Remember in sociology class, professor Moorhead showed us the statistics about the “Percentage of National Populations That Rated the Importance of God in Their Lives as ‘10’”. Japan only has 5 percentages of people that regard them as devout believers. This kind of situation can also be found in China. Congregations are regard as minority. But in New Year Eve, I got a chance went to kitano-tenmangu (北野天満宮) where most people would go to pray and ballot to see their fortune in next year. This kind of situation also happens in China, people would like wait in line for 5 hours and also have to pay large amount of money to get the first chance to knock the bell. This makes me think which god are we pray for? Are we really atheist?
In imperial era, Buddhism is very popular in China. Buddhist ideology began to merge with Confucianism and Daoism, even in Yuan Dynasty, emperors made Esoteric Buddhism an official religion of China. Even in some fictions, people would add some Buddha or immortal who behalf justice and also have the special ability to help people overcome problems. But in today’s society, people would find that they don’t know what to trust, some people in China call this phenomenon “belief lost”. I also read an article which was written by a Tibetan whose fellows was self-immolated in order to aware Chinese government not to put them under martial law and with soldiers everywhere. They use self-buring this kind of abusive way to show their loyalty to their belief. The author also mentioned that it is kind of loyalty that we cannot understand.
Why people in China and some other East Asia countries do not have such belief or religion? I think one of reasons might be too many theories existed in China. During the period of A.D.770—A.D.221, it was the war time while hundreds of theories came out, such as Confucianism, Taoism and so on. And god existed in everywhere, the tree, the river, the land. There are so many gods that we can choose to believe, but we cannot be devout believe in one god like western. Also, Chinese do not have a whole theory that teach people how to behave in daily life, only in emergency or nervous situation, they would pray for Buddha as a kind of implication to be relax. Because of these reasons, people in East Asia would have the phenomenon that we do not have explicit belief but still will go to temple to pray.
by Chen Siyuan