Chinese body, mind and spirit

Updated 31 August 2011

Regardless of whether China is more practical, materialistic and down to earth than India or India is more philosophical, religious and transcendental than China, both have a long tradition of religions and philosophies.

Chinese religions, philosophies and healthcare

Just because the Chinese are materialistic and pragmatic does not mean they are not also interested in the spiritual.

The Tao Te Ching begins with:
“The Way that can be spoken is not the eternal Way
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things.”
It is the text of Taoism which is more of a philosophy than a religion. As illustrated by the quotation Lao Tzu, the purported author of the Tao Te Ching, specifically talked about the ineffable nature of creation but never talked about deities.Nevertheless, the Chinese ended up deifying and absorbing all kinds of existing deities into the Tao pantheon.

Confucianism is even more of a philosophy and code of conduct than a religion. The old Chinese civil service exams
were based on understanding the Analects attributed to Confucius (Kongzi). Many other SE Asian countries including Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and to a degree Japan seem to have adopted a Confucian outlook.

Again, the Chinese ended up deifying Confucius himself! There seems to be a need for people to believe in something they can visualise and an ‘ineffable being’ or, worse, a mere philosophy is not enough!

Finally, two snippets:
*   The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had for decades been anti-Confucius, seeing his works as backward and blaming his philosophy of convention and conservatism for holding China back. Since 2007, no more. The CCP gave its blessing honouring him on his 2,557th birthday. It was not lip service, as China has now opened c250 Confucius Institutes around the world including ten in the UK.

*   The best estimate of number of Christians range between 40 and 100 million which averages around 70m, in the same region as registered CCP members (c80 million)! In times gone by, some cynical Chinese would accuse Christian converts of being ‘rice Christians‘, viz they converted to be fed by the missionaries. But no more. Now it is truly an act of faith to declare one’s Christianity.
When interviewed, some young, affluent, new party members will admit privately that it is not dogma that made them join, but rather better prospects. The party makes efforts to enrol the top 1 to 5% of high school leavers and graduates. They believe that if the crème de la crème become members, the rest will follow in spirit if not in fact.

Treating body, mind and spirit a la Chinoise Although the Chinese are not as religious as the Indians, they have tai chi and the related chi kung, a form of meditation not dissimilar to the Indian pranayama, special breathing technique to integrate body, mind and spirit. And of course there is Kung Fu.

For treating the body there are acupunctureand Chinese herbal medicine. The downside of some of the Chinese treatment is the suffering of animals, such as the brown bear for its bile; or endangered species, such as the tiger for its paws or other parts.

There is the I Ching, or Book of Changes, the most widely read of the five Chinese Classics. The book was written by the legendary Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (2,953-2,838 BCE). It is possible that the I Ching originated from a prehistoric divination technique which dates back as far as 5,000 BCE. It is used to answer your questions and to predict the future.

Then there is Feng Shui – the art of geomancing where the alignment of a building or the doors, windows and furniture in a room will be good or bad for the occupants.

Many believe in numerology. So it was no accident that the Beijing Olympics opened at 8:08:08 p.m. CST on 08/08/08 – 8 being a lucky number, sounding like the word for prosperity. And 2009 turned out to be better for China than for most other countries! By the way 4 is extremely unlucky as it sounds like the word for death. So, never, ever, invite your Chinese guests to tea at 4pm on the 4th of April!


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