One of the main things that helped me understand Chinese culture was learning about their three most popular belief systems: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Over the years, the emperors decided to change China’s main religion over and over to the point that sometimes temples that were first meant to be Buddhist temples turned to Taoist temples. As a result, they would have several statues of different gods all over the place. I found this very interesting because I do not think this is very common in the “New World.” In China I went to several Buddhist temples, and there I learned a lot about Buddhism and why it had become so popular in China.
Here are some facts I learned that changed the way I see the different religions in China. First off, Buddhism was a brand new concept to me. Now I know that Buddha was at first a regular person who reached that nirvana phase and that is how he became Buddha. Buddha can be any person who has reached that level of enlightenment. I also learned that it is very popular for Chinese to change their beliefs throughout life. For instance, in the younger years due to the education system most Chinese would follow Confucianism. This system teaches about hierarchy and order. It is important to highlight that in Chinese culture hierarchy is vital, especially in the classroom and work place. Chinese have taught their predecessors this value throughout their whole life. This is why is very unlikely for Chinese youth to disobey their elders. For this reason, Chinese youth is likely to carry out Confucius teachings. Second, when the Chinese reach middle age they tend to lean on Taoism. I think is because at that stage in our lives we all seek stability and harmony, these are one of the most important Taoist’s principles.
Last but not least, when people reach the late stage of life they lean on Buddhism. I think one of the reasons is because they want to focus in the afterlife. I do not mean to generalize everyone under this. I just happen to learn these belief patterns. Learning about these three religions helped me understand about their belief systems and realize that Chinese are also religious.