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The Difference of Core Values, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1170

Essay

In the human history, various civilizations appeared and ceased to exist. The way they evolved, how they led their lives, what they believed in remained the subject of history and culture studies specialists to explore. In this regard, the crucial question is what influenced the development of a certain civilization and their religious beliefs, how they were similar with other civilizations and why. The aim of this paper to compare and contrast religious beliefs of the Ancient India to 300 C.E. and Classic period of Ancient China to 221 B.C.E. First of all, the way each civilization has developed its religious characteristics are outlined. Then, the similarities are demonstrated, and differences explained.

In various civilizations, religious features were conditioned by the correlation of geographical, socio-political factors of their society. In the case of Indian civilization, religious beliefs were characterized by anthropomorphism and worshiping of gods in this life (Sen 1999, 76). Although people believed in gods and worshipped them in order to gain certain favors in this life, the core factor in the formation of Brahmanism and its core concept of reincarnation and karma was strict social stratification that divided society and role people could play in it (Sen 1999, 65). The social division system was functional for the society’s survival since everyone knew what he was meant to do in that society which helped in fighting wars and supporting the power of the local kings. The main function of Brahmanism was to strengthen the power of the king; that is why kings were perceived as gods. This belief also was functional in preserving order in the society since people obeyed what was given to them by destiny and hoped that in the next life they will be reborn in different social class (Sen 1999, 74). Thus, the main condition for the establishment of his belief was socio-political necessity of preserving order and king’s control.

In the case of the Ancient China, the main factors influencing the establishment of certain religious features combined human dependence on the nature in survival, the necessity to believe in the afterlife and the kings’ necessity to strengthen their power. In order to strengthen the power of the elite and stimulate the cohesion in Chinese society, the cult of ancestors was encouraged during the Shang dynasty (Leowe and Shaghnessy 1999, 42).The connection of ancestors made people remember who they were in the social structure and preserved their obedience. The belief that kings were becoming deities in the afterlife also served this purpose. The nature-centered approach to deities was adopted during the Zhou dynasty and was conditioned by agriculture-oriented world perception (Leowe and Shaghnessy 1999, 47). Thus, the factors are similar to the case of the Ancient India.

In terms of comparison, two religious beliefs are characterized by polytheism and anthropomorphism of their primary deities, which can be explained by the advanced stage of civilizational development which was far from the original shamanic and tribal period, where events of nature were explained by nature (Trigger 2003, 112). At this stage of civilizational development, socio-political factors had more impact on religious characteristics than nature itself; although in Chinese case is was more dominant than in the Ancient India. In both cultures, rulers were perceived as gods or possessing a divine nature of their origin and purpose in social life, which again confirms the previous statement (Trigger 2003, 115). In both cultures people were gaining more power in terms of divine matters, heroes or ancestors could intervene into gods’ will and try to help ordinary people. Thus, in both religious beliefs, human power was beginning to demonstrate itself in deeds of this life and the afterlife. However, it did not mean that it always managed to help the person in need; it only served as hope for people who were seeking help from above (Trigger 2003, 116).

On the other hand, two civilizations had more differences than similarities. In terms of role of the highest mediator between gods and people, Indian culture had the entirely separate and privileged class of priests, while in the Chinese culture the king was the highest priest in this life and the deity in the next (Trigger 2003, 97). Thus, the connection between power in his life and the next was more direct in the Ancient China. In terms of perception of the afterlife, Brahmanism argued that there is a continuous cycle of reincarnation, which depends on the nature of deeds in this life called karma. Thus, there is no traditional afterlife as it is perceived by other cultures but constant reincarnation until the state of nirvana or complete peace is achieved (Sen 1999, 73). On the other hand, the Ancient Chinese believed in afterlife, the place where dead spirits could go and find relief. They did not believe in reincarnation but in the punishment from the dead for the sins of the living (Leowe and Shaghnessy 1999, 58). Thus, the perception of the afterlife is another crucial difference.

Another criterion of comparison is that Indian culture was based mainly on human sacrifices and various aspects of normal year cycle required sacrifices from within the society (Sen 1999, 69). On the other hand, although in various occasions human sacrifices were conducted in the Ancient China they were mainly of conquered enemies and not form within the community (Trigger 2003, 134). Another distinctive feature between two civilizations, which is derived from the difference of their beliefs in the afterlife, is the treatment of their dead. In this regard, believing that the dead are to return into the cycle of reincarnation and their remnants should be back into the cycle of life, the dead were burned on burial fires in the Ancient India (Sen 1999, 53). On the other hand, in the Chinese civilization, according to ancestral cult and belief in the afterlife their dead were buried in the ground (Trigger 2003, 127). Just like in Egyptian religious belief, the kings were buried in their tombs with all their wealth which they would need in their afterlife. In the case of infants dying young, one of the practices in the Ancient China was to bury their bodies in the floor of the houses so that they could be closer to their parents (Leowe and Shaghnessy 1999, 62).

Overall, from all mentioned above, it can be concluded that although both cultures were influenced by the same factors of socio-political necessity of establishing and securing power of the king and social stratification, Indian and Chinese civilization differed in their religious implementation of this necessity. This was conditioned by different principles that were in the heart of each religious belief. In India, it was the system of reincarnation conditioned by the strict varna system. In China, it was the cult on ancestors and belief in the afterlife.

Reference List

Leowe, M. and Shaghnessy, E.L. The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221B.C. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1999.

Sen, S.N. Ancient Indian History and Civilisation. New Delhi: New Age International. 1999.

Trigger, B.G. Understanding Early Civilizations: A Comparative Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003.

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