The Religions of China
Final Exam
 
Part I: Quiz-Style Questions
25x1=25 points
A combination of multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and other “quiz-style” questions that focus on significant points that were discussed in class and are featured on the course web pages during the second half of the course.
Part II: Identify & State the Significance
5x5=25 points
Identify and state the significance of 5 out of 8 themes from the second half of the course, all of which were thoroughly discussed in class and are prominently featured on the course web pages.
Part III: Essay Questions
2x25=50 points

Answer two of the following three essay questions:
 

1. Buddhism

During the Sui-Tang period Buddhism was undoubtedly the most powerful and influential religious and intellectual tradition in the Chinese empire. To a large degree Buddhism eclipsed Confucianism and Daoism, although the other two traditions also flourished during this period, which was marked by cultural openness and imaginative embrace of religious pluralism. The main schools of Chinese Buddhism surveyed in the next chapter were also formed during this era, representing the formation of uniquely Chinese systems of Buddhist philosophy and methods of spiritual praxis, which were accompanied by new forms of literature and art. These involved the formulation and wide diffusion of Buddhist beliefs, doctrines, practices, and institutions that were uniquely Chinese. In light of these developments, the Sui-Tang period is often recognized as the apogee of Buddhism in China, which coincided with the most glorious epoch of China’s long history. [Introducing Chinese Religions, 131-2]

Chan and Pure Land exemplify the development of “uniquely Chinese” approaches to Buddhism discussed in the passage above. Explain what is “uniquely Chinese” about each tradition, as well as the distinctive way that their doctrines and practices have been synthesized into a generic form of mainstream Buddhism over the past one thousand years.

2. Confucianism

We all, to a certain extent, practice the ordinary virtues of serving our parents, taking care of our children, or helping our friends. Few do all these things regularly and conscientiously. Still fewer try to integrate their daily lives with their quests for self-knowledge.  It is indeed rare to find those who act to establish long-lasting values by giving a general structure of meaning to their everyday activities. And it is almost impossible to imagine that a single person, by a strenuous process of self-realization in the context of ordinary human-relatedness, can creatively transform the existing world and formulate an ultimate order of existence which is powerful and pervasive enough to become a defining characteristic of human heritage. [Tu Wei-ming, Centrality and Commonality, 32]

How does this quote relate to Tu’s conception of the self as “the center of an ever-expanding network of relationships”? What do you think is the most distinctive feature of this approach to self-cultivation? How can this distinctive approach to self-cultivation contribute to a broader “interfaith” discussion of religious practice?

3. The Unity of the Three Teachings

Deliberate or conscious forms of syncretism, observable at different junctures in Chinese religious history, are especially well represented in the various attempts to highlight the unity or convergence of the three teachings. Within such interpretative schemes, the three main religious systems of China are deemed to be essentially alike, as conveyed by the popular notion of “unity of the three teachings” (sanjiao heyi) and its variations. The three teachings simply represent different modalities of an essential truth or reality, and in the final analysis they are subsumed into a larger organic unity. [Introducing Chinese Religions, 168]

Discuss the relationship between Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism in light of the above quotation. What unique perspective does each of the three teachings bring to the “larger organic unity” of which they are a part? What is the significance of the suggestion that “truth” or “reality” cannot be adequately expressed by any one of the three traditions on its own? Can this insight be applied to the plurality of religions that coexist in the world today? Why or why not?