Religions of China
Essays 1~3

There will be a 5-page (1500 word minimum) essay for each of the three main traditions covered in the course: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. Please note that you are required to use a minimum of five “academic” (i.e. peer-reviewed) sources and must provide appropriate citations for both direct and indirect quotations using “Chicago Style” footnotes and bibliography. If you have any doubts regarding what does or does not constitute plagiarism, please refer to the college’s plagiarism policy. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs.
Essay 1
The Unity/Diversity of Daoism
The term “Daoism” can be applied to a diverse group of traditions, including early texts (Neiye, Daodejing, and Zhuangzi) that emphasize the principle of wuwei and organized sects (Celestial Masters/Tianshidao, Supreme Clarity/Shangqing, Numinous Treasure/Lingbao, Orthodox Unity/Zhengyidao, and Complete Reality/Quanzhen) that focus on the pursuit of immortality through inner/outer alchemy and ritual. While some (such as H. G. Creel) have argued that these two approaches are so fundamentally different that they should be thought of as completely distinct traditions (i.e. “philosophical” vs. “religious” Daoism), others (such as Russell Kirkland, Ronnie Littlejohn, and Isabelle Robinet) emphasize their similarities, seeing them as organically connected traditions that share a common root.1 Based on the “folk novel” Seven Taoist Masters as well as the material that was covered in class and any additional research that is required, develop your own position on the relationship between the various strands of Daoist thought and practice.

1 For a summary of the debate, see Mario Poceski, Introducing Chinese Religions (London: Routledge, 2009), 61-3. For the individual positions listed above, see Herlee G. Creel, What is Taoism? And Other Studies in Chinese Cultural History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970), 1-24; Russell Kirkland, Taoism: The Enduring Tradition (New York: Routledge, 2004), 172-210; Ronnie Littlejohn, Daoism: An Introduction (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009), 1-5; and Isabelle Robinet, Taoism: Growth of a Religion, trans. Phyllis Brooks (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), 1-23.
Essay 2
Self Power/Other Power in Chinese Buddhism

Although numerous schools of Chinese Buddhism had developed by the end of the Tang dynasty (618-907), most sects were seriously weakened by the collapse of the Tang … with the exception of the Chan and Pure Land traditions, which gradually merged into a generic form of Buddhism that continues to represent mainstream Chinese Buddhism to this day. Ironically, Chan emphasizes “self power” (attaining awakening through one’s own efforts), whereas Pure Land advocates “other power” (attaining awakening through the power of buddhas and bodhisattvas) — two approaches that would appear to be mutually exclusive. Discuss the relationship between “self power” and “other power” in Chinese Buddhism and explain why these two paths can — or cannot — be harmoniously integrated into a coherent and comprehensive approach to Buddhism that is consistent with the teachings of the historical Buddha. Please note that your paper must include references to both Footprints in the Snow (the autobiography of Chan Master Sheng Yen) and your experience at Foguangshan (or another Chinese Buddhist temple).

Essay 3
Is Confucianism a Religion or a Philosophy?
As Mario Poceski notes in Introducing Chinese Religions, Confucianism is “a somewhat amorphous tradition that lacked many of the trappings and institutions of organized religion,” but also includes “many aspects…that are either explicitly or implicitly religious.”1 So are the teachings of Confucianism merely “philosophical” or do they represent a genuinely “religious” path of spiritual cultivation? Your essay should include a definition of religion (to help explain why Confucianism is or is not a religion), as well as references to Tu Weiming’s Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Confucian Religiousness. You may also wish to consider the significance of some or all of the following concepts: ren (humaneness), li (ritual propriety), Heaven, ancestor worship, self-cultivation, the Confucian sage, the Confucian temple, and the Confucian emphasis on establishing social, political and cosmic harmony.

1 Mario Poceski, Introducing Chinese Religions (London/New York: Routledge, 2009), 35-6.