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Chinese salvationist religions

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Title: Chinese salvationist religions  
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Subject: Zaili teaching, Luo teaching, Chinese folk religion, De teaching, Tiandi teachings
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Chinese salvationist religions

Chinese salvationist religions (救度宗教 jiùdù zōngjiào) is a sociological category[1] that defines a centuries-old religious stream of China, distinguished by a soteriological and eschatological character.[2] The 20th-century expression of this kind of religions has been studied under the definition of redemptive societies (救世团体 jiùshì tuántǐ).[3] Chinese scholarship tends to describe them as folk religious sects (民间教门 mínjiān jiàomén or 民间教派 mínjiān jiàopài).[4]

Many of these religions are rooted in the White Lotus tradition;[5] others claim a Taoist legacy and are based on the recovery of ancient scriptures attributed to important immortals such as Lü Dongbin and Zhang Sanfeng, and have contributed to the popularisation of neidan;[6] other ones are distinctively Confucian and advocate the realisation of a "great commonweath" (datong 大同) on a world scale, as dreamt of in the Book of Rites.[7] Scholars have also highlighted important influences from Manichaeism and shamanic traditions.[8]

They are, at their core, distinct from the communitarian and ritual spheres of the Chinese folk religion: they are neither ascribable to the lineage cult of ancestors and progenitors, nor to the communal-liturgical religion of village temples, neighbourhood, corporation, or national temples.[9]

In the Ming and Qing periods they were generally banned by the imperial authorities as xiéjiào (邪教), "heretical doctrines".[10] With the collapse of the Qing state in 1911 they enjoyed an unprecedented period of freedom and thrived, adopted a congregational structure and many were officially registered by the republican government.[11] In 1949 they were once again banned as huìdàomén (會道门), "dangerous religious societies".[12][13] Recent Chinese scholars have distinguished huidaomen from "secret religious societies" (秘密教门 mìmì jiàomén) of Yuan, Ming and Qing periods.[14]

They are characterised by egalitarianism; a foundation through a charismatic figure and a direct divine revelation; a millenarian eschatology and a voluntary path of salvation; an embodied experience of the numinous through healing and cultivation; and an expansive orientation through good deeds, evangelism and philanthropy.[15] Their practices are focused on their moral teachings, body cultivation, and recitation of scriptures.[16]

Many of the redemptive religions of the 20th and 21st century aspire to become the repository of the entirety of the Chinese tradition in the face of Western modernism and materialism,[17] advocating an "Eastern solution to the problems of the modern world",[18] or even interacting with the modern discourse of an Asian-centered universal civilisation.[19] The Vietnamese religions Minh Đạo and Caodaism emerged from the same matrix.[20]

Most important sects

Earliest influences (Yuan, 1277-1377)[21]

Ming (1367-1644) and Qing (1644-1911)[22]

  • Luoism (罗教 Luó jiào, "religion of Luo (Menghong)"[23])
  • Hongyangism (弘阳教)
  • Huangtianism (黃天教)
  • Taishangmen (太上門)
  • Tiandimen (天地門)

These religions, with the exception of Luoism, gradually merged within the context of the Chinese folk religion of northern China, with their founders worshiped as gods in local temples, or their members operating as ritual specialists.[24]

Other Qing-period sects that continued the Maitreyan and Luoist teachings:[25]

  • Dachengism (大乘教)
  • Denghuaism (燈花教)
  • Mohou Yizhuism (末後一著教)
  • Qianglianism (青蓮教)

Republic of China (1912–49)

  • Zailiism (在理教 Zàilǐ jiào, "religion of the Abiding Principle")—registered in 1913[26]
  • Daode Xueshe (道德学社)—1916[27]
  • Wanguo Daodehui (万国道德会)—1921[35]
  • Jiugongdao (九宫道, "Way of the Nine Palaces")—1926[36]
  • Guiyi Daoyuan (皈依道院)—1927[37]
  • Tiandism: Tiande branch (天德圣教 Tiāndé shèngjiào)—1930[38]
  • Yixin Tiandao Longhua (一心天道龙华, "Heart-bent Heavenly Way of the Dragon Flower")—1932[39]
  • Deism (德教 Dé jiào, "religion of virtue")—started in 1945[40]
  • Zhenkongism (真空教 Zhēnkōng jiào, "religion of the True Emptiness")—1948[41]
  • Confucianism Association (孔教会)[42]
  • Xixinshe (洗心社)—carried out Kang Youwei's project of a Confucian church[43]

Late 20th century[44]

21st century


  • Chinese Holy Church (中华圣教 Zhōnghuá shèngjiào)
  • Dayiism (大易教 Dà yì jiào, "religion of the Great Simplicity")
  • Hunyuanism (混元教 Hùnyuán jiào)
  • Xuanmen Zhenzong (玄门真宗, "True School of the Mysterious Door")
  • Xuanyuanism (軒轅教 Xuānyuán jiào, "religion of Xuanyuan")
  • Maitreya King of the Universe (宇宙弥勒皇教 Yǔzhòu mílè huáng jiào)
  • Salvationism of the Ancient Heaven (先天救教 Xiāntiān jiù jiào)

See also

In Vietnam


  1. ^ Palmer, 2011. pp. 17-18
  2. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 19
  3. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 17
  4. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 12
  5. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 12
  6. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 27
  7. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 28
  8. ^ Ma, Meng. Popular Religion and Shamanism.
  9. ^ Palmer, 2011. pp. 19-20
  10. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 23
  11. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 3
  12. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 13
  13. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 23
  14. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 13
  15. ^ Palmer, 2011. pp. 19
  16. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 19
  17. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 29
  18. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 10
  19. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 10
  20. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 6
  21. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  22. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  23. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 217
  24. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  25. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 12
  26. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 4
  27. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 4
  28. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  29. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 4
  30. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 4
  31. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 4
  32. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 5
  33. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  34. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  35. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 4
  36. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 5
  37. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 5
  38. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 5
  39. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 5
  40. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 6
  41. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 5
  42. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 29
  43. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 29
  44. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 22
  45. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 27
  46. ^ Palmer, 2011. p. 7


  • D. A. Palmer. Chinese Redemptive Societies and Salvationist Religion: Historical Phenomenon or Sociological Category?. On: Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre and Folklore, V. 172, 2011, p. 21-72
  • Évelyne Micollier. Recomposition des faits religieux et tension identitaires. L’exemple de la « nouvelle religion » Yiguandao. On: Perspectives Chinoises, No. 48, July-August 1998.
  • Hubert Michael Seiwert. Popular Religious Movements and Heterodox Sects in Chinese History. Brill, 2003. ISBN 9004131469
  • Xisha Ma, Huiying Meng. Popular Religion and Shamanism. BRILL, 2011. ISBN 9004174559
  • Appendix: Sects and Societies Recently or Currently Active in the PRC. On: Chinese Sociology & Anthropology, Vol. 21 Issue 4, Summer 1989. p. 102
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