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ANCESTOR WORSHIP AND VENERATION History Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).

The people at this time worshiped many deities, including natural forces and elements such as rain, clouds, rivers, mountains, the sun, the moon, and the earth. Their greatest deity, Shang Di (, pinyin: Shngd), remains an important god in the Chinese pantheon. The history of ancestor veneration has its roots in the Zhou Dynasty (1122- 256 BC). When the Zhou dynasty came to power, significant changes took place in religion. People still worshiped the old gods, but ancestor worship became increasingly important. Confucianism and Taoism appeared near the end of the Zhou dynasty. These two religious traditions had an enormous influence on the development of the most basic and lasting principles of Chinese culture. Confucianism The basic aim of Confucianism is to live in harmony with the "Way (Tao/ Dao) of Heaven" by carrying out the duties and responsibilities appropriate to one's position in society. Ancestor worship and reverence to family are fundamental elements of Confucianism. Rituals to honour ancestors are extremely important and must be performed in precise ways. By carrying them out properly, an individual can receive the aid and cooperation of deceased relatives. Misfortune, a sign of displeasure by the deceased, indicates that the proper rituals have not been followed. Taoism Taoism, also known as Daoism, arose about the same time as Confucianism. This religious tradition had its roots in the nature worship of the earliest Chinese people. The word tao/dao means "way," and Taoist belief is based on the idea that there is a natural order or a "way of heaven" that one can come to know by living in harmony with nature. Through an understanding of natural laws, an individual can gain eternal life. An important concept of taoism is Yin and Yang. Taoist deities include nature spirits, ancient legendary heroes, humanized planets and stars, humans who became immortal through Taoist practices, and animals such as dragons, tigers, and snakes. All human activitieseven such things as drunkenness and robberyare represented by deities as well. The highest deity, Yu Huang-ti (the Jade Emperor), is associated with the ancient Chinese god Shang Di. Taoism and Confucianism stress the importance of paying proper respect to elders, especially parents and grandparents, and deceased ancestors are honoured with various ceremonies and rituals. Buddhism The basic principle of Buddhism is that all suffering comes from earthly desire, and only by eliminating desire can one gain happiness. Buddhists believe that humans live many lives and are continually reincarnated, or reborn, to a new form of existence after death. An individual's actions in previous lives, known as karma, determine what type of existence that person has after rebirth. The highest goal of Buddhism is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth by achieving enlightenment and entering a timeless state known as nirvana, in which one is free of all desire. Chinese Buddhism became much more elaborate than Indian Buddhism, incorporating many Taoist and ancient Chinese gods. Among the most popular Chinese Buddhist deities are Emituofo (Amituofo ), ruler of the Western Paradise, and Guan Yim, the goddess of mercy. ANCESTOR WORSHIP, VENERATION AND OFFERING Family is viewed as a closely united group of living and dead relatives. Ancestor worship is a religious practice based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, that the spirits of deceased ancestors will look after the family, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living.

Unity of the group is reinforced through ancestor veneration, offering of various kinds help to keep the ancestors happy in the spiritual world, who, in return, will bless the family. Ancestor worshipping is not asking for favours, but to fulfil ones filial duties. The act is a way to respect, honour and look after ancestors in their afterlives guaranteeing the ancestors well-being and positive disposition towards the living, as well as possibly seeking the ancestors wisdom, guidance or assistance for their living descendants. One has to pay respect and homage to the ancestors, honour the deeds and memories of the deceased, since the ancestors are the ones having brought the descendants into the world, nourished them and having prepared the conditions under which the descendants grew up, hence ancestor veneration is a pay back of spiritual debts. Being an important aspect of the Chinese culture, the social or non-religious function of ancestor worship is to cultivate kinship values like filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage. Ancestor worship is a family affair, it is held in homes and temples and consists of offering joss stick, serving as communication and greetings to the deceased, prayers and offering items before tablets. In homes, the shrines can be a shelf on the wall, a table or an altar like architectural structure, integrated in the structure of the house or even an entire room, depending on the financial status of the family. The shrine will show a tablet with the ancestor's name inscribed on it, as well as a picture or photograph. Most likely, the patrilineal ancestors and their wives will be honoured. The shrine will have an incense stick holder, at times with a Golden Flower, and plates for food offerings, some might feature glasses or a set of tea cups for quenching the ancestors thirst. Some shrines show symbolic objects or objects honoured by the deceased. Flowers offerings, most likely fresh ones or sometimes in form of a garland, can be found as well. Small offerings are always placed throughout the year to honour deceased family members. On Chinese New Years day, it will be different, though.

1. When did ancestor worship begin in China?

2. How was ancestor worship used in Confucianism?

3. How was ancestor worship used in Taoism?

4. How was ancestor worship used in Buddhism?

5. Explain ancestor worship. Why is it used? How do you honor your ancestors?