Chinese Religious Life Chapter 7 Analysis

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Robert Weller, in chapter 7 of “Chinese Religious Life,” notes that the Chinese word tian was once translated as “heaven,” but is now more commonly translated as nature. The Chinese conception of nature is unparalleled in the English language, as it encompasses “all the forces that shape the cosmos” (Weller, 125). Further, he explains that this term implicates that humans are a part of nature because humans play an integral role in the “anthropocosmic world,” a world in which the heavens and humanity are united (Weller, 125). He continues to define the Chinese concept of qi, the cosmic energy which shapes everything: mountains, streams, plants, animals, and humans. It is the combination of these beliefs in the unity of all things in the cosmos …show more content…
The Mandate of Heaven is a concept created by the Zhou, invaders of the Shang empire in 1122 BCE. After defeating the Shang kings, the Zhou needed to legitimize their power and did so by claiming that “the supreme Lord—whom they called Tian (meaning “Heaven”)—was so angry with the immoral conduct of the Shang kings, who were oppressing the people, that he had revoked their right to rule (called the “Mandate of Heaven”) and transferred it to the Zhou” (Palmer, 158). It was believed that if rulers did not exhibit virtue, “floods, famines, and earthquakes would occur, the people would become restless, the Mandate of Heaven would be lost, and the dynasty would collapse” (Palmer, 158). The concept of the Mandate of Heaven united humans, gods, and nature in a dialogue. Kings attempted to appease nature through acts of virtue and nature responded to these acts. This dialogue was seen as efficacious and thus continued to be respected. Unlike in the West where nature was seen as something to be conquered and tamed by humans, the Chinese understood nature to be in conversation with humans and to play a critical role in the political

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