Program Particulars: China's Hidden Spiritual Landscape

Program Particulars

*Times indicated refer to Web version of audio

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(02:12–03:40) Music Element

"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale

(02:55) Lineage

A subtle, vital aspect of Chinese society is the concept of lineages. The lineage is one method by which Chinese connect to their ancestors. Complex rules define how a lineage differs from a family, clan or even a line of descent.

Lineage groups are community groups that provide for its members, track their genealogy, and own property and temples where ancestor worship can be performed.

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(03:40–05:02) Music Element

"Trad: Blue Little Flower" from Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet, performed by Yo-Yo Ma

» Enlarge the image A from China's imperial commissioner to Queen Victoria.</strong><br>Sent during the diplomatic tensions preceding the Opium Wars, Lin Zexu's letter questioned the moral reasoning behind the British government's involvement in the Chinese opium trade.

A from China's imperial commissioner to Queen Victoria. Sent during the diplomatic tensions preceding the Opium Wars, Lin Zexu's letter questioned the moral reasoning behind the British government's involvement in the Chinese opium trade.

(03:59) Opium Wars

The Opium Wars were a series of wars in the mid-1800s between the British Empire and China. Britain, heavy importers from China, especially of tea, tried to smuggle opium into China from British India to restore their trade imbalance. China, meanwhile, sought to restrict the drug trade in its borders. The issue of trade highlighted a power struggle between the policies of the two nations. After the Chinese intercepted a shipment of British opium, the British retaliated, initiating the war. The British, however, being a globe-spanning empire, had superiority of arms, and won the ensuing conflicts. Subsequently, China was forced to open its ports to foreign trade, travelers and missionaries. Also as a result of the Opium Wars, Hong Kong was occupied by the British. They claimed it as a colony, which it remained until 1997.

(04:06) The Fall of the Nationalist Kuomintang and the Rise of the People's Republic of China

Following the collapse of the imperial Qing dynasty in 1911, China became fragmented, with warlords controlling various parts of the country. In the following years, two political parties emerged as rivals capable of unifying the country: the Kuomintang (KMT), a revolutionary nationalist party, and the Communist Party of China (CPC).

At first, the KMT and CPC joined forces to form a united front against the warlords. Yet as the alliance wrested more and more control of China away from the warlords, the ideological differences between the nationalist and communist factions grew. The nationalist KMT faction had become more powerful, and forced the Communists out of the alliance. Facing persecution, the CPC went underground, and fomented revolts, rebellions and uprisings. The Nanchang Uprising of 1927 became the starting point of a ten-year civil war.

USMA)">» Enlarge the image
USMA)"><strong>The Long March </strong><br><em>Note: the map mentions
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The Long March
Note: the map mentions "soviets." A "soviet" was an organized group of Communists, typically a local workers' council. The Soviet Union was named for a national union of soviets.
(Image: USMA)

Over 80,000 people set out, and fewer than 10,000 people survived. Nevertheless, these survivors became the core around which the Party rebuilt itself in later years. In fact, a key leader during the Long March was Mao Zedong. And, just as importantly, the peasants of the country who heard of the Communists' survival now saw them in a heroic light.

In 1937, the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-shek, was forced to contend with the invasion of China by the Japanese. The Chinese unified once more to defend against the invasion and occupation, until Japan's defeat at the end of World War II. Wartime resistance against the Japanese greatly weakened the KMT. The Communists, meanwhile, ever champions of workers and peasants, were further able to garner support among the Chinese peasant class, who had been oppressed by the Japanese during the War.

With the end of World War II, the Chinese civil war resumed. American negotiators stepped in to resolve the conflict between the KMT and the CPC, and both sides agreed to reduce their troop levels. The CPC reduced its troop levels through political purges. Meanwhile, the KMT simply fired their 1.5 million soldiers, who, though alive, now had no livelihood. The millions of unemployed soldiers turned to the CPC for employment.

Building on the popular support gained during the Long March and World War II, and reinforced by this new influx of disgruntled military manpower, the CPC was then in position to rout the weakened KMT. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China, a single-party state under control of the Communist Party of China.

Defeated, the KMT survived by retreating to Taiwan. To this day, the Kuomintang continues to call Taiwan its home, and no treaty has ever been signed to officially end the Chinese civil war.

» Enlarge the image Mao Zedong (left) and Chiang Kai-shek (right)

Mao Zedong (left) and Chiang Kai-shek (right)

Led by Mao Zedong, the People's Republic of China was reorganized along Communist lines. Ambitious revolutionary programs such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) aimed to thrust China forward on economic, political and cultural fronts, while dispensing with tradition.

However, these programs had disastrous consequences. As a result of rural land reforms and ineffective agricultural policy, massive famines broke out during the Great Leap Forward. As many 30 million people died as a result of starvation.

The Cultural Revolution was meant to further the revolutionary ideals and eliminate political rivals, but its widespread political turmoil led to economic, intellectual and cultural stagnation. It was also a period of repression and paranoia, which Mayfair Yang describes as a "reign of terror." Author Anchee Min spent time in a forced-labor camp in her teens, and spoke to Krista about life during the Cultural Revolution and the "cult of Mao" in a previous Speaking of Faith program.

After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, subsequent generations of Party leaders instituted economic reforms that paved the way for China's surging industrialization.

» Enlarge the image Engraved image of Confucius.</strong><br>The Chinese characters read

Engraved image of Confucius.
The Chinese characters read "Portrait of the First Teacher, Confucius, Giving a Lecture.

(10:00) The Five Confucian Classics and the Four Books of Confucious

A number of classical texts form the foundation of Confucianism. Among them, Mayfair Yang mentions the Five Classics and the Four Books.

The five Confucian classics are what remain of a series of six scriptures (the last being lost through time). These are:

The texts known as the Four Books are:

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(12:51–15:34) Music Element

"Ding Dong Camel Bell" from The Spirit of Nature: Traditional Chinese Music, performed by Chen Tao, Gao Hong, Liu Li, Wang Hong, Yang Yi, and Zhao Yangqin

(14:51) Falun Gong

This religious movement, better known as Falun Dafa by its practitioners, grew in popularity in the 1990s. Principally a spiritual discipline aimed at cultivating and nurturing a practitioner's thoughts and energies, it offers guidelines for meditation, morality and exercise.

First introduced in 1992 by its founder Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong quickly gained a wide following, with as many as 100 million followers by 1999. Some see the sudden popularity of Falun Gong as an expression of a spiritual yearning, one suppressed through years of Communist rule and the Party's focus on economic and technological development.

Because of its size and quick growth, Falun Gong attracted the attention of the Chinese government. Starting in 1999, the government cracked down hard on Falun Gong practitioners. The religion was officially banned, and practitioners were arrested, sent to forced-labor camps, or subjected to extreme forms of torture and indoctrination meant to break their allegiance to the spiritual disciplines. Party propaganda also vilified Falun Gong, considering it a threat to the Party, ideologically and politically. Today, Falun Gong practitioners continue to draw attention to their plight in mainland China.

(14:56) Vatican's right to appoint bishops

Bishops oversee local geographic units of varying sizes and number within the Roman Catholic Church. Members of local churches often nominate and elect their bishops, who are usually recognized and approved of by the pope. In July 2007, the members of the government-controlled diocese of Beijing elected Joseph Li Shan as bishop. Bishop Li Shan was ordained prior to consulting the Vatican for approval. The Vatican said it welcomed the choice. The papacy excommunicated two bishops in 2006 for being illegally ordained.

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(21:55–23:50) Music Element

"Melody for Mahakala" from Tibetan Tantric Choir, performed by The Gyuto Monks

(22:20) White Paper

Krista cites a government policy paper, "Tibet's March Toward Modernization" that begins:

China is taking vigorous steps to open even wider and become more prosperous. China's Tibet, with its peaceful liberation in 1951 as the starting point, has carried out regional ethnic autonomy and made a historical leap in its social system following the Democratic Reform in 1959 and the elimination of the feudal serf system. Through carrying out socialist construction and the reform and opening-up, Tibet has made rapid progress in its modernization drive and got onto the track of development in step with the other parts of the country, revealing a bright future for its development.

(23:47) Red Guard Groups

Red Guards were members of student organizations that traveled across China to spread the teachings of Mao Zedong, especially during the period of the Cultural Revolution. As political activists, they used posters, speeches and sometimes violent coercion to eliminate what were called the Four Olds — old customs, old habits, old culture, old ideas — and replace them with Party ideology. They targeted ideological enemies of Communism: counterrevolutionaries, intellectuals, former landowners, and even the elderly.

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(26:18–29:16) Music Element

"Spring - Allegro" from Vivaldi Four Seasons, performed by Chinese Baroque Players

(29:40) Study from a Shanghai University on Chinese Religious Revival

The East China Normal University of Shanghai conducted a three-year survey, beginning in 2005, tracking the religious character of China. According to the study, 31% of the Chinese population, some 300 million people, are considered religious—much higher than the previously circulated number of 100 million. One of the surprising results of the study was that traditional Chinese religious were on the rise. The results of the study were in line with figures published in a Pew Forum study in the US, which also reported that 31% of Chinese considered themselves religious. (For the purposes of these studies, Confucianism is not considered a religion.)

One of the directors of the East China Normal University study, Liu Zhongyu, described some of the results to the government-run China Daily newspaper:

Liu disagreed that religious passion is fanned by poverty. For example, many new believers in recent years are from the economically-developed coastal areas. Liu attributed the rising influence of religions to the religious freedom enjoyed in the country and social problems confronting the Chinese in a time of fast change. The survey also finds that more young people have joined the ranks of the religious since 2000. "This is markedly different from the previous decade, when most religious believers were in their 40s or older," said Liu.

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(29:41–31:04) Music Element

"Battle Rememebered" from Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet, performed by Yo-Yo Ma

(33:07) VCD

A precursor to the DVD, the Video CD was a disc-based video format popular in China and other parts of Asia. The format never gained popular use in North America.

(34:44) "A Higher Father"

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward (who along with Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal in the 1970s) documented the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in his book Plan of Attack. He shared what he learned on the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes. In an interview with Mike Wallace, Bob Woodward described interviewing President Bush about whom he consulted before making the decision to go to war.

Did Mr. Bush ask his father for any advice? "I asked the president about this. And President Bush said, 'Well, no,' and then he got defensive about it,” says Woodward. "Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, 'He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.' And then he said, 'There's a higher Father that I appeal to.'" Beyond not asking his father about going to war, Woodward was startled to learn that the president did not ask key cabinet members either.

davidreid/flickr)">» Enlarge the image davidreid/flickr)"><strong>A gold-faced Mazu statue at Fucheng Temple</strong><br>Located in Sanzhi, Taiwan.<br><cite>(Photo: <a href=davidreid/flickr)">

(37:44) Mazu

According to legend, Mazu was once a young girl named Lin Mo Niang who miraculously rescued her drowning brothers. Later, Mazu was elevated as a patron deity who would offer protection to travelers, particularly seafarers. Although worship of Mazu originated in her native Fujian province, it spread to the island of Taiwan; there are now some 800 temples there devoted to her.

(41:15) Tzu Chi Merit Foundation

The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation is a Taiwanese aid organization founded in 1966. Their aid proved instrumental in the aftermath of a severe 1999 earthquake in Taiwan. Its members also participated in the relief of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province of mainland China, drawing on their experience of the 1999 Taiwan earthquake.

(41:45) Sichuan earthquake

On May 12, 2008, at 2:28 p.m. local time, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale occurred in the Sichuan province of China. Nearly 70,000 people were killed, another 400,000 injured, and 20,000 missing.

A three-day period of mourning was declared, the first such mourning period outside of the death of a prominent Party leader. And exactly one week after the earthquake, at 2:28 p.m., May 19, people across the country participated in three minutes of mourning. Flags were set to half-mast, traffic stopped, and people stood together in recognition of the deceased. For three minutes, as well, car horns and air-raid sirens were sounded continuously, as an expression of grief and symbolic of the wailing of the victims. A television fundraising special on May 18 collected some $200 million toward relief efforts.

Three minutes of "silence."
This mourning period took place exactly one week after the earthquake, to commemorate the victims of the May 12, 2008 disaster.

A collection of Internet messages known as "tweets" sent from around China were posted on the website Shanghaiist, describing the confused, surprised and overwhelmed response of bystanders. Among them was this one: "Traffic Stopped on Tianshan Rd. Horns blaring for 3 minutes. It was beautiful."

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(43:24–44:19) Music Element

"Trad: Blue Little Flower" from Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet, performed by Yo-Yo Ma

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(43:24–44:19) Music Element

"Moonlit Night of Stone Forest" from The Hugo Masters, An Anthology of Chinese Classical Music, Vol. 2: Plucked Strings, performed by Liu Bo, Shanghai Chinese Orchestra

(44:15) Secularization Thesis

In the 1960s, experts believed in secularization theory, which predicted that the power of religion would decrease across the globe with growing prosperity and modernization. This theory came to the forefront of American popular culture with Harvey Cox's 1965 best-selling book, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective, "The rise of urban civilization and the collapse of traditional religion are the two main hallmarks of our era."

By the early 1980s, Cox had conceded in Religion in the Secular City: Toward a Postmodern Theology that religion indeed remained a force in the modern world. He became especially fascinated by the vigorous rise of Pentecostal Christianity and liberation theology in Latin America.

In the foreword to his 1999 book The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics, Peter Berger described the same conclusion: "The assumption that we live in a secularized world is false… The world is as furiously religious as it ever was."

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(50:25–52:37) Music Element

"Smoke" from Taste of China, performed by A Studio

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is Director of the East Asia Center at the University of California in Santa Barbara. She has produced two films about China and is the author of Chinese Religiosities: Afflictions of Modernity and State Formation.