious beliefs and practices. It is accepted as a paradigm of social sciences that modernisation and economic development result in secularisation of social life. The Taiwan example does not support this thesis: some forms of secularisation could be detected, but in general one can notice enormous growth of religious practices and celebrations. Much richer society can devote to religious life much greater economic resources, time and energy. However, the forms of religiosity and cults change substantially. Hence the Chinese popular religiosity in Taiwan undergo various transformations but remains truly vivid and highly significant for the society.
This development can be seen in extensive temple-building activity: the old ones are enlarged and the new ones are erected. Due to intense general construction activity, related to economic development of the island, individual temples had to be transferred from one place to another, in particular cases for several times. Therefore it happens that they change their original name (which may increase their “power”) and “the community of the worshippers”. Now local temples serve as the centres of strictly local, regional and all-Taiwanese activities. They serve as centres of the social life of the local community, of cultural activity, charitable initiatives, and even for political purposes. For instance, a local temple could serve as a kind of a club for local inhabitants, in particular for the elderly. Prayers and moral teachings or discourses are usually accompanied with service of meals, common TV-watching, reading newspapers, majong playing, etc. There one can land CD and tapes with interesting movies (not necessarily on religious topics), one can also find fitness- club equipment. Political meetings are organised there before and after elections, with participation of local or national politicians. A local temple can serve for “artistic creativity clubs” (such as caligraphy training, traditional painting, poetry evenings, hand-making ceramic courses, taiji training or/and modern, Western dancing courses, etc). Medical, social, educational activities could also be offered. “Festivals of Culture” that cultivate “Chinese heritage” could be organised there, as well as competitions in photography, opera-singing, painting, etc. Foundations or committees that distribute grants for talented students could operate there, as well as civic groups helping the elderly, etc. So, temples in contemporary Taiwan serve as “religious-and-civic centres” to communities of various size: a street-community, or village, town, county or even all-Taiwanese communities.
Numerous regional centres, taking advantage of modern means of information and easily accessible transportation, actually became “national” in the island scale. The cults, that originally were local, or were practised merely by particular ethnic groups (like Hakkas), often developed into “all-Taiwanese”. Numerous local temples, located in distant villages, or even among the fields, evolved into regional centres with numerous “pilgrims” and “religious teams” visiting them on a reciprocal basis. So, even a birthday of the same deity could be celebrated on different dates in the neighbouring localities to allow worshippers from the vicinity to attend the services and community-festivals at each temple.
Many traditional cults lost their previous popularity whereas new ones, or originally marginal, increased their significance. For instance, Sun Wukong – the rebelious King of Monkeys, Jigong - the “excentric monk”, Nuozha – known for his lack of respect to his parents and to the “elders” – became popular, and many persons believe that they are helpful in money-making, in particular in games, stockexchange, gambling, etc. A cult of a “heroic dog” evolved in Taipei, who serves as a “tutelary spirit” for criminal or other immoral activities (for thieves, prostitutes, etc.). These new cults seems to reflect a decline of traditional, Confucian morality and the evolution of “post-modern one”, strictly utilitarian and money-oriented. Other forms of Chinese religiosity, as the cult of “protective spirits” for families, shops, restaurants, hotels, department-stores are also common, as well as practices related to “impersonal forces” such as geomancy, astrology, fortune-telling, mysterious significance of names, etc.
One can conclude that Chinese religiosity maintains its significance even in a truly modernised society of an informatic-age.
NEGOTIATING WITCH THE CHINESE: ON THE CHINESE PATTERNS OF DEALING WITH FOREIGN PARTNERS
The author analyses the Chinese commercial negotiating practices for two purposes: to minimize misunderstanding in such activity and to provide Western negotiators with some advice. The negotiation of the Westerners with the Chinese are complicated because of fundamental cultural differences. Without basic knowledge of the Chinese concepts of negotiations and the East-Asian collectivist culture, it is almost impossible to achieve satisfactory outcome of negotiations.
Guy Olivier Faure’s model of negotiating by Chinese partners is presented as a point of departure. According to him the two “negotiating strategies” are applied: of “mobile warfare” and of “joint search for a solution”. The first includes traditional Chinese strategic concepts and various stratagems, and it seems very difficult to foreigners to cope with. One of its essential aims is wearing down the partner’s negotiating team by every means. The first approach presumes that the Chinese side deals with the “aliens” who in general are hostile or deceitful. The second is based on a presumption that the Chinese side deals with a partner with whom a kind of a “community” could be created. Under such circumstances friendly attitudes are expected and through the negotiations both sides acquire mutual knowledge of the partner. Therefore both sides should present themselves, their needs and aims, and should clearly define common interest and outline common context of the discussion. In this process elementary knowledge of Chinese culture and norms of etiquette are indispensable, without it the foreign partner would be unable to properly deal with changing situations and expectations of the Chinese side. Faure indicates that a deeper “friendly relation” offers more chances for a successful outcome. In order to present in detail such a most fruitful course of negotiations, the author explore the main characteristics of the traditional Chinese mentality and of the Chinese negotiating patterns. The contradictions between the two background approaches based on different ways of life are outlined: the Western - strictly individualistic and the Chinese - collectivist.
Individualist and collectivist ways of thinking imply different presumptions about the nature of relationship and about one’s own role in the negotiations. The author points out the main differences between Western and Chinese partners (to a certain degree East Asian partners in general) during the negotiating process, and offers some practical advice to Polish firms how to carry out commercial negotiations. The analysis is based on the individualist and collectivist models of behavior elaborated by cross-cultural psychology. Among the most essential rules of negotiation with Chinese partners one can enumerate the following:
Therefore the expectations of a quick, profitable deal usually produces merely frustration. The successful operating requires the establishment of mutual and stable partnership.
CHINA’S POLICY TOWARDS CENTRAL ASIA AND THE SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANISATION
At the beginning of the 21st century the Chinese leaders considered Central Asia a region of vital importance. When China emerged again as one of the “key players” in the world, Central Asia become one of its priorities in foreign policy. China aims at re-establishing of its historic ties with this region exercising a more flexible, co-operative and restrained policy towards the Western neighbours. China’s engagement in Central Asia, and in the process of the creation the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as well as its strengthening, constitute an important part of Beijing’s diplomacy. Today Chin’s overall diplomatic strategy has two aims: 1) the creation of an international environment favourable to its economic development, in particular around the borders, and 2) fostering a widely accepted Chinese regional leadership.
China’s policy towards Central Asia has more specific objectives: to legitimise its positions on major international principles and issues; to strengthen its relations with Russia; and to counterpoise the United States.
In addition to these one can enumerate several other, more practical objectives. First of all, China wants to prevent any political changes in the region that could disturb her stable and peaceful internal development. Her presence in Central Asia aims at maintaining stability on her 7,000 km borders with the neighbours. The co-operation with other SCO members offers a suitable framework for the common struggle against terrorist organisations and radical Islamic movements in the region. Such actions are intended, in particular, to weaken or eliminate the political and logistic bases of support for separatist Uyghur movements in the Xinjiang province. China is ready to assist the Central Asian republics in their efforts of confronting their domestic security challenges, including terrorism, separatism, religious extremism and drug trafficking which also threat China itself.
Being the world’s number two primary energy consumer, and developing so fast, China must take care of her increasing energy demands. Central Asia, rich in such natural resources, is of crucial importance in this respect. The petroleum and gas supply from Central Asia is also important from a strategic point of view. The diversification of the foreign sources of energy is seen as a crucial factor in the Chinese economic policy. The co-operation within the SCO has to serve this objective as well.
In the foreseeable future China will continue to promote its interests in Central Asia. Various obstacles on this way will not halt its efforts, in particular as the long term interests are concerned. China is committed to steadily expanding its presence in Central Asia and the SCO’s will serve as a main regional entry port for its multilateral policy in the region
K. Gawlikowski Post Scriptum (s. 158-164)
POLISH-CHINESE RELATIONS SINCE 1989
The tremendous changes that have taken place in Poland and in the People’s Republic of China since 1989, provoked fundamental changes in their mutual relations. The both countries had to reshape their bilateral relations in the new period. One of the main new factors was the great contrast between the images of both countries presented by mass media. On the one hand there were democratic elections and peaceful transition of power in Poland, and on the other - tragic events in Peking and the repression of students’ demonstrations. These events impressed much Polish public opinion and the politicians of the new period and resulted in certain clichés. Their presence had impact on political and economic co-operation with China. Trade relations were among the most affected areas, and this resulted in a huge trade deficit on the Polish side. This trade deficit became one of the major issues of concern in the bilateral relations. In the 1990’s China did not consider Poland a “strategic partner” in Central Europe, although watched carefully her diplomatic activity, in particular towards the “Chinese issues”. Several analysts indicate that the enlargement of the European Union may provide an opportunity for new developments in the Polish-Chinese relations and result in new dynamics.
THE TRADE UNIONS IN EAST ASIA
The author outlines the evolution and the present situation of trade unions in the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. He presents the main organisations, their history and profile, as well as legal regulations concerning them and their political involvement. Their international activity and the recent changes in their functioning are also presented.
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