A very Concise Introduction

НазваниеA very Concise Introduction
Дата конвертации19.04.2013
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dhimmi and given special rights (toleration and the ability to chose their own religious leaders), special obligations (taxes), and restrictions (illegal for Hindus to proselytize Muslims). The Sultanate simply didn’t have the slave power to control the Empire.

The conquest of India by Turko-Afghani Muslims did not make the Indian subcontinent immune from invasion. In 1398 and 1399 the Mongol Turk Tamerlane sacked India. In the 1500s Baber raided and then invaded and conquered the subcontinent establishing the Mogul or Mughal Empire. The Moguls like the Delhi Sultanate was Muslim. Baber and his son and successor Humayun (r. 1530-1556) wre flexible religiously moving back and forth between Sunni and Shi’a Islam depending on whether Sunni Afghanistan or Shi’a Persia was the dominant powers in the region.

The successor to Humayun, Akbar (1556-1605) managed to conquer the rest of the Indian subcontinent for the Moguls. Akbar practiced religious toleration. Hinduism flourished and Christian missionaries were allowed to enter India. A later ruler, Aurangzeb (r.1658-1707), did not tolerate religious diversity, however. Aurangzeb, who adopted Sunni Islam, oppressed Shi’a Islam, and all forms of Hinduism. Hindus responded by forming secret organizations to combat the Mughul rulers via guerilla warfare.

It was during the reign of the intolerant Aurangzeb that Hinduism experienced a revival. The Hindu revival was mystical and ignored distinctions of caste. For this reason Muslim success at converting Hindus to Islam was limited. Thanks, in part, to the Hindu revival movement Hindus continued to dominate the Indian subcontinent constituting some 75% of the subcontinent.

Moghul rule in India not only saw a Hindu revival. It saw the rise of a new religion, Sikhism. For some scholars Sikhism was a sectarian religion that developed solely out of Hinduism. For others the Sikh faith was a new religion that integrated some aspects of Hinduism with some aspects of Islam. The Sikh faith was founded by Nanak (1469-1539). Nanak argued that god was one, that god was gracious and generous, that all humanity was one, that the faithful needed to engage in charitable works, and that god offered salvation to humanity if they followed the revelations he gave through his gurus. Sikhs practiced nonviolence until Muslim intolerance of the Sikh religion in 1608 turned Sikhs into militants.

The triumph of the East India Company and Great Britain over Muslim and Hindu rulers in the Indian subcontinent in the 1800s, a rule that would last until 1947, took some of the pressure off of India’s religions including Hinduism. More than anything else India’s winning of independence in 1947 would change Hinduism as Hindu revivalism with its Hindu nationalism would come to play an important role in India and in Indian political culture particularly in the 1970s and after and led to increasing tensions between Hindus and Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, and Hindus and Christians in India. Today Hindus make up about 14% of the world’s population. Most Hindus reside in India. There are about 25 million Sikhs in the world. While most Sikhs continue to reside in India the US, UK, and Canada have experienced a rise in Sikhism thanks mostly to immigration. There are around 4 million Jains in the world today most of them in India though some now reside in the US, Canada, and the UK again as a result of immigration.


Religion, or what we might call religion—the term religion is, as we know, a Latin term that arose to to describe Roman Catholic religion—developed very early in Chinese history. Chinese religion originally served as a prop for the Chinese ruling elite. By the Zhou Dynasty (770 BCE-221 BCE) emperors were claiming that they were the sons of heaven and that they ruled with the mandate of heaven. All of this, of course, is right up Karl Marx’s alley.

Chinese “religion” went beyond the imperial cult. Ancestor worship, belief in an afterlife, and very early on even human sacrifice were part of Chinese religious culture, particularly popular Chinese religious culture. Most Chinese believed that it was heaven that controlled the forces of nature and human action. And, as the early development of Chinese ancestor worship indicates, family and the extended family were central to Chinese culture.

Philosophy was also very important in China very early on. Chinese philosophy was an intellectual movement and often addressed issues of politics and current problems. Important philosophical figures in China include Kong Zi (Confucius, 551 BCE-479 BCE), Meng Zi (Mencius, 372-289 BCE), a disciple of Kong Zi, Lao Zi (Lao Tzu), real or imagined founder of Daoism, and Han Fei Zi (280 BCE-233 BCE), the father of Chinese legal philosophy. All four of the early great philosophers of China, Kong Zi, Meng Zi, and Lao Zi, wrote during a period of political chaos in the Middle Kingdom. Each offered directives on how to restore Chinese order out of the Chinese chaos of the Warring States period (475 BCE-221 BCE). Kong Zi, beginning from a perspective that believed the ruler had the mandate of heaven, emphasized the mutual obligations between ruler and ruled, elders and the young, fathers and sons. Meng Zi concurred with Kong Zi but argued that rulers who failed in their obligations to the ruled could be overthrown. Lao Zi, grounding his perspective on the notion that the Dao or the Way which was dialectical, yin-yang, in form, argued that if a ruler did nothing everything would follow its natural cosmic course. Han Fei Zi urged rulers to make laws to enhance their power but also believed that laws should be applied equally to all Chinese regardless of social status.

As with religion the philosophies of China often had links to Chinese political culture and its elites and it generally justified the hierarchical order of Chinese society. Though Confucianism was made the state ideology Daoism, Legalism, and eventually Buddhism, an import from India that became arrived in China between 200 BCE and 100 BCE and became important, each contributed to the “functioning” of Chinese political culture.

As in so many horticultural and agricultural societies China was a hierarchical society with elites (Kings, Aristocrats) at the top and commoners and slaves at the bottom. As horticulture and agriculture developed the Chinese emperor, like the rulers of Mesopotamia and Egypt, were due surpluses from the harvest by divine right. As imperial and aristocratic wealth grew so did imperial and aristocratic armies loyal to the emperor and the lords. Over time the power of the emperor grew and Chinese political culture was centralized and trained Confucian civil servants and eunuchs arose to staff the imperial bureaucracy. Eventually tensions between civil servants, eunuchs, those surrounding the Dowager Empress, and military leaders arose and became commonplace in Imperial China.

In the middle of the 13th century China came under Mongol rule. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) founded by the humble born Ming Taizu (1328-1398) with its capital in Nanjing revived Chinese institutions and Chinese culture after years of Mongol rule in the fourteenth century. The Ming instituted land reforms and in the process reinvigorated Chinese agriculture, in particular silk and cotton agriculture along the lower Chanjiang River. The Ming also reinvigorated Chinese commerce and introduced a silver currency to the Middle Kingdom. Ming Taizu also instituted the “terror” in China allowing his secret police to frame, torture, and kill anyone he believed to be a threat to his power.

Ming China not only saw a revival in Chinese institutions, agriculture, and commerce. It also saw a revival of Confucianism. During the Ming era a new type of Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism as scholars call it, arose. Founded by Wang Yang Ming (1492-1529) Neo-Confucianism placed an emphasis on introspection rather than the Confucian classics as a means to acquire knowledge of the truth. Conservative Confucians with their emphasis on the Chinese classics and ritual argued that Neo-Confucianism was anti-intellectual, and, in truth, there were anti-intellectual elements in Neo-Confucianism.

China, like many other parts of the world, was impacted by Muslim colonization and imperialism and by Western colonization and imperialism. Along with Western militaries and rulers came Western Christianity. Christianity would only have limited success in China. Chinese religion would prove to be less important in resistance to Western colonization and imperialism than politics, specifically Chinese Communism. Mao and other communists would eventually play an important role in pushing the West out of China and would eventually defeat the Chinese nationalists who fled to Taiwan becoming the rulers of a China free of Western imperialism for the first time in around a hundred years.

Chinese communism like Russian communism and the French revolution before it, would be, at least officially, secular and anti-religious. Though they tried China’s communists were not eliminate Chinese popular religion, Confucianism, Taoism, or Buddhism from the Middle Kingdom. They would send them instead underground. One can and many have argued, by the way, that Chinese communism incorporated much Confucian ideology into Chinese communist ideology. Today there are some 400 million, perhaps even some 1 billion followers of Chinese popular religion, Confucianism, and Taoism

Buddhism and Shintoism

There are several major strains of Buddhism, all of which are united by the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. There is Therevada Buddhism, the Buddhism that preserves the Buddha’s teachings in the Buddha’s own Pali language and which became significant and prominent in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. There is Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddhism that follows the Buddha’s teachings in the Sanskrit Lotus Sutra, Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, and the Pure Land Sutras and which is significant and prominent in East Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. And there is Vajrayana Buddhism, the Buddhism of the Diamond Vehicle and Tantra, the Buddhism of meditation, visualization, the chanting of mantras, much ritual, and boddisatvas (those who have reached enlightenment but who remain on earth to help others in their quest for enlightenment) and which is prominent in Tibet and Mongolia. Buddhism remains an important great world religion scene today. Currently Buddhism is significant in China, Japan, and South Asia and has an increasing presence in the West. There are around 380 million Buddhists in the world today.

Another religion, Shintoism, the nationalist religion of Japan with its nature gods and respect for the ancestors and which was made the state religion of the newly modernized Japanese nation in the 19th century, Japan’s response to Western imperialism, remains important in Japanese life. Contemporary Shintoism centres around public shrines such as war memorials, harvest festivals, and historical monuments, and various organizations. There are around 4 million Shinto in the world today, most of them in Japan.


China and its Meaning Systems

Chinese Religion, Taoism




Religions of the World: Hinduism






Story of God, BBC

excerpts from Hinduism section



Ramayan, DoorDarshan, 1987-1988, religious epic adapted from the Ramayana

Excerpts from episode 1





the show drew around 100 million viewers per episode

Mahabharat, DoorDarshan, 1988-1990, religious epic adapted from the Mahabharata

Excerpts from episode 1



Buddhism Digital Library


The Ancient Hebrew Religion and Judaism

Nova, “The Bible’s Buried Secrets”



Talking History: The Uses and Abuses of the Hebrew Bible, 27 October (Real Media)


Saint-Saens, “Samson et Dalila”, 1877, excerpts



First Century CE Judaism

Early Christianity

Talking History: Jesus, 22 December (Real Media)


Talking History: Jesus the Apocalyptic, 20 December (Real Media)


Talking History: The Death of Jesus, 30 March (Real Media)


Byzantine Christianity

Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia Reconstruction


Byzantine Music






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