Garland D. Jones
Ancient Civilization Religious Comparative Analyzes
The history of Chinese civilization is intimately linked to the beliefs and practices of the
Chinese people. China's earliest written records (oracle bones) represent the results of
divination rituals performed by Shang-dynasty rulers, while official and popular rites
were key facets of ancient Chinese society. During China's chaotic medieval era (3rd-
10th centuries), Buddhism and Taoism developed into China's main institutional
religions. The rapid socioeconomic development China periodically experienced
beginning in the 11th century was also accompanied by the expansion of local cults, and
their on-going interaction with the organized religions of Buddhism and Taoism.
Sectarian movements featuring millenarian doctrine also became increasingly prevalent
during these times of political and socioeconomic transition, as did sects performing
spirit-writing rituals. Morality books produced by both individuals and sects also gained
increasing popularity at that time. Even in the modern era, religion continues to play a
key role in the life of Han Chinese living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese
communities, and is in the process of regaining its influence in China itself.
Probably the oldest form of religious worship in Egypt was animal worship. Early
predynastic tribes venerated their own particular gods, who were usually embodied in a
particular animal. Sometimes a whole species of animal was sacred, as cats at Bubastis; at
other times only individual animals of certain types were worshiped, as the Apis bull at
Memphis. As Egyptian civilization advanced, deities were gradually humanized. Many
were represented with human bodies (although they retained animal heads) and other
human characteristics and attributes. The wolf Ophois became a god of war, and the ibis
Thoth became a patron of learning and the arts.
We do not know precisely how or why certain animals became associated with certain
gods. Moreover, the relationship between a god and his animal varied greatly. The god
Thoth was not only identified with the ibis, but also with the baboon and with the moon.
Occasionally a god was a composite of various animals, such as Taurt, who had the head
of a hippopotamus, the back and tail of a crocodile, and the claws of a lion.
Just as a god could represent various natural phenomena, so could a single phenomenon be
given different explanations. The ancient Egyptian conceived of the earth as a disk, with
the flat plains of Egypt as the center and the mountainous foreign lands as the rim
surrounding and supporting the disk. Below were the deep waters of the underworld, and
above was the plain of the sky. Several systems of cosmic deities arose to explain this
natural phenomenon. Some attributed the creation of the world to the ram-god Khnum,
who styled the universe on his potter’s wheel. Others said that creation was a spiritual and