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Religion and Philosophy The Chinese are not familiar with the concept of religion in a Western thought sense. For them it has more to do with school and teaching. Throughout Chinese history it is not possible to discern any contradiction between worldly and religious power. There have been no crusades, no schisms or reforms, no beliefs have ever been met with intolerance, a phenomenon that Marco Polo observed. But most striking is the fact that in Chinese thought there has never been that contradiction or conflict between the natural world and the supernatural which has had such a far-reaching effect on Western history. In Chinese philosophy and religion, earthly matters and metaphysics are two complementary aspects of the same universe. Evidence for this can be found in the presence of historical figures in the divine world and the reverence for spirits or gods in the real world. In contrast to Christianity, there is no transcendental god and no creator.

The mind is focused on maintaining natural harmony, as chaos in Natural nature brings catastrophes. Disturbing the natural equilibrium equilibrium releases feelings of apprehension and anxiety, unlike Western religions where the threat of punishment in the after-life exists. Quite apart from the differences between the various Chinese philosophies, it is easy to understand how this way of thinking has developed in a world which is shaped by the land, which is exposed to unpredictable natural catastrophes and the whims of the seasons and water, but which at the same time seeks to bring these elements of nature under control.

The foundations for this view of the world which sees the universe as a Cosmology number of elements which have to be kept in equilibrium seems to have emerged during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties (16th c-221 B.C.).

It is thought that the myths and beliefs of Bronze Age hunters provided the fundamental ideas to which Chinese philosophical and religious schools later returned. These beliefs were expressed in the form of Taoism and the dualism of Yin and Yang. Tao means The Way” and is concerned with the course of events and the principle of universal order.

Taoism comprises two major elements, the Yin and the Yang, which Yin and Yang represent the contradictory but complementary and indivisible nature of all phenomena.

Yin represents woman, night, shadow, moon, death and earth. Yang symbolises man, day, life, light, sun and sky.

From this philosophical standpoint, it is easy to see how Chinese religions have eschewed metaphysical issues; on the other hand a principal concern has been the structure of society and the role of the individual within it.

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