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Thread: The Monotheism of Ancient China3512 days old

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    Default The Monotheism of Ancient China

    Here I will briefly discuss Monotheism in early China. "Monotheism" is sometimes considered to be solely a Western concept, but in reality, existed in many high cultures in all parts of the world.

    For thousands of years, the state religion of China was "heaven worship". This religious belief predates Taoism and Confucianism by thousands of years.

    Heaven worship centers around a non-corporeal entity called "Shangdi" (上帝 lit. "the Emperor of Heaven"), an omnipotent, just, and monotheistic supreme being. The ceremony of heaven worship initially forbade idolatry, but required sacrifices at temples, such as the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. During the Warring States period, heaven worship became associated with the veneration of ancestors, with ancestors or famous figures being able to intercede to Heaven as "a medium" between heaven and man. The Emperor was important to Ancestor Worship, as he and his House were thought to be ordained by Heaven; the convergence of the spiritual and royal principles were intertwined in the mortal person of the emperor, and his legitimacy as a ruler was tied to ritual propriety and subject to the approval of heaven. loods and famines were regarded as disapproval of heaven.

    Heaven Worship predated Confucius by eighteen centuries (and even Confucius was said to have transmitted ethical precepts, and not have "invented" a new religion), and the importation of Buddhism by over two millenia. In those rites the authority of a single God (to which we equate "monotheism" and "tawhid") and worshipping this God was clearly established, worship of One God as supreme is distinctly set forth as a “customary service,” thereby implying that it was already long established. Only later records mention inferior deities, which arose as a deviation, perhaps from contact with the so-called "barbarians" of the South who imparted this "telluric" element into the ancient faith of Chinese monotheism.

    The noted Sinologist James Legge claimed, “Five thousand years ago the Chinese were monotheists—not henotheists, but monotheists” ("Confucianism and Taoism described and compared with Christianity"). The Syriac Christians, as well as their later counterparts from the Catholic Church, saw similarities between Shangdi/Tian and the Abrahamic God, and therefore rendered the name for the Christia "God" as "Shangdi" in Chinese. Some Chinese Christian scholars assert that the Christian God and the Chinese Shangdi are in fact the same entity.
    Last edited by DrDawud; 2010-02-10 at 02:32.
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