Death in China, and Durkheim

Topics: Religion, Faith, Sociology Pages: 2 (730 words) Published: April 28, 2013
Ancestral worship in China, and Durkheim
Ancient Chinese and Japanese tradition believes in the veneration of the dead, where they are honored and worshiped. Ancestral worship plays a vital role in home life, as a shrine dedicated to the dead is created in house. It is considered to be the oldest surviving Chinese tradition that still exists. Dating back to Confucius and his idea of filial piety, it seems that the tradition has become less of a religious practice, transforming into a cultural custom. The concept of filial piety is one that transcends a relationship between people (mostly family members) from one that is present in the physical world, into one that is present even after death. In ancient Chinese history, ancestral worship persisted through the various dynasties that followed. With the introduction of Daoism, and eventually Buddhism, the tradition persisted, present even today. Practiced not only by Confucians and Taoists, but most people from almost every faith, the ritual has proved to be a mobile institution in the culture and society of the Chinese. It is easy to see a connection between the Durkheim’s theory on religious life and its social origin, and its relation to the mobility of this ancient tradition, as well as its transcendence into other religions. His theory states that religion stems from social origins; that religion acts as a practice to give people solidarity and identity. Although not specifically talking about the place of traditions in certain religions, it seems to me that this theory can also be broadened to include traditions as well. With the addition of ancestral worship to the newer religions that sparked in China, the systematic introduction of this custom became almost fundamental, as there is a clear connection between this tradition and its people. The importance of the tradition suggests that this specifically was also a source of solidarity and identity for the people. The fact that this tradition can pass on...
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