China final exam

China final exam - March 6 2008 Asian212 Final Topic C...

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March 6, 2008 Asian212 Final Topic C Religion has played a significant role in nearly every civilization throughout history. Often thought to be a controlling factor that unites and establishes order in a population, it also has a propensity to bring about division and disorder. In Chinese history, religion and spirituality have been major proponents of helping and hindering social cohesion. In the two thousand year period stretching from the fall of the Han dynasty to the end of the Qing, China saw multitudes of foreign and domestic religions and spiritual practices gain popularity in its society. While some brought different classes and ethnic groups together encouraging nationalism and equality, others, often unintentionally, created divides that led to rebellion and long stretches of general social chaos. The overthrow of the Han government was initiated by an outbreak of large-scale rebellion led by peasants in 184 A.D. The primary group responsible for the upsurge followed an ideology calledthe “Way of Great Peace”. The leader of the rebellion Zhang Jue was viewed as a powerful divine figure by his supporters and was said to have “cured illnesses with holy water and prayers.” (CC 20) The religious fervor surrounding his rise propagated across the country leading to a popularity that climbed into the hundreds of thousands. Zhang Jue, later calling himself the general, duke of Heaven, was able to unite the lower class majority into a religious army called the “Yellow Turbans” to wage war against the upper class and government officials that held the power in the Han dynasty. The social disorder that resulted, although not enough to completely demolish the empire, was sufficient to spark a downward trend that was completed by the generals assigned to suppress the peasants. Buddhism was first introduced to China in the late Han period and flourished remarkably for centuries after. It was a very appealing religion at the time for ordinary people because it
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lacked a rigid caste system of any sort and allowed for a great deal of mobility. Essentially any person that converted and began practicing had the opportunity to move up the spiritual ladder and reach enlightenment. Also the nature of Buddhism was such that it could be translated and molded to fit any culture or society as long as the overall message was held consistent. This idea is depicted in “The Parable of the Burning House” which is part of a larger collection of Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings called the Lotus Sutra. The story is that of a wealthy man who after is forced to convince his sons to escape their burning house and sure death by promising them all a number of lavish gifts outside. (Lotus Sutra 448-450) The man does not commit falsehood because he is able to preserve the lives of his sons using expedient means, the same way Buddhism preaches salvation and enlightenment by expedient means. Because it was such a tolerant and attractive religion, Buddhism succeeded in bringing together people across lines of
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China final exam - March 6 2008 Asian212 Final Topic C...

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