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riety of forms, often with just two arms, but sometimes also in a multi-armed form (as at the P¨3n¨ang Temple in Ch¨|ngd¨|;.
The 11-faced Guanyin, the fierce horse-head Guanyin, the Songzi Guanyin (literally ??Offering Son Guanyin?ˉ) and the Dripping Water Guanyin are just some of her myriad manifestations.
She was also a favourite subject for d¨|hu¨¤ (white-glazed porcelain) figures, which are typically very elegant.
Taoism A home-grown philosophy-cum-religion, Taoism is also perhaps the hardest of all China?ˉs faiths to grasp.
Controversial, paradoxical, and ¨C like the Tao itself ¨C impossible to pin down, it is a natural counterpoint to rigid Confucianist order and responsibility.
The Chinese verb for ??to know?ˉ is zh¨?d¨¤o ( ?aμà ), literally ??know the dao ?ˉ or ??to know the way?ˉ, indicating a possible Taoist etymology.
Taoism predates Buddhism in China and much of its religious culture connects to a distant animism and shamanism, despite the purity of its philosophical school.
In its earliest and simplest form, Taoism draws from The Classic of the Way and its Power (Taote Jing; D¨¤od¨| J¨?ng), penned by the sagacious Laotzu (Laozi; c 580¨C500 BC) who left his writings with the gatekeeper of a pass as he headed west on the back of an ox.
Some Chinese believe his wanderings took him to a distant land in the west where he became Buddha.
The Classic of the Way and its Power is a work of astonishing insight and sublime beauty.
Devoid of a god-like being or deity, Laotzu?ˉs writings instead endeavour to address the unknowable and indescribable principle of the universe which he calls Dao ( d¨¤o; μà ), or ??the Way?ˉ.
This way is the way or method by which the universe operates, so it can be understood to be a universal or cosmic principle.
The opening lines of The Classic of the Way and its Power confess, however, that the treatise may fail in its task: μà?éμà·?3£μà , ???é??·?3£?? ; ??The way that can be spoken of is not the real way, the name that can be named is not the true name?ˉ.
Despite this disclaimer, the 5000-character book, completed in terse classical Chinese, somehow communicates the nebulous power and authority of ??the Way?ˉ.
The book remains the seminal text of Taoism, and Taoist purists see little need to look beyond its revelations.
One of Taoism?ˉs most beguiling precepts, w¨2w¨|i (inaction) cham pions the allowing of things to naturally occur without interference.
The principle is enthusiastically pursued by students of Taiji Quan, Wuji Quan and other soft martial arts (Click here ) who seek to equal nothingness in their bid to lead an opponent to defeat himself.
Confucianism The very core of Chinese society for the past two millennia, Confucianism (R¨2ji¨? S¨?xi¨£ng) is a humanist philosophy that strives for social harmony and the common good.
In China, its influence can be seen in everything from the emphasis on education and respect for elders to the patriarchal role of the government.
The Qin emperor Qinshi Huangdi ordered an infamous burning of Confucian writings and buried Confucians scholars alive.
Confucianism is based upon the teachings of Confucius (K¨ˉngz¨?;), a 6th-century-BC philosopher who lived during a period of constant warfare and social upheaval.
While Confucianism changed considerably throughout the centuries, some of the principal ideas remained the same ¨C namely an emphasis on five basic hierarchical relationships: father-son, ruler-subject, husband-wife, elder-younger, and friend- friend.
Confucius believed that if each individual carried out his or her proper role in society (ie, a son served his father respectfully while a father provided for his son, a subject served his ruler respectfully while a ruler provided for his subject, and so on) social order would be achieved.
Confucius?ˉ disciples later gathered his ideas in the form of short aphorisms and conversations, forming the work known as The Analects (L¨2ny¨3).
Early Confucian philosophy was further developed by Mencius (M¨¨ngz¨?) and Xunzi, both of whom provided a theoretical and practical foundation for many of Confucius?ˉ moral concepts.
In the 2nd century BC, Confucianism became the official ideology of the Han dynasty, thereby gaining mainstream acceptance for the first time.
This was of major importance and resulted in the formation of an educated elite that served both the government as bureaucrats and the common people as exemplars of moral action.
During the rule of the Tang dynasty an official examination system was created, which, in theory, made the imperial government a true meritocracy.
However, this also contributed to an ossification of Confucianism, as the ideology grew increasingly mired in the weight of its own tradition, focusing exclusively on a core set of texts.
Nonetheless, influential figures sporadically reinterpreted the philosophy ¨C in particular Zhu Xi (1130¨C1200) who brought in elements of Buddhism and Taoism to create Neo Confucianism (L¨?xu¨| or D¨¤oxu¨|) ¨C and it remained a dominant social force up until the 1911 Revolution toppled the imperial bureaucracy.
In the 20th century, intellectuals decried Confucian thought as an obstacle to modernisation and Mao further levelled the sage in his denunciation of ??the Four Olds?ˉ.
But feudal faults notwithstanding, Confucius?ˉ call for social harmony has again resurfaced in government propaganda.
Christianity The explosion of interest in Christianity in China over recent years is unprecedented except for the wholesale conversions that accompanied the tumultuous rebellion of the pseudo-Christian Taiping in the 19th century.
That Chinese Christians made up a considerable proportion of the volunteers helping with relief efforts after the huge S¨?chu¨?n earthquake of May 2008 indicates the increasing penetration of the religion into modern Chinese society.
Believing he was the son of God and brother of Jesus Christ, Hakka rebel Hong Xiuquan led the bloody and tumultuous pseudo-Christian Taiping Rebellion against the Qing dynasty from 1856 to 1864.
Christianity first arrived in China with the Nestorians, a sect from ancient Persia that spilt with the Byzantine Church in 431 AD, who arrived in China via the Silk Road in the 7th century.
A celebrated tablet in X¨??ˉ¨?n records their arrival.
Much later, in the 16th century, the Jesuits arrived and were popular figures at the imperial court, although they made few converts.
Large numbers of Catholic and Protestant missionaries established themselves in the 19th century, but left after the establishment of the PRC in 1949.
Christianity is perhaps uniquely placed to expand in China today due to its industrious work ethic, associations with first-world nations, its emphasis on human rights and charitable work.
Some estimates point to as many as 100 million Christians in China.
However, the exact population is hard to calculate as many groups ¨C outside the four official Christian organisations ¨C lead a strict underground existence (in what are called ??house churches?ˉ) out of fear of a political clampdown.
In 2003, former B¨§ij¨?ng bureau chief of Time magazine David Aikman wrote Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power , in which he predicts almost one third of Chinese turning to Christianity within 30 years.
Islam Islam (Y¨?s¨?l¨¢n Ji¨¤o) in China dates to the 7th century, when it was
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