Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chinese folk religion

As it's Easter time I thought I'd post something on the topic of religion and bbcs.

"Are your parents religious?" is a question I've been asked a couple of times by non-Chinese people who are unsure what religion Chinese people actually follow.

Well, my parents (like those of many bbcs) are believers in what I've just discovered is termed 'Chinese folk religion'. It's a mixture of ancient myths and ancestor worship and takes in all those beliefs and customs that bbcs will be familiar with, from astrology to 'Fook, Look, Sau' to 'bai neen' ceremonies.

The worshiping of ancestors is a major part of Chinese folk religion - Your parents may even have a shrine in your home to your grandparents. I think ancestor worship, whilst it seems outdated and bizarre can provide believers with the peace of mind that comes from a belief in the afterlife (common to most religions) and can be a humbling influence too (i.e. we are not more important than our predecessors). The downside is that it can encourage the belief that our lives are more determined by mystical outside forces than our own thoughts and actions.

Traditional folk religion is losing some ground to Christianity in Hong Kong. Some say it is because it is simply a more attractive and more 'modern' faith that appeals to young people but I've also heard it said that people just like that the fact that it is easier to follow with less ceremonial duties and complicated, archane customs. For bbcs, though, many of our parents brought folk religion over with them and will more than likely continue to follow it.

It's often said that there is nothing wrong with religion, it's organized religion that seems to create so much strife and conflict in the world. If that's the case then Chinese folk religion might be a better way to go! It's far from organized and has no powerful church watching over its believers. It's quite a personal faith and does not encourage evangelism or conversion. Now why can't all religions be like that?

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