RELIGION IN CHINESE LIFE IT HAS often been observed that the Chinese people are not interested in what the Christians understand as religious life. It has even been said that the Chinese people are not religious. It is true that the Chinese are not so religious as the Hindus, or even as the Japanese; and they are certainly not so religious as the Christian missionaries desire them to be. Practically all the prominent leaders of thought in China today are openly agnostics and even atheists. And the young men are even openly anti-religious. Although the fierce anti-religious movements of a few years ago have now subsided, it cannot be denied that the educated people in China are indifferent to religion and that the whole intellectual tendency there is not favorable to any religious movement or revival. But I wish to point out that it is entirely wrong to say that the Chinese are not religious. No people is really incapable of religious life or experience. But there is always a difference in the definitions. And there is always a vast difference in the degree of religiosity or piety, varying from the modern churchgoer to the medieval saint. In the eyes of the medieval saint no one in this audience who listens patiently to a "heathen" lecturing on comparative religion can be said to be religious! Similarly, a people who may not have cultivated such habits as church-going, grace-saying, hymn-singing, and praying, and who may take no interest in the problems of the second person in the trinity, of transubstantiation, of the proper degree of submergence in baptism-such a people may have their own religion which may not necessarily be worse than that of any other people. The Chinese word for "religion" is chiao which means teaching or a system of teaching. To teach people to believe in a particular deity is a chiao; but to teach them how to behave toward other men is also a chiao. The ancients did say that "the sages founded religions (chiao) on the ways of the gods." But it is not always necessary to make use of such supernatural expedients. And the Chinese people make no distinction between the theistic religions and the purely moral teachings of their sages. Therefore, the term chiao is applied to Buddhism, Taoism, Mohammedanism, Christianity, as well as Confucianism. They are all systems of moral teaching. Teaching a moral life is the essential thing; and "the ways of the gods" are merely one of the possible means of sanctioning that teaching. That is in substance the Chinese conception of religion. The other factor, the degree of piety, which is in reality a degree of religious fanaticism, is always a result of historical circumstances. It is as accidental as the number of gods worshiped or the color of the vestments of the priests. -In the life of every people with a long history there are always periods of varied intensity in religious experience. The Greek philosophers calmly discussed their gods, and some ridiculed them; the Romans tolerated them and the Christians destroyed them all in favor of their one God; the medieval saints lived and had their whole being in God; the modern Christian peoples fought long and bloody wars over their religious differences and burned witches and heretics in the name of their God; and the present age seems to be again returning to the attitude of the Greek sophists. The Chinese people, too, went through all kinds of vicissitudes in their religious development. There were long periods in Chinese history when this people also became so fanatically religious that a pious monk would burn a finger, or an arm, or the whole body, willingly and devoutly, as the supreme form of devotion to his Buddhist faith. There were times when every fourth man in the population would be a Buddhist monk or a Taoist priest. There were times when the court and the people spent millions of ounces of silver yearly to build grand temples and monasteries, and millions of acres of land were donated to the monasteries as voluntary offerings to the gods. No student of Chinese history can say that the Chinese are incapable of religious experience, even when judged by the standards of medieval Europe or pious India. But there were a series of historical factors of very great importance which tended to make the Chinese people less other-worldly than the other historical races of the earth. One of these was the fact that our civilization began in the north-temperate zone where the bounty of nature was never abundant and the struggle for existence was always hard. This produced a hard working, simply living, but never wildly imaginative people. They had no time to indulge in speculating about the ways of the gods, or in effusive praises of the wonderful benevolence of heaven which they never enjoyed. They had a very simple religion consisting chiefly in a worship of their own ancestors, a belief in the spirits and the powers of the natural forces, a worship of a supreme God or heaven (which was probably evolved out of the worship of natural objects), and a belief in divination. To these they added a belief in the idea of retribution of good and evil. There was neither Hell nor Paradise; no life after death, only a firm belief in the importance of the perpetuation of the family line, probably primarily for economic reasons. This was the original religion of the Chinese. The extreme simplicity of this racial religion was the most remarkable in the history of mankind. There was little mythology, and little elaborate ritualism. It never had a generic name, and I have elsewhere proposed to call it "Siniticism."  Another important historical factor is the fact that this already very simple religion was further simplified and purified by the early philosophers of ancient China. Our first great philosopher was a founder of naturalism; and our second great philosopher was an agnostic. Laotze taught that heaven and earth were unkind: they treated all beings like dogs and grass. He revolted against the anthropomorphic conception of a supreme God. There was only a natural process which he called the "Tao," or way. Everything becomes such of itself. The Tao does nothing; and yet it achieves everything. It was this naturalistic conception of the universe which in later ages always came up to serve as an effective weapon against superstition and anthropomorphic religion. Confucius was a humanist and an agnostic. When asked about death and the proper duties to the spirits and the gods, he replied: "We know not about life, how can we know death? And we have not learned how to serve men, how can we serve the gods?" Life and human society are the chief concern of Confucianism and, through it, the chief concern of the Chinese people. Confucius also said: "To say that you know a thing when you know it, and to say that you do not know when you know it not, that is knowledge." That is his formulation of agnosticism. A historically minded man, Confucius did not openly repudiate the spirits and the gods of the people. But he told one of his disciples: "Revere the gods, but be aloof from them." And in the Analects, this rule was laid down: "Worship as if something were present; worship a god as if he were present." This is no hypocrisy, but the psychology of religious reverence. As his followers have put it, "When you have purified yourself for the worship and put on the grand sacrificial robes, the solemnity of the occasion naturally makes you feel as if the objects of worship were really above you, and on the right and left of you." And it is not uncommon today to find written on the village shrines in big characters the Confucian motto: "As if he were above you" (ju tsai ch'i shang [pinyin: ru zai chi shang])! Laotze and Confucius were teachers of a naturalistic attitude toward religion. The former taught us to follow the course of nature; the latter, to abide by fate. "Life and death are ordained, and wealth and honor are determined in Heaven." This deterministic attitude, while quite religious in itself, was not favorable to the older belief in the efficacy of appeasing the gods for favors or for averting misfortunes. "A gentleman," says Confucius, "sorrows not, nor fears. As long as he finds no inward guilt, why should he sorrow, and what should he fear?" And the Confucianists actually tried to found a new religion of filial piety without the benefit of the gods. This religion centers around the idea that the human body is the sacred inheritance from the parents, and must always be regarded as such. "There are three forms of filial piety: the highest is to glorify one's parents; next, not to degrade them; and lastly, to support them." "This body is inherited from our parents. How dare we act irreverently with this inheritance? Therefore, to live carelessly is a sin against filial duty; so is disloyalty to our princes; so is dishonesty in office; so is faithlessness to friends; and so is lack of courage on the battlefield. Failure in any one of these five duties will disgrace one's parents. Dare we act without reverence?" "The dutiful son never moves a step without thinking of his parents; nor utters a word without thinking of his parents." The parents thus take the place of God or the gods as a new moral sanction of human action. But all these rationalistic simplifications were of course F~ too sophisticated for the general populace. The people carried on their Sinitic religion as of old, and from time to time they added to it the new increments acquired by contact with other races. And from time to time, great religious movements arose under the leadership of men more pious and inspired than Laotze and Confucius. Thus there arose the great religion of Moism in the fifth century B.C. under the great religious reformer Mo Ti who was dissatisfied with the rationalist tendencies of the age and who tried to revive the old Sinitic religion by purifying it and giving it a new and more inspiring meaning. He taught a personal god who wills and knows and has the power to reward and punish, and whose will is love-unlimited love for all men without distinction. Thus again there arose the great religious movement in the second century B.C. under the Confucianist leader Tung Chung-shu, who tried to found a state religion of Siniticism under the disguise of Confucianism. The heart of this new religion of the Han Dynasty was the old Sinitic idea of a teleological god and of retribution for good and evil. He taught that "the action of man, when it reaches the highest level of goodness or evil, all flows into the universal course of Heaven and Earth, and causes responsive reverberations in their manifestations." When the government has done an evil act, God will give warning in the form of such catastrophes as fire, floods, famines, earthquakes, and mountain slides. And when the warnings are not heeded, then heaven will cause strange anomalies to appear on earth to terrify the rulers into repentance. The class of "anomalies" include such things as comets, sun eclipses, the growing of beards on women, etc. And it is only when these anomalies fail to check misgovernment that final ruin and destruction shall befall the empire. For God is always kind to the rulers of man. This religion, which apparently had the political motive of attempting to check the unlimited power of the despots, was zealously perpetuated by the scholars throughout the later centuries. Then, about the first century B.C., there came the great cultural invasion from India, the introduction of Buddhism. No one really knows how this came about. By 65 A.D. it had already been embraced by a prince of the imperial family; by 165 it was accepted by an emperor who worshiped Buddha together with Laotze. By 200 it was defended by one of the Chinese intellectuals in Southern China. By 300 it was talked about by all educated Chinese and was becoming the most popular religion of the people. China had never seen so elaborate and spectacular a religion. The very simple faith of Siniticism was overwhelmed, and it was speedily conquered. The Chinese people were dazzled, baffled, and carried away by this marvelous religion of rich imagery, beautiful and captivating ""ritualism, and wonderfully ingenious metaphysics. There was not only a heaven, but thousands of heavens; not only a hell, but 18 hells of ever increasing severity and horror. The religious imagination of the Indian people seemed so inexhaustible and always of such marvelous architectonic structure. China readily acknowledged her crushing defeat. China was so completely Buddhist that everything that came from the Buddhist country of India was readily accepted and became a fashion. Even the worst features of Mahayana Buddhism were blindly taken up by Chinese believers. The practice of burning one's body as a sacrifice was frequently encouraged by the extreme fanatics; the lives of monks who burned themselves to death were recorded in the Buddhist biographies in a special section as exemplary achievements of supreme devotion and piety. Under the T'ang dynasty, some strange monk from India would bring a piece of human bone and call it a sacred relic of the Buddha; and he would be so devoutly believed that the imperial court and the whole population would suspend all business and march in solemn processions to greet the Buddha relic. Truly had humanist China lost her head and gone completely mad under the powerful enchantment of this imported religion from India! But the native rationalistic mentality of the Chinese intelligentsia gradually reasserted itself and revolted against this humiliating domination of the whole nation by a foreign religion which was opposed to all the best traditions of the native civilization. Its celibacy was fundamentally opposed to the Chinese society which emphasized the importance of continuation of the ancestral lineage. Its mendicant system was distasteful to the Chinese social and political thinker who was naturally alarmed by the presence of millions of monks and nuns living as parasites on society. Its austere forms of asceticism and self-sacrifice and suicide were fundamentally against the idea of filial piety which regarded the human body as a sacred inheritance from one's parents. And its wonderfully abstruse mythology and metaphysics, never ending in the most ingenious inventions of new gods and new titles of the gods, and never failing in the most hair-splitting differentiations and sub-differentiations, were most foreign to the simple and straightforward ways of thinking of the native tradition. And, most important of all, the whole scheme of salvation as taught in Buddhism seemed to the Chinese thinker as most selfish and anti-social. Each man endeavors to become an arahat, a bodhisattva, or a buddha. But, the Chinese began to ask, for what end? What value is there in a salvation which must require the forsaking of the family and the desertion of all one's duties to the family and the state? The Chinese revolt against Buddhism took many forms. At first it was an attempt to replace it by some native imitation of the imported institution. The native religion of Taoism, which rose in the centuries after the gradual invasion of Buddhism, was a revival of the old Sinitic religion of the people under the influence of the impact of Buddhist ideas and practices. First unconsciously, and then fully consciously, Taoism undertook to kill its foreign rival imitating every feature of it. It invented a founder by superimposing this popular Sinitic religion on Laotze who was then elevated to the position of a supreme god. A Taoist trinity was modeled after the Buddhist. A Taoist canon was gradually but consciously forged after the model of the Buddhist sutras. Heavens and hells were taken over from the Indian religion, and given Chinese names, and they were presided over by Chinese gods deified from the historical heroes of the race. Orders of priests and priestesses were formed in imitation of the Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. Then they began to persecute the foreign religion of Buddhism. Several great and nation-wide persecutions took place in 446, in 574, in 845, and in 955. In each case, the motive was clearly one of a nationalistic attack on an alien faith. In the meantime, the Chinese Buddhists themselves had started their revolt against Buddhism. They could not long swallow the whole output of the wonderful ingenuity of Indian metaphysical obscurantism and religious imagination. They began to simplify it to two essential elements: meditation and insight. Then they began to see that even meditation was not quite necessary. So they threw overboard all that complicated machinery of meditation, beginning with breath-control and ending in the attainment of supreme stages of quietude and the mastery of supernatural powers. Soon they began to preach that all the ritualism and verbalism, and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, all the sutras and charms and spells were useless and must be discarded. The Buddhahood is within you; the law is within you; and salvation is within you. And salvation must be sought through the ripe awakening of one's own understanding, through intellectual enlightenment, for which no external assistance could avail, and which must be the result of the individual's patient seeking and traveling and coming into contact with the best minds of the age. This was the meaning of the development of Dhyana or Ch'an or Zen Buddhism in China. Then the Chinese Confucianist scholars arose in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and dealt the fatal blow to this already much-battered Buddhist religion. The Confucianists began to understand the religion of Buddhism as simplified by the Zennists, and they proceeded to reinterpret the classical literature of Confucianism in the light of what they had learned from the medieval religions. To their delight and surprise, they could find afl the problems of the Zen schools in the philosophers of the classical period. There was the ideal of the perfection of the individual through intellectual training. But the perfection of the individual was never an end in itself, nor was it merely for the sake of individual salvation in which the Chinese philosophers were never interested. The perfection of the individual was only the necessary step for the ordering of the family, the state, and the world. The whole aim must be the improvement of society. The ideal was to be a social one. All this they found in a little book of post-Confucian origin, called the Great Learning, a booklet of 1,700 words, which had been a part of the Li Ki ["The Book of Rites"] and had attracted very little attention from the scholars for hundreds of years until the Sung scholars began to dig it out of its long oblivion. From this little book, the neo-Confucian philosophers slowly built up a secular philosophy .which became the orthodox moral and social teaching for more than seven centuries. The new philosophy appealed to the humanist tradition of the Chinese, and began to have the sanction of the government and the public. After this philosophy had attained official recognition and was taught in all Chinese schools, the medieval religions began to fade away and die out without another persecution. The best minds of the nation no longer patronized their teachings, and even the Zen schools no longer produced first-rate leaders. Their vitality had been sapped away by the vogue of the more humane and social and more intelligible native systems of thought. The revolt of China against the religion of India had succeeded. The development of critical and scientific scholarship from the seventeenth century down has tended to make the new Confucianist thought drift still farther and farther away from the influence of the medieval religions. The new intellectual life, which was characterized by the development of the humanistic and historical studies, was a continuation of the tendency traceable back to the early days of the Chinese revolt against Buddhism. But, with the contact of the various religious sects of Christianity, there began in the last decades of the nineteenth century a new movement to give China a native religion. It was thought by some leaders of the reforms that probably at least one of China's weaknesses was the lack of a national religion which could uplift the morals of the people and unite the feelings and sentiments of the whole nation. The outstanding leader of this line of thought was K'ang Yu-wei, the reformer of 1898, and the religion he proposed to establish as the national religion of China was Confucianism. He wrote and preached in favor of this political establishment of Confucianism. He initiated the practice of dating Chinese history from the birth of Confucius (551 B.C.), after the fashion in the West of dating history in terms of the Christian era. But he belonged to a school of classical scholarship which believed that a large portion of the classics, the portion that was originally written in the so-called "ancient script," was a forgery made in the Han dynasty. He tried to prove, with copious evidences, and with audacity and critical methodology, that these texts were forged by a clever scholar, of the beginning of the Christian era, by name Liu Hsin, who fabricated them as a moral support to the usurper-emperor Wang Mang. His arguments were quite convincing to many scholars, and this new critical school has a large following even to this day. But his ardent advocacy of a political establishment of Confucianism as a state religion was received with little or no enthusiasm. Even his great disciple, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, was opposed to it. The explanation was quite simple. The few classics he had tried to dethrone were the most readable and the most influential of all the classics. If they were to be condemned as forgeries, very little would be left of Confucianism. The remaining texts were difficult to understand and contained little moral teaching. The new interpretations which K'ang's school had tried to read into them were quite as abstruse as the texts themselves. To establish Confucianism after such a radical expurgation would be as ridiculous as to see Hamlet with the Prince of Denmark left out. As late as 1915 and 1916, K'ang Yu-wei and his followers tried to influence Yuan Shih-kai and the Constitutional Convention to incorporate a clause in the new Constitution of the Republic, establishing the teaching of the Confucian school as the basic system of moral education in China. Under the influence of Yuan Shih-kai, this clause was accepted by the framers of the draft Constitution. But the new leaders of the intellectual class, notably Ts'ai Yuen-p'ei, Wu Chih-hui, and Ch'en Tu-shiu, fought hard against its adoption in the final text of the Constitution. The words of Mr. Ch'en Tu-shiu are worth quoting as indicating the new temper of the age. He said: "All religions are useless as instruments of government and education. They are to be classed with the other discarded idols of a past age. Even if we may concede that a religion may be needed by an uneducated people, are we justified in disregarding all the teachings of the other religions? We shall be guilty of encroaching upon the religious liberty of the people, if the other religions are ignored and Confucianism alone is constitutionally recognized." And he went on to show that Confucianism was the very system of thought which had justified and rationalized the political institution of despotic rule throughout all these centuries, and which must go with the final disappearance of the unlimited monarchy. "The morals taught by Confucius and his school, belonged to the age of feudalism, and are mostly unsuited to an age of democracy." The anti-Confucianists won their fight in the end. Mr. Yuan Shih-kai, who supported this Confu-cianist establishment, tried to make himself an emperor, and failed. Mr. K'ang Yu-wei, who led this movement, took part in the abortive movement in 1917 to restore the Manchu Monarchy with the aid of a reactionary general. The restoration lasted 12 days and then failed completely. These political intrigues greatly discredited the new Confucianist movement, which, as the radical thinkers had predicted, was proved to be in league with the reactionary and monarchist movements. It is interesting to note that the leaders of anti-religious thought in the first decade of the Republic were largely men of mature age and old scholarship. Ts'ai Yuen-p'ei and Wu Chih-hui were both outstanding figures of the older generation. Ts'ai was a Hanlin, that is, a member of the old literary Academy, and was then Chancellor of the National Peking University. In 1917 he gave a public lecture in which he frankly expressed his conviction that the religions of the world were obstacles to human progress and that the Chinese mentality was not favorable to religious attitudes. He proposed a peculiar substitute for religion. He thought that religion was essentially a product of the instinctive love for beauty and sublimity, and that it might be replaced by a universal education in aesthetics, a training which should lead men to love the beautiful and the sublime in human conduct as well as in nature. In 1923 there arose in the Chinese periodicals a long controversy over the relationship between science and the outlook on life. The post-war pessimism of Europe had by that time made itself felt in Chinese circles through the writings of Mr. Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and his friends, who were telling the country that science had proved itself bankrupt as the new savior of mankind, and that the solution of the riddle of life could not be found through the channels of science. The defenders of science hastened to reply to these attacks, and the controversy lasted more than a year. When a part of the controversial literature was collected, it amounted to over 250,000 words. With the exception of a few conservative scholars trained in German philosophy through the Japanese schools, the majority of those who took part in this debate were on the side of science which they held to be capable of dealing with all problems of human life and conduct. The most significant event of this controversy was a long essay of 70,000 words by the veteran thinker Mr. Wu Chih-hui. It had this title: "A New Conception of the Universe and of Life, Based upon a New Belief." In this essay the old scholar unreservedly accepted the mechanistic conception of the universe, and built up a philosophy of life which, in his own words, "ruled out the term 'God' and banished the soul or the spirit." He defined man as the animal with two hands and a big brain which enable him to make tools. This tool-making animal has been able to create a wonderful civilization merely through the accumulation of tools with which he subdues nature and betters his own living. The greatest achievement of man is science together with all its applications which greatly multiply the power of man to do work and to produce things for his enjoyment and betterment. Mr. Wu holds that the moral life of mankind has greatly improved with the advancement of science and technology; and that man has never achieved a moral life anywhere or at any other time in history which can be proved to be higher than that of the age of science and its machines. He maintains that no religion, but science alone, will be needed to make mankind even better and more moral. He tries to prove that all the moral sentiments expressed in the old religious systems and moral philosophies were merely empty words without the ability or the tools to realize them in actual life. It is science alone which has given man not only the new sympathy, but the new capability to do good which the mendicant saints of medieval times could never possess. Man must therefore rely upon himself, and himself alone, in his ceaseless endeavor to increase his tools, to extend his knowledge and power to the utmost, and thereby to make himself more and more moral by being in possession of greater power to solve the perplexities and difficulties of life. "I firmly believe that men of this age are far superior to those of any previous age; and I believe that men of the coming ages will be even better than ourselves. And I firmly believe that the more material progress is achieved, the more goods will be produced, the more needs will be met, and the more easily will man be in a position to solve all the most perplexing problems of the world." Mr. Wu Chih-hui is now sixty-eight years old. In him we see the intellectualistic and rationalistic philosophy of life, which is not merely the result of scientific influence from the West, but is the happy combination of that influence with the whole naturalistic and rationalistic tradition of the Chinese people. It is that combination which makes us feel completely at home in this world; and it is that which has led some of us better to appreciate the intellectual and moral significance inherent in Western civilization which the Western philosopher, because of the tremendous weight of a religious tradition, has not always been willing to recognize.   Hu Shih, "Religion and Philosophy in Chinese History," in A Symposium on Chinese Culture (ed. Mrs. Sophia Chen Zen), Shanghai, 1931.  Hu Shih, "Development of Zen Buddhism in China," in Chinese Social and Political Science Review, January, 1931.  Cf. Hu Shih, "My Credo and Its Evolution," in Living Philosophies, New York, 1931.