Religion in Ancient China: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Leila Brollosy Pullum

Leila has taught a variety of elementary school grade levels over the last four years and has her master's degree in educational studies.

From Confucianism to Buddhism, China has a rich history of religious thought and practice stretching back thousands of years. This lesson will highlight the main concepts rooted in China's ancient philosophies and explain their ideas further.

A Variety of Religions

Ancient China had three major faith systems influence its culture and history: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Those three religions had a lasting impact on China and the greater world. Let's look at those religions and examine some of the similarities and differences.

Confucianism

'Treat others the way you want to be treated' is a phrase most children hear growing up. This is actually an idea rooted in Confucian principles. This way of life existed in ancient China for thousands of years but was not fully developed or named until 550 B.C. Confucius was the founder of this religion, which later became known as Confucianism. Confucius sought to preserve the ancient cultural traditions that established ways people should behave and treat one other.

The family, the school and the government were all parts of the community that commanded a certain type of respect and order. The most important idea Confucius left behind was called filial piety, which means respecting one's parents, elders and ancestors. This idea is still ingrained in Chinese culture.

A portrait of Chinese philosopher, Confucius
Confucius_Portrait

Taoism

Ever hear of the Yin and Yang? You may have seen this unique design on a button or a piece of jewelry, but it has a much deeper meaning.

The Yin-Yang symbol is a part of an ancient Chinese philosophy called Taoism. This philosophy, or way of thinking, was established by Lao Tzu around the same time as Confucianism. Unlike Confucianism, Taoists do not believe in following a lot of rules. Instead, they believe that balance exists in the world through natural forces. For example, good must have evil, and light must have dark. Taoists believe every person has these balancing forces within them. This is what the Yin-Yang symbol represents.

The Yin Yang symbol represents the balancing forces of nature in Taoist philosophy
Yin Yang

Buddhism

A prince named Buddha founded Buddhism in 624 B.C in Nepal, a country which used to be a part of India. As an adult, Buddha retreated to a life in the forest where he meditated and wanted to teach people to live a more peaceful life. Buddhism eventually spread to China, where the practice was called Zen Buddhism.

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