Living Religions 9th Edition By Fisher – Test Bank A+

Living Religions 9th Edition By Fisher – Test Bank A+

Living Religions 9th Edition By Fisher – Test Bank A+

Living Religions 9th Edition By Fisher – Test Bank A+

The goals of Chapter 6 are:

  1. To present the foundations and defining characteristics of Daoism and Confucianism
  2. To highlight the differences between these two religions but also explain their complementary relationship
  3. To describe the many forms of Chinese religious expression

Daoism and Confucianism are two religious traditions of ancient China. As religious and social forces, they have coexisted for centuries in China and have spread to other Asian regions such as Korea and Japan. While their respective approaches to religious questions such as the meaning of existence and the most productive way to approach life’s problems are different, they nonetheless co­exist and offer complementary values of such a nature that one person’s actions and thoughts can encompass both sets of traditions. Students should also note that Buddhism has played a significant role in Chinese religion, and it too may complement aspects of Daoist and Confucian belief and practice. But the Chinese people tend not to strictly distinguish Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism, referring to all their religious practices as “worshiping” and attending temples with images from all “Three Teachings.”

Ancient traditions

The spiritual ways of ancient Chinese civilization, dating back to 2000 BCE, influence all later developments.

Worship and divination

Ancestor veneration in the form of rituals called li involves funerals, mourning rites, and continuing sacrifices. Ancestors not cared for were thought to cause trouble for their descendants, and kings sought the guidance of their ancestors through divination using oracle bones. Various rites were used to ward off the actions of demons and ghosts. The world was thought to be full of invisible spirits—be they ancestors, the spirits of charismatic humans, or nature spirits.

Another ancient belief is in Shangdi, the highest god, who was understood to be a masculine deity that ruled the universe. In later eras, there was greater focus on the idea of Heaven as an impersonal power. Rulers justified their rule by citing the Mandate of Heaven.

Cosmic Balance

Also important is the belief that the universe is a manifestation of qi (c’hi), an impersonal self-­generating energy with two forces: yin (dark, receptive, female) and yang (bright, assertive, male). The two forces operate in a regular pattern, a creative rhythm called the Dao (Tao) or way.

Various forms of divination have long been used to achieve harmony with the cosmic process. One important divination technique uses divining objects such as coins cast six times, which creates a combination explained in the Yijing or Book of Changes.

Harmony with the cosmos is a central ideal in these ancient ways, and this ideal is expressed in differing ways in Daoism and Confucianism.

Daoism—The way of nature and immortality

Daoism is a scholarly label applied to a wide array of beliefs and practices which range from a philosophical tradition to longevity practices. Religious Daoism may involve not only Daoist practices, but Confucian virtues and Buddhist-­style rituals. For example, the worship of kitchen gods have mixed with Daoist elements, although Daoism as an institution has worked to distance itself from popular religion. Institutional Daoism seeks to be seen as a higher form of religion.

Teachings of Daoist sages

The historical origin of Daoist philosophy is unclear, but it is said to have started with the Yellow Emperor who is said to have ruled from 2697 to 2597 B.C.E. He is understood to have studied with an ancient sage who taught him about meditation, health, and military practices.

There are two major texts of the Daoist literati or philosophical tradition. The first is the Dao de jing (“The Classic of the Way and its Power”). Chinese tradition states that the Dao de jing was written by Laozi in the sixth century BCE, but archeological evidence suggests the text may be somewhat later. The central theme of the Dao de jing is that one can live most happily by harmonizing one’s self with the universe and with the challenges of life in general by being receptive to the beauty and direction of nature, and by being quiet.

The second major text is the Zhuangzi, attributed to the author of the same name (c. 365­-290 BCE), who maintained that the best approach to life in a chaotic civilization is detachment.

The Dao in Daoist philosophy is extremely difficult to express. It is the eternally real, unnamable, a mystical reality that cannot be completely grasped by the mind. To live in harmony with the Dao, one should experience the transcendent unity of all that is and cease to feel any personal preferences. The Daoist sage is like a valley through which a stream flows; obstacles are slowly worn away rather than attacked directly.

Such an approach to life is known as wu wei, paradoxically actionless action, the goal of which is non-interference. Daoism frequently uses the image of flowing water to illustrate the ideal life. Water passing over rocks flows smoothly and effortlessly, yet is powerful enough to carve great canyons. Another example is that of a butcher who lets his hand be guided by the natural makeup of the carcass, finding the spaces between the bones where a slight movement of the blade will glide through without resistance. When applied to government, the principle of wu wei means that rulers should guide society without interfering with its natural course. The Dao is our original nature, but civilization obscures it. Some students may hasten to make Daoism into a rather superficial “go with the flow” philosophy; it is important to emphasize the difficulty and profundity of Daoist concepts.

Popular religion and organized Daoism

The second century CE saw the beginning of organized groups or sects of Daoism, using longstanding practices such as alchemy, faith­-healing, sorcery, and power objects. Chinese popular religious practice has long included worship of spirits who may affect one’s destiny. The Kitchen God is one of the familiar spirits, and may be propitiated with animal offerings. Folk tradition asserts that the Kitchen God, or spirit, lives in a family’s kitchen and makes an annual report to the Jade Emperor about the family’s virtues and failings. To ensure a good report, during the Lantern Festival at the end of Chinese New Year celebrations, the Kitchen God may be offered something sweet or intoxicating. Villages may make collective offerings to spirits affecting their wellbeing. The use of talismans is also widespread, as well as worship of virtuous people understood to have become divine after death. Families may hire either Daoist or Buddhist priests to perform funeral rites.

Some forms of Daoism advocate withdrawal from the hectic activity of everyday life for a life of contemplation and seeking harmony. One means of seeking harmony is feng shui, a form of geomancy which examines the flow of qi to determine the ideal placement of a building, grave, or even home furnishings.

Inner Alchemy

One key component of Daoist practices is individual spiritual practices for self­-cultivation, longevity, and perhaps immortality. These practices, said to be passed down secretly from teacher to pupil, seek to use the energy available to the body for physical health and intuitive perception of the universal order. The body contains the “three treasures” of generative force (jing), vital life force (qi), and spirit (shen). Breathing techniques, diets, visualization, etc. may be used to activate the three treasures. Literature and folk tradition refer to sages thought to be centuries old; especially famous are the Eight Immortals.

The Queen Mother of the West is an important celestial being who guards the elixir of life. There have also been noteworthy female Daoist sages.

Daoism Sects

Institutionalization of such ancient, esoteric, and popular practices into distinctive religious movements, with revealed texts, detailed rituals, and priests serving as ritual specialists, developed in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE -220 BCE). The organized Daoist sects developed complex rituals, texts, and had organized clergy. Some sects were founded on the basis of visionary revelations. Some, such as Highest Purity Daoism, advocated celibacy. In the fourth century, the Numinous Treasure group arose, assimilating elements of Buddhism. It, in turn, was succeeded by a school called Complete Perfection, the dominant Daoist monastic tradition since the twelfth century. Complete Perfecting incorporates Daoist inner alchemy, Ch’an Buddhist meditation, and Confucian social morality. The present Daoist canon, compiled in 1445 CE, contains over 1,500 scriptures, but has not yet been thoroughly studied by non-­Daoist scholars.

Daoism Today

In communist mainland China as well as Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities, Daoist practices are still pursued. Chinese temples combine Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist elements. Throughout Chinese history, rulers have sometimes demanded allegiance to their own particular form of religion and suppressed others. Under communism, religion has been persecuted as well.

Although the government of modern China (The Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China) remains officially anti­religious, there has been a recent resurgence of religious practice throughout the country, and Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian religious sites are being built.

Hong Kong, now part of the People’s Republic of China, has long been home to many Daoist practices, and Daoist organizations there pursue social welfare and educational programs. Academic study of Daoism is intensifying as well.

In both Asia and the West, Daoism continues in three major forms: organized religious institutions, societies for self­-cultivation, and practitioners of techniques for spiritual development, health, and longevity. Daoist ideas are also being promoted to help curb the environmental and social damage cause by rapid industrialization in China.

Spiritual development techniques such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and the energy training practice of Taiji quan (which is a series of dance­like postures that look like swimming in the air) are now popular (though not necessarily in a spiritual context, much like some western yoga practice).

Self­-cultivation systems incorporating traditional health exercises are generally known as Qigong, used both in China and the West to cure disease and improve concentration and health. An example of such a system is Falun gong or Falun Dafa, which combines Buddhism and Daoist energy practices. Falun gong has been repressed in China.

Confucianism: the practice of virtue

Confucianism originated about the same time as Daoism, during the sixth century BCE, an era of great spiritual teaching throughout India, Greece, and China. This was approximately the era of the Buddha, maybe Laozi, Persia’s empire, Athens’s Golden Age, and the Hebrew prophets.

In Chinese, Confucius is known as Kong fuzi, and his teachings are called Rujiao, “the teaching of the scholars.” Confucian tradition is based on ancient Chinese beliefs in Heaven, ancestor worship, and the efficacy of ritual. Confucius developed from these a school of thought that emphasizes the cultivation of moral virtues and interaction between human rulers and Heaven, with political involvement as a way of transforming the world.

Master Kong’s life

Confucius was born into a genteel family that had fallen upon hard times due to a change in the ruling dynasty. His father died when he was three, and his mother died when he was twenty-­three. After her death, he entered a three­-year mourning period during which he studied ancient ceremonial rites. Confucius concluded that the political instability of his time could be remedied if rulers would return to classical rites and standards.

He instructed students in the Six Classics of China’s cultural heritage, the Yijing, poetry, history, rituals, music, and dance. Today, only five of the six survive; the one on music has either been destroyed or perhaps never existed. His teaching was considered fairly unimportant during his lifetime, and it was only in subsequent centuries that his contributions were widely recognized.

The Confucian virtues

Ren ((jen) can be translated as innate goodness, love, benevolence, humaneness, and human—heartedness. It is the most important virtue extolled by Confucianism. A person devoted to ren is motivated by what is moral, not personal profit, seeks self-improvement rather than recognition, is mindful of parents, and believes human nature is essentially good.

Strong government was a key concern of Confucius; he believed that people must have faith in their rulers, and that rulers in turn must lead virtuous lives to set a good example.

Confucianism emphasizes relationships over individuality; as an example, the modern character for ren combines “two” and “person.” There are five basic relationships essential for a stable society: parent/ child, older/younger siblings, husband/wife, friend and friend, and ruler and subject. These relationships involve mutual obligations and responsibilities, with the first party in each of these relationships considered superior to the second.

Individuals are to cultivate morality within themselves, and in turn within their families, society, and government. One’s relationship with parents is central; filial piety is a key moral principle. Filial piety extends to ancestor worship. The rites honoring ancestors and deities are called li, understood to be the earthly expressions of the natural cosmic order. Confucius frequently spoke of the typical gentleman of high civilization as a model.

Divergent followers of Confucius

Later followers of Confucius added to his thought. Mengzi (Latinized as Mencius) stressed the goodness of human nature, and the virtue of yi (righteous conduct). Xunzi in contrast argued that humans are self­-centered by nature and that Heaven operates according to natural laws rather than intervening on the side of good government.

The state cult

Confucianism was adopted by the state during the Han dynasty. Men seeking government positions had to pass examinations based on the six classics. At the family level, offerings were made to propitiate the family ancestors. The most important ceremonies were performed by the emperor, to give thanks and ask blessings from Heaven, earth, gods of the land and agriculture, and the dynastic ancestors.


Neo-­Confucians stressed the importance of meditation and dedication to becoming a noble person; they encouraged women to offer themselves in total sacrifice to others. Neo­-Confucianism advocated greater emphasis on offerings and was premised on the idea that Buddhism and Daoism brought moral and this political weakness into Chinese society.

Confucianism under communism

Confucian teaching on the importance of the scholarly life was strongly attacked by Mao Zedong. During the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism was attacked as one of the “Four Olds”—old ideas, culture, customs, and habits. Confucian morality nonetheless forms the basis of Chinese ethics. Recent Communist Party leaders have advocated Confucian virtues without naming them as such. Confucianism, however, is not officially recognized as a religion in China, while Buddhism, Islam, Daoism, Protestantism, and Christianity are. Some advocate “Capitalist Confucianism,” according to which business is conducted with the Confucian values of humanity, trustworthiness, sincerity, and altruism. Confucian-­based civil service exams have been partially reintroduced. Confucian values are also being reappraised as a significant addition to holistic education.

Confucianism in East Asia

Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan have been strongly influenced by Confucian values. Contemporary discussions of Confucianism may involve a reappraisal of women’s roles.

Key Terms

Celestial MasterHighest Purity Daoismren
Complete Perfectionliwu wei
Dao (Tao)literatiyang
Falun GongNeo-Confucianismyin
Feng shuiqi (ch’i)

Review Questions

  1. Describe ancient Chinese traditions such as ancestor worship, divination, and the concept of cosmic balance.
  2. Describe the practices associated with different forms of Daoism.
  3. In what ways might Confucianism be understood as either “religious” or “not religions?”
  4. Compare and contrast the practices of Daoism and Confucianism.

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the ways Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism may be blended together in practice. Are you aware of similar patterns of blending religion in other areas?
  2. Discuss the quotations from the Dao de jing in this chapter and what the reveal about the concept of the Dao.
  3. Discuss the ways in which Confucianism is being adapted to modern concerns in mainland China and other parts of East Asia.

Class Activities/Assignments

  1. Use the quotations from the Dao de jing on pp. 195­-196 as the basis for explaining the concept of Dao.
  2. Have students investigate whether any of the spiritual practices described in the chapter are found in the area— e.g., an acupuncture or Chinese medicine clinic, a martial arts studio, a feng shui
  3. Have students research the current Chinese government’s focus on building a “harmonious society” and discuss how this concept may reflect the influence of traditional Chinese concepts.

Recommended Films

Chinese Religions,” Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 2001. 57 minutes. Explores Confucianism, Daoism, Chinese Buddhism, and popular practice.

Pilgrimage 1987, pilgrimages to Tianzhu and Putuo,” Columbia University Press, 1998. 56 minutes. Discusses pilgrimages to Chinese Buddhist monasteries and ceremonies performed there in honor of Guanyin. A useful introduction to popular religious practice.

Additional Class Discussion/Essay Questions

  1. Using examples from the chapter, explain how Daoism, Confucianism, and even Buddhism may be blended in Chinese religious practice.
  2. Explain the significance of relationships—with humans and nature—in both Daoist and Confucian thought.
  3. What role do Daoism and Confucianism play in contemporary communist China and other parts of Asia? Use specific examples from the chapter to illustrate your answer.
  4. Compare and contrast Confucianism with Daoism, imagining how each might apply to contemporary forms of government. How would a Daoist­-based approach to government differ from a Confucian-­based approach?

Chapter 6: Daoism and Confucianism

In this test bank for Living Religions, Ninth Edition, there is a new system for identifying the difficulty of the questions. Questions are now tagged according to the four levels of learning that help organize the text. Think of these four levels as moving from lower-level to higher-level cognitive reasoning. The four levels are:

REMEMBER: a question involving recall of key terms or factual material

UNDERSTAND: a question testing comprehension of more complex ideas

APPLY: a question applying anthropological knowledge to some new situation

ANALYZE: a question requiring identifying elements of an argument and their interrelationship

Types of Questions

Easy to Difficult Level of Difficulty

Multiple ChoiceFill in the Blank/Short AnswerTrue/FalseEssayTotal Questions

Fill in the Blank/ Short Answer

  1. Daoism and Confucianism flourished principally in __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: China; page 188)

  1. The distinctively Japanese religion is called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: Shinto; page 188)

  1. In ancient Chinese belief, the highest god who rued over weather, crops, battles, and health was called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: Shangdi; page 191)

  1. According to ancient Chinese tradition, the cosmos is a manifestation of an impersonal self-generating energy known as __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: qi; page 191)

  1. The common religious text for Confucianism and Daoism, the I Ching, is known in English as __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: The Book of Changes; page 193)

  1. The two most salient texts of the classic Daoist tradition are called the __________ and __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: Dao de jing and Zhuangzi; page 194)

  1. When asked to define the essentials of strong government, Confucius stated the only true essential is that __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: people have faith in their rulers; page 210)

  1. The model of a noble person in ancient Chinese civilization was known as a __________.
    (REMEMBER; answer: junzi; page 211)

  1. __________ was the follower of Confucius who disagreed with the belief in the goodness of human nature.

(REMEMBER; answer: Xunzi; page 212)

  1. The belief in practicing Confucianism because Buddhism and Daoism brought moral weakness to society is called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: Neo-Confucianism; page 213)

Multiple Choice

  1. Sacred rituals that are especially important in the veneration of ancestors are called __________.
  2. li
  3. qi
  4. wu
  5. wei

(UNDERSTAND; answer: a; page 189)

  1. The creative rhythm of the universe is called the __________.
  2. Yang
  3. Dao
  4. Yin
  5. Ch’i

(REMEMBER; answer: b; page 191)

  1. A major theme of Daoism is __________.
  2. harmony with nature
  3. the warrior king
  4. salvation through confession
  5. morality through civil service

(UNDERSTAND; answer: a; page 193)

  1. The practice that helps one determine the harmonious placement of a building or objects is known as __________.
  2. Divination
  3. Zhuangzi
  4. Weu Wei
  5. Feng Shui

(REMEMBER; answer: d; page 198)

  1. Which of the following martial arts is associated with Daoism?
  2. Karate
  3. Judo
  4. Taijiquan
  5. Tae Kwan Do

(UNDERSTAND; answer: c; page 206)

  1. Which of the following was the given name for the individual known commonly as Confucius?
  2. Laozi
  3. Mao Zedong
  4. Jet Li
  5. Kong Fuzi

(UNDERSTAND; answer: d; page 207)

  1. The Confucian virtue ren basically means
  2. innate goodness
  3. chaos
  4. truth
  5. filial piety

(UNDERSTAND; answer: a; page 209)

  1. A little over one hundred years after Confucius died, a “Second Sage” named __________ was born.
  2. Mani
  3. Mengzi
  4. Rishi
  5. Junzi

(REMEMBER; answer: b; page 211)


  1. Ancestor veneration is an important feature of ancient Chinese religious traditions.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: true; page 189)

  1. The yang principle represents the dark, receptive, female aspect.

(REMEMBER; answer: false; page 191)

  1. Some scholars question whether Laozi ever existed.

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 194)

  1. The deity known as the “Consort of Heaven” is more popularly called Ma-tsu (Grandma).

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 199).

  1. Daoists undertake individual spiritual practices for the sake of inner transformation and perhaps immortality.

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 199)

  1. Today, Chinese temples combine Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist elements, but the liturgies tend to be Daoist.

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 203)

  1. As in many religions, Daoist nuns are considered to be of lesser spiritual status than Daoist monks.

(REMEMBER; answer: false; page 204)

  1. Women in traditional Confucian society were expected to take up a subordinate role in family and society, characterized by self-sacrifice.

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 214)

  1. Under the establishment of the communist Chinese regime in 1949, Confucianism was attacked as one of the “Four Olds.”

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 214)

  1. Business conducted according to Confucian ethics is known as Capitalist Confucianism.

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 215)

  1. Nations such as Singapore and Korea have largely rejected Confucian teachings as authentic.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: false; page 217)


  1. Confucianism understands the cultivation of one’s inner virtues as both a personal duty and also a duty to the state. From a Confucian perspective, explain how a person’s religious virtues help to shape and strengthen society as a whole. Do you think this is a viable model for people in society today?

(ANALYZE; answer: students should accurately analyze the connections between personal virtue and state responsibilities in the Confucian model. They should comment constructively on why or why not this concept would work in today’s society; page 212)

  1. Daoist thought understands the universe as characterized by the interchange of the complementary principles of the yin and yang. In this model, seeming opposites are balanced and held together as aspects of an inseparable whole. What are the implications of this thought for seemingly dichotomous aspects of human experience, such as good and evil or life and death? Give an example of how a Daoist might allow this philosophy to guide his or her understanding of something joyful or sorrowful that has happened.

(APPLY; answer: students should discuss the non-dualistic philosophy of Daoism and then apply this philosophy in an example that illustrates how non-dualism balances the joys and pains of both happy and sad events in life; page 201)

  1. Chinese religious traditions have historically held massive influence on political life and government. Explain why this is the case, and give examples of modern Chinese attitudes toward the role of religion in political life. What are the pros and cons of justifying political power with religious authority?

(APPLY; answer: students should discuss and give examples of the role of religion in politics as drawn from the reading, while rendering a critical argument on the uses and possible abuses of using religion to undergird governments; page 214)

Chapter 7 SHINTO

Chapter Overview

“Shinto” is an overarching label applied to various ways of honoring the spirits in nature, so named to distinguish such practices from Buddhism and other religions brought from outside Japan. Native to Japan, Shinto is not a single self-conscious religious tradition but rather a descriptor of ways of honoring nature, ancestors, folk religion, local rites, festivals, imperial myths, nationalism, and universalistic teachings. It is an indigenous tradition which in modern practice may be combined with elements of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. It has also been associated with imperial power and worship of the emperor.

The goals of the chapter are:

  1. To describe the origins and major characteristics of Shinto
  2. To describe three central aspects of the religion: affinity with natural beauty, harmony with the spirits, and purification rituals
  3. To illustrate some of the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism on this native religion
  4. To highlight some contemporary issues within Shinto

The roots of “Shinto”

Shinto does not have a known founder, nor does it have an orthodox sacred scripture, or an explicit ethical code. Its historical origins appear to lie in the practice of individual clans worshipping a deity as their ancestor, along with worship of other unseen beings and natural forces. It was not identified with a specific name until Buddhism spread to Japan during the sixth century CE. After that time, this indigenous sacred way sought to distinguish itself from Buddhism. Until that necessity occurred, this sacred path was simply understood as the proper attitude with which to live one’s life. The label Shinto derives from the words shin (divine being) and do (way).

The two major written Shinto chronicles, the Kojiki (compiled in 712 CE) and the Nihongi (compiled in 720 CE), appear to be influenced by Buddhist, Confucian, Korean, and Chinese thought. These chronicles combine myths, historical facts, politics, and literature, and are generally not thought of as sacred scriptures. During the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) and the Meiji Restoration (1868), Imperial efforts were also made to define a specifically Japanese religion.

Kinship with nature

Natural beauty and symmetry have always been important in Japan. People organized their lives around the seasons. Mount Fuji is honored as an embodiment of the divine power that forced the land up through the sea. Reverence for nature is expressed in the arts. Industrialization and urbanization have challenged the kinship with nature insofar as they have blighted much of the natural land of Japan.

Relationships with the kami

The most ancient forms of spirituality in Japan were probably linked to the spirits perceived in the natural world – the kami. The sacred is understood to be both immanent and transcendent; the divine originated as one essence. This essence gave birth to many kami or spirits, which organized the material world. The Amatsu kami created Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and also created the ancestors of the Japanese. The natural world is in kinship with the spiritual creation of the kami.

It is difficult to translate kami exactly, though “god” or “spirit” is the most common translation. The word may be singular or plural, and it evokes a single essence that manifests in different places. It refers to a quality, literally “that which is above,” or that which evokes awe in us. Kami reside in beautiful and powerful places, and may also appear in abstract forms. They can exist in rocks, trees, and other forms of nature, but also in processes such as reproduction and creative imagination. For much of Japanese history, the emperor was revered as a kami. To follow the kami is to bring one’s life into harmony with nature, or Kannagara, “the way or nature of the kami.”


There are some one hundred thousand public shrines in Japan honoring the kami. Some shrines are dedicated to kami who protect the local area or have special responsibilities such as healing or protecting crops. The greatest number of shrines is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, whose messengers are foxes.

The earliest Shinto followers may have worshiped at sacred trees or groves. Later shrine complexes are marked by gate frames, walls, or streams with bridges. Water is provided for purification before one enters a shrine. Shrines have a public hall of worship, an offering hall where priests conduct rites, and a sacred sanctuary where the spirit of the kami is asked to dwell. Visitors to shrines clap their hands, bow deeply, and try to feel the kami within their hearts.

At some times Shinto has been strongly iconoclastic or opposed to images of the divine.

Ceremonies and festivals

At shrines, complex ceremonies are required to encourage the spirit of the kami to take up residence. Training for the priesthood is lengthy; the role of priest is traditionally hereditary, open to both men and women. Shinto priests may marry and are not expected to undertake ascetic practices or meditation. Their role is to serve as experts in the performance of complex rituals. Clergy sometimes marry priestesses, and male priests may be assisted by miko (young unmarried women in white kimonos).

Pilgrims who visit shrines may take away with them a spiritual memento such as a paper symbol of the shrine.

Followers of Shinto may also have a shrine in the home where a mirror symbolizes the purity and clarity of the universe, and daily offerings (rice for health, water for cleansing and preservation of life, and salt for harmonious seasoning of life) are provided.

Shinto includes both seasonal and life cycle festivals. Life cycle rituals include ceremonies during pregnancy, twenty­-two or thirty-­two days after an infant’s birth, and at various other milestones throughout life, such as turning thirteen, first arranging one’s hair as a woman at sixteen, marriage, and becoming sixty­-one, seventy­-seven, or eighty­-eight. Seasonal festivals often have an agricultural basis. Local shrines all have annual festivals honoring their particular kami. New Year’s is one of the biggest annual festivals, marked by ceremonial housecleaning, the placing of bamboo and pine trees at doorways to welcome the kami, and traditional dress. There are also ceremonies that honor different benchmark ages in a person’s life. In addition, on February 3, practitioners of Shinto celebrate the end of winter, followed by a month long spring festival from March to April.


A third distinguishing feature of Shinto is purification practices. Impurity or misfortune is called tsumi, and may come about through defilement of corpses, menstruation, hostility towards others or the environment, or natural catastrophes. To rid one’s self of these impurities, Shinto prescribes ritual washing in natural phenomena such as a waterfall or the ocean. Human sexuality is not considered impure. Shinto priests perform a ceremony called oharai, which includes waving a tree branch to which white streamers have been attached. This ceremony may be performed on cars and new buildings.

Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian influences

Today, Shinto peacefully and fruitfully coexists with Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. A Japanese person may use Shinto rituals for especially life­-affirming occasions such as birth and marriage, but turn to these other religions for events such as funerals, or for understandings of suffering. Reverence for the kami may be mixed with Buddhist practices, e.g. in mountain pilgrimage rituals during which sutras are chanted.

Seventeenth century Japanese Confucian scholars compared li to the way of the kami.

State Shinto

The nineteenth century Meiji regime promoted Shinto as the spiritual foundation of the government, and reiterated the longstanding belief that the emperor was the offspring of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Under State Shinto, the government rather than priests administered Shinto practices. State Shinto served to enlist popular support for the throne, and functioned as a tool of militaristic nationalism. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the emperor officially declared himself human.

Since the nineteenth century, new sects rooted in Shinto belief have appeared; some are based on revelation.

“Sect Shinto”

In rural Japan, there was a longstanding tradition of women acting as shamans, falling into trances during which the kami would speak through them. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some of these women developed their own followings, creating movements that were labeled “Sect Shinto” by the Meiji regime.

Shinto today

Shinto ways generally remain indigenous to Japan, though they are found in Hawaii and Brazil, where Japanese have settled. It is still common for the Japanese to visit Shinto shrines, especially at New Year. Shinto still serves as the basis for seasonal holidays. Modern life, with its industrialization, urbanization, and environmental problems, has given impetus to renewed interest in the Shinto reverence for nature. But those who participate in Shinto practices are not likely to identify themselves as Shinto adherents. After the Second World War, the elimination of the imperial mythology and modern industrialization threatened institutionalized Shinto. Yet, today, Shinto shrines remain active and are visited by millions of people annually, who represent both believers and tourists.

A controversy persists over the Yasukuni Shrine, which was dedicated during the Meiji Restoration to those who had given their lives for the sake of Japan. The controversy stems from the 1978 inclusion of the names of fourteen class A war criminals at the shrine. When Japanese prime ministers have visited the shrine, it has caused offense to some in countries that suffered during Japan’s imperialist period (e.g. China).

Key Terms


Review Questions

  1. Explain the Shinto approach to nature and environmental concerns, addressing kami, mountains, waterfalls, and kannagara.
  2. Describe the components of some Shinto rituals, such as life-cycle and seasonal rites. Consider the role of aesthetic beauty, priests and priestesses, and the shrine.
  3. Explain the purpose of personal and collective purification in Shinto, addressing the concepts of misogi and tsumi.

Discussion Questions

  1. What elements of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religion may be found within Japanese religious practice?
  2. Why do you think Shinto has been so closely tied to Japanese nationalism? Discuss patriotism, emperor deification, and changes since World War II.
  3. Compare and contrast the Shinto view of nature with that of indigenous sacred ways (chapter two).
  4. What roles do religions affiliation and practice seem to play in contemporary Japan?

Class Activities/Assignments

  1. If there is an art museum in your area with a collection of Japanese art, encourage students to view the collection and observe the depiction of nature in the artwork (internet images may also be available).
  2. Research whether there are any Shinto shrines near to the students. Where is the closest shrine? If there is a website, explore that shrine’s page for additional information about rituals and practices.

Recommended Films

Buddha in the land of the Kami (7th – 12th centuries),” Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1989. 54 minutes. Explores the relationship between Buddhism and Shinto; rather slow-­paced; excerpts might be useful.

Spirits of the state: Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine,” a film by John Nelson, Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 2005. 28 minutes. A history of the shrine and the current controversies surrounding it.

Additional Class Discussion/Essay Questions

  1. Which of the general characteristics of an indigenous religion described in Chapter 2 are evident in Shinto? What specific forms do they take?
  2. How is the Shinto belief in tsumi similar to, and different from, the understandings of karma presented in Hinduism and Jainism?
  3. Why are Shinto shrines the products of historical influences and ties to the past?
  4. How does nature inform Shinto practice? Is a practitioner of Shinto also an environmentalist?

Chapter 7: Shinto

In this test bank for Living Religions, Ninth Edition, there is a new system for identifying the difficulty of the questions. Questions are now tagged according to the four levels of learning that help organize the text. Think of these four levels as moving from lower-level to higher-level cognitive reasoning. The four levels are:

REMEMBER: a question involving recall of key terms or factual material

UNDERSTAND: a question testing comprehension of more complex ideas

APPLY: a question applying anthropological knowledge to some new situation

ANALYZE: a question requiring identifying elements of an argument and their interrelationship

Types of Questions

Easy to Difficult Level of Difficulty

Multiple ChoiceFill in the Blank/Short AnswerTrue/FalseEssayTotal Questions

Fill in the Blank/ Short Answer

  1. Shinto is not easily defined as a religion because it has no ethical requirements, no sacred literature, and no __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: founder; page 222)

  1. The invisible sacred quality that evokes wonder and awe in us, and the invisible spirits throughout nature are born of the essence called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: kami; page 224)

  1. Following the way or nature of the kami is called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: kannagara; page 226)

  1. The Shinto water purification ritual is called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: misogi; page 233)

  1. One common Shinto purification ceremony, involving the waving of a sakaki tree branch, is called __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: oharai; page 234)

  1. The Japanese linked the lineage of their emperors to the goddess of the sun, known as __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: Amaterasu; page 225)

  1. Outside of Japan, Shinto beliefs are common only in Hawaii and Brazil because __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: many Japanese have settled there; page 237)

  1. The central theme of Shinto is __________.

(REMEMBER; answer: harmony with nature; page 239)

Multiple Choice

  1. Which word most closely translates the Japanese word kami?
  2. Spirits
  3. Emperor
  4. Sin
  5. Shrine

(UNDERSTAND; answer: a; page 224)

  1. The god of rice is known as __________.
  2. Tsubaki
  3. Inari
  4. Kellogi
  5. Kyoto

(REMEMBER; answer: b; page 226)

  1. The word kamikaze means __________.
  2. War Pilot
  3. Purifying Influence
  4. Divine Wind
  5. Sacred Shrine

(UNDERSTAND; answer: c; page 229)

  1. The biggest annual Shinto festival celebrates the __________.
  2. Sun Goddess
  3. New Year
  4. Cherry Blossoms
  5. Flag Day

(UNDERSTAND; answer: b; page 231)

  1. Many religious require repentance from sinfulness, but Shinto requires __________.
  2. celebration
  3. liberation
  4. manifestation
  5. purification

(UNDERSTAND; answer: d; page 232)


  1. Kami is the proper name for the Goddess of the Sun.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: false; page 225)

  1. Shinto priests and priestesses commonly marry and are not expected to meditate.

(REMEMBER; answer: true; page 230)

  1. Only male priests can conduct worship rituals at Shinto shrines.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: false; page 230)

  1. Japanese popular culture has many Shinto festivals involving formal temple worship.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: false; page 231)

  1. Purification rituals are very important in the Shinto religion.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: true; page 232)

  1. Shinto is an indigenous religion of Hawaii.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: false; page 237)

  1. Today, Shinto is widespread and growing in Asia and South America.

(UNDERSTAND; answer: false; page 237)


  1. How are priests and priestesses regarded in the Shinto tradition? How is their social role different from that of religious authorities in other traditions you have studied? What do you think might account for these differences?

(APPLY; answer: students should cite examples explaining and analyzing the unique qualities of Shino priests relative to others they have studied. Students may also be invited to do additional research on Shinto priests and shrine worship tradition; page 230)

  1. State Shinto, especially with its mythology of the divine origin of emperors, experienced some demise after the Second World War. Moreover, the twentieth century move toward modernization threatened institutionalized Shinto. In contemporary life, visits to shrines can resemble tourism more than spirituality. In light of these changes, how can Shinto be preserved and carried on today as its practitioners balance modern life and ancient tradition?

(ANALYZE; answer: students should creatively discuss specific aspects of the Shinto tradition in light of modern changes. They should comment on creative expressions and renewals of the traditions today. For example, the recovery of the Shinto emphasis on harmony with nature; page 232)

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