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by The Spectator
Chinese Whispers

Ancestors and demons: a brief history of Chinese religion

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Are the Chinese religious? The government’s treatment of Christians and particularly Muslims have been under scrutiny in recent years. But these religious groups only form around 4 per cent of the Chinese population, according to national surveys. So what do the other 96pc believe in?
The CCP is famously atheist, but that doesn’t mean the society is faithless. Even today, my family (like most other Han families) still sweep the tombs of our ancestors and burn paper money (and these days paper cars and paper iPhones) for their use in the afterlife.

In particular, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism have grown together, over the centuries, to provide what the Chinese call ‘sanjiao heyi’ – three teachings harmonious as one, and these continue to influence Chinese life. Growing up, I never knew which part of my temple visit belonged to which faith. One social scientist has described Chinese faith as ‘an empty bowl, which can be variously filled’
On this episode of Chinese Whispers, we’ll be taking a look at what the three teachings teach, and how, in modern China, they've perhaps become more cultural than religious.
Joining me on this podcast is Mark Meulenbeld, Associate Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, who is an expert on Chinese folk religion.

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by The Spectator