Religion is the faith in and the worship of a controlling superhuman power, which is mainly termed as gods or God. According to Beck, et al. (2006), religion is the attitude, complex experiences, emotions, ideas, rituals, texts, symbols, and convictions, which social beings and individuals express, live out, and identify their fundamental relationships with as it is a source that encompasses their lives in the world. There are different religious beliefs across the world, and all the major world religions differ from each other due to the various aspects that are believed do distinguish each of the majority of religions practiced throughout the world.
The Japanese religions have been greatly influenced by the religions that appeared in China. Most of the religions found in Japan mostly originated from China, which implies that the two countries share the same religions and religious aspects although there may be very few differences between the practices, which can be explained by the adaptability of the religion from China to Japan (Bowring, 2005). The most widely practiced religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. The Asian religions that were prevailing in both China and Japan include Buddhism, Shintoism, and Hinduism.
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In Japan and China, Buddhism is one of the main religions that are widespread among the population of the two states. The original Chinese Buddhism was first introduced to Japan by monks who came from China, after which it independently advanced from Chinese Buddhism. Buddhism practices in China slightly differ from Buddhism in Japan as it normally has some overlapping sects and different names such as Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism although the religious aspects and teachings are similar (Goldburg, Blundell & Jordan, 2012). In fact, Japan’s Zen Buddhism differs very much from China’s Tibetan Buddhism. In Zen Buddhism, people are encouraged to pursue happiness and achieve the enlightenment of Buddha while according to Tibetan Buddhism, there is a belief that individuals have to exercise love empathy for each and every person and follow this rule on the way towards enlightenment.
Other religions practiced in Japan, such as Confucianism and Taoism, also had their origins in China and were inspired by Chinese Buddhism. Shinto is one of the religions practiced in both China and Japan and is Japan’s main religion along with Buddhism. Nowadays, Japan is a country that can be considered almost Atheist because the majority of its population neither practice any of the religions nor believe in any gods or God (Bowring, 2005). The Abrahamic religions, which were widely practiced, include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and they were all believed to be descended from Abraham. Other religions, which were practiced in Japan, were also practiced in China according to the table illustrated below.
Religions in China and Japan
|Main religions||· Chinese traditional religion
· Folk religious sects
· Ritual mastery traditions
· Chinese shamanic traditions
· Chinese Buddhism
· Tibetan Buddhism
|Minor religions||· Mongolian folk religion
· Tibetan Bon
· Yi Bimoism
· Zhuang Moism
|· Ryukyuan folk religion
· Ainu folk religion
· Chinese folk religion
|Abrahamic religions||· Christianity
· Bah?’? Faith
· Bah?’? Faith
|Other religions||· Manichaeism
The aspects of a religion are the essentials, which are found in the foundation of any religion; they all provide a more detailed understanding of the practiced religion.
Both China and Japan practiced Asian religions, all of which originated from the countries in the Asian region. Some of these regions include Buddhism, Shintoism, and Hinduism. The Asian religions had a very strong belief in the existence of multiple gods in contrast to some other religions, according to which the only one God exists. Reincarnation is another belief peculiar to Buddhism, which means that the spirit and the soul always get a new life after death. There is also the belief that the afterlife of a person will be determined by what way of living he or she followed when they were alive meaning that all actions have consequences in the afterlife. Another belief implies that there are three universal truths, which are Anatta, Dukkha, and Annica (Beck et al., 2000).
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Christianity is one of the most practiced Abrahamic religions in both China and Japan. All the religious aspects in these countries are similar while the main belief states that Jesus Christ is God’s son and the messiah. The Christians also believe in the Holy Trinity (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit) (Breuilly, O’Brien & Palmer, 1997). Along with that, the Christians believe that Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus; the religion also implies that only one God exists. Other beliefs include monotheism, and belief in the death and resurrection of Christ. The Christians also believe that life after death is determined by how an individual lives his life, which will further define whether the individual goes to heaven or to hell.
The ethical principles peculiar to Buddhism are similar in China and Japan and include 5 Precepts: do not steal, do not take alcohol, do not tell lies, and do not engage in a sexual relationship. There are also Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths, which are associated with Buddhism (Clark, Kennick & Langree, 2001).
Since Christianity is practiced in both countries, it shows that the ethical principles followed in the two countries by the Christians are the same. The ethics of Christianity is mainly based on the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Chris,t which can be found in the Bible.
3) Ceremonies and rituals
The ceremonies and rituals conducted by the Buddhists in both China and Japan are similar. In fact, there is a great number of sacred ceremonies and rituals, which are associated with the different religions that are practiced throughout the world. Thus, some of the rituals, which are associated with Buddhism, include meditation, matras (Sacred sounds), prayer wheels, which is the reciting of the mantras, mudras, which is symbolic hand gestures, and pilgrimage, which involves the visitation of sacred sites (Green & Samuel, 2012). Buddhism in Japan and China is practiced in small groups and different temples throughout the two countries. Sometimes, it can also be practiced at home, without even the need to visit the congregational meetings.
The Christian ceremonies and rituals practiced in Japan and China are very similar in terms of following and implementation (Bowring, 2005). The major ritual in Christianity is the attending church services on Sunday, which is considered to be the holy day. Some of the rituals include singing and praying. Christians pray on a regular basis, and reading of the Bible is also one of the rituals that can be followed either at the church or at home. Other significant rituals include communion and baptism because almost all the Christians f are baptized either when they are young or even when they are adults.
4) Stories and Religious Myths
There is a great resemblance to the Buddhist stories and myths in Japan and China. According to Buddhists, there are many stories and myths, which are believed to contain moral meanings and lessons; some of the Buddhist stories include the lost son, the worm, the tail, love, happiness, angry Buddha, and the thief. For instance, the story of The Worm, which was written by Ajahn Brahmavamso, describes a story about two monks who were best friends and spent all their lives in a monastery (Beck et al., 2000). When the two friend monks eventually died, one was reborn into the realms of heaven while the other friend monk was reborn as a worm in a dung pile. The monk who was reborn in heaven tried to help his monk friend get out of the dung pile and join him on heaven, but the worm monk was too arrogant and proud as he claimed that his life was much better and happier in the dung pile.
The Christian stories and myths in China and Japan have the same contents. This religion abounds in stories that provide a moral lesson and have deep meanings behind them. Some of these stories include The Prodigal Son, The Good Neighbor, The Mustard Seed, The Good Samaritan, etc., with deep meanings in their contents. For instance, the story of The Prodigal Son is a Christian story, which is found in the Christian scriptures. It is a story about a hardworking man who had two sons. The youngest son requested his father to share his portion of the estate and inheritance so that he could take care of his own portion by himself, and his father obeyed and shared everything he owned with his two sons. Immediately after the youngest son got his share of the property, he set off on a journey to a very far land where he spent all the fortune his father had given to him on earthly pleasures. When he found out that he wasted everything on his pleasures, he sought for a job where he got to feed pigs. He never had any food, so the circumstances forced him to eat and dine with the pigs until he came back to his senses and understood that it was better to work in his father’s estate than feed pigs as his father treated his workers nicely. He went back to his father, begged for his forgiveness, and, to his astonishment, his father forgave him and tried to explain to his elder son why he had to forgive his younger son.
In Buddhism, there is a total of eight symbols that are commonly found in the Buddhist flag, which is the Tibetan prayer flag commonly used in ritual art. The symbols are incorporated into mandalas. They include the parasol, which represents spiritual power and royalty; the golden fishes, which show redemption, fertility, and good fortune; the treasure vase representing material and spiritual abundance; the lotus, which represents spiritual and mental purity; Conch shells representing Buddha’s teachings fame; the endless knot, which shows the infinite wisdom of Buddha; the victory banner, which illustrates Buddha’s teachings victory; and finally, the wheel, which represents all Buddha’s teachings (Green & Samuel, 2012).
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Christianity symbols in Japan and China have similar images and representations. There are several symbols such as animals, angels, crosses, objects, stars, holidays, colors, numbers, etc. The cross is the most significantly recognized Christian symbol in all countries that practice Christianity. It is known to represent great sacrifice, which was God’s salvation offer to humanity as well as a promise of resurrection.
6) Religious experience
A religious experience can leave an individual with a clear understanding of God and a sense of awareness. The experience can either be auditory, visual or sensed. Some of the religious experiences were obtained in situations when people claimed that they had visions of some good or bad things that could happen in the future, and in reality, their visions became true. Some people can have religious experiences, without realizing that they have it, which, in some religions, means that the person could encounter some angels who have taken the form of people; thus, the individual fails to know what happens until much later.
The religious experiences of Buddhism imply meditation. One of the religious experiences in Buddhism is forgiveness and the ability to let go of any negative thought or experience; the healing of the heart and mind at the beginning of a new day is also a religious experience peculiar to Buddhism. Other religious experiences found in Buddhism in both Japan and China are the honest non-judgmental reality, joy, non-violence and inner peace, gratitude, humility, and self-honesty. Through meditation, a person tries to bring to peace his or her mind and try to forget all earthly things.
Being a major religious practice in Japan and China, Christianity has some religious experiences, according to which people believe in divine intervention, As a result of this, some wrong actions could be changed into a better thing, without being given an explanation or through the interference of higher-order beings who are considered to be a direct encounter with the one and only God.
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7) Social structure
The adherents of Buddhism forming its laity are ordinary people. This religion also has nuns and monks following or the monastic orders and living their lives in enclosed communities according to the Buddhists’ guidelines. Buddhism does not have any hierarchical structures as it is the case with other religions, such as Abrahamic religions, although it still has some structured order of the community monks, which is known as the Sangha as it has a very great significance in the Buddhist religion. This order is aimed at the promotion of enlightenment attainment because when an individual takes the step of becoming an apprentice, then he or she is sanctified as being a nun or a monk. It is mainly practiced in temples.
The social structure of Christianity is divided according to the different divisions: Protestantism, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. The hierarchy order of Christianity includes the Pope who has the highest rank, the Cardinals, the Patriarch, major Archbishops, Primates, Metropolitan bishop, Archbishops, and finally, the Diocesan Bishops.
8) Sacred writings and teachings
The sacred writings and teachings of Buddhism have the same contents in both China and Japan. In Buddhism, there is a great number of sacred writings and texts, which are normally further divided into two categories: canonical and non-canonical. This means that these scriptures could either be a part of the Bible or not. Some of these books include the Mahayana Sutras and the Tripitaka. Other sacred texts include the Dhamapada and Pali Cannon.
The Christian sacred writings and teachings are also similar in the two countries. The most recognized text by the Christians is the Holy Bible, which is mainly composed of two parts: the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is considered to be very identical to the Bible used by the Jews, and the New Testament includes writings of Jesus Christ and His disciples as well as different letters and apocalyptic writing.
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In conclusion, there are different religions, which are practiced in Japan and China. Most of the religions that are widespread in Japan had its origins in China. The two countries share the same religious movement. Although there might be slight differences in the religious structures due to the different cultures of the two countries, the religious aspects are all the same. The reason for this is the fact that most of the religions have universal religious aspects throughout the world as the teachings and scriptures of the religions are the same. This shows that Buddhism in China has the same teachings, texts, rituals, beliefs, ethics, social structure, myths, religious experiences, and symbols as in other countries that practice this religion, and the bright example is Japan. All religious aspects in religion almost the same in any country; the only differences consist in the aspects of various types of religions as their teachings, beliefs, and traditions may significantly differ from each other.