Religion in Ancient China and Egypt

Topics: Ancient Egypt, Egypt, God Pages: 7 (1573 words) Published: October 15, 2014
Dixon 1
Daniel Dixon
Dr. Campbell
History 114

Religion in Ancient China and Egypt
Religion has played a very important role in society and the history of mankind for over thousands of years. Originally created by ancient peoples as a way to explain the unknown, religion has greatly evolved and spread across the globe. As new religions have formed and spread, the diversity and similarities between these new religions have also increased, especially due to their geographic locations. Two civilizations in particular with both similar and distinct religions are ancient China, and ancient Egypt. Ancient Chinese religion and ancient Egyptian religion share many things in common with each other, yet at the same time they are also vastly from one another. Even though there are similarities between many of their gods, beliefs, ideas, and practices, the differences between the two religions helps clearly separate one from the other, and also helps identify their origins.

In ancient Egypt, people were constantly faced against natural disasters, famines, droughts, and plenty of other natural phenomena. Without an explanation for all of these events, ancient Egyptians had to create an explanation of their own, and by doing so ended up creating their own religion. By creating a religion, these ancient Egyptians were able to provide explanations to each other for these natural phenomena by making them appear as if they were actions of the gods. In ancient Egypt, religion became a tool to help the Egyptians go about their daily lives without having to worry about disaster striking all the time. The Egyptians began to believe that if they honored the gods correctly everything would be fine and nothing would go badly for them. One key part of the ancient Egyptian Dixon 2

religion was called maat, which was the order of the universe created by the gods at the start of time. Maat was crucial to the daily life of the Egyptians, and consisted of ideas about truth, justice, and moderation. The Egyptians were polytheistic, and believed in hundreds of different gods. Of these gods some were lesser and not as important while others were more important and powerful. The king of the Egyptian gods was called Amen-Re. He was accredited for all military victories, and was one of the most powerful gods. Another very important god in ancient Egyptian religion was Aten the minor sun god. At one point Aten was decreed the only god in Egypt by the pharaoh Akenhaten and was to be the only god worshipped, however, after his death Egypt returned to worshipping all of its old gods. A few other gods that were important to Egyptian religion were Osiris; the god of fertility and the underworld, Isis; the goddess of funerals, Anubis; the god of embalming and burial, and Thoth; the god of wisdom and learning. Along with gods, another important part of ancient Egyptian religion was burial rituals. Burial rituals held a lot of significance to the ancient Egyptians because they believed that their buildings, prayers, and burial ceremonies were designed to reflect and keep the status of the dead person in their next life.

Just like the people of ancient Egypt, the people of ancient China also used religion as a way to explain the unknown and natural phenomena that they encountered. People in the Shang Dynasty worshipped many different types of gods as well including weather gods, sky gods, and river gods, however the most powerful god was Shang-Ti. Shang-Ti was the supreme god who ruled over all of the other gods. Similar to Shang-Ti was T’ien, which translates to “Heaven”, who also ruled over the other gods, but T’ien also decided who would be the emperor or empress of China by giving them the Mandate of Heaven. The Mandate of Heaven was the right to rule granted to the emperor or empress from the gods, Dixon 3

and it was believed that whenever an emperor or empress lost power it was because T’ien had revoked the Mandate of Heaven. While...

Bibliography: Bellah, Robert N. Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2011. Print.
Pu, Muzhou. In Search of Personal Welfare: A View of Ancient Chinese Religion. Albany: State University of New York, 1998. Print.
Teeter, Emily. Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.
"An Introduction to the History and Culture of Pharaonic Egypt." Ancient Egypt: An Introduction to Its History and Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
"Egypt 's Golden Empire. New Kingdom. Religion." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
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