Religion in Ancient China

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The earliest information found about religion in ancient China is during the Shang Dynasty and so religion in the Xia dynasty remains unknown. Religious beliefs and rituals were prominent during the Shang Dynasty. The most significant deity was Shang Ti, Ti meaning ‘Deity Above’ or the ‘Lord on High’. He ruled as a supreme god over all the other gods and spirits. The gods and spirits were believed to symbolize objects found in nature; the sun, the moon, the wind, the rain, everything from mountains and rivers to the stars in the night sky. Ti is believed to have punished those who disobeyed or offended him and rewarded those who pleased him. It is said that Ti formed a noble court in heaven consisting of all deceased worthy ancestors. The Chinese’s belief in family harmony was associated to belief in the afterlife. The ancestors who were considered commendable served Ti, helping him govern the world. Ancestors were also worshipped and were said to act a mediators between the gods and humankind. It was thought that if ancestors were appropriately honoured, respected, and provided for, they would promote the family's prosperity. A favour or grievance to a member of the family was considered a favour or grievance to the ancestors; consequently, people were reluctant to offense or harm descendants of a powerful family. It was believed that in the afterlife they would live in a celestial court in many ways similar to their earthly courts. Each Chinese family was expected to have an ancestral shrine in the centre of their home to honour and venerate their ancestors. Sacrifice to the gods and the ancestors were also a major part of the Shang religion. When a ruler died, slaves and officials were sacrificed with them in order to guarantee that their afterlife would be the same or similar as their life on earth. People were also sacrificed in smaller numbers when significant events, such as the founding of a palace or temple, took place. Along with their...
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