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Learning local ways promotes religion

Chinese teachings from the past can help people live better lives and improve society today

A traditional Chinese painting of children studying A traditional Chinese painting of children studying
  • Wang Rui, Nanchong
  • China
  • April 19, 2011
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More than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization and culture have influenced people from generation to generation. To make evangelistic work more efficient and let more people know Christian culture, we must also learn and understand Chinese culture.

This was the motivation for me to do an intensive course on Chinese traditional culture at Guanyin Temple in Nanchong, in southwestern Sichuan province, April 8-10.

Of approximately 100 participants, 70 percent did not have any religious beliefs, while the others were Buddhists, Taoists and Christians.

Buddhist Venerable Huanyin, the main instructor, themed his talk on Di Zi Gui (Standards for being a Good Student and Child), an ancient book based on the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius that emphasizes the basic requisites for being a good person and guidelines for living in harmony with others.

Being dutiful, loyal, trustworthy as well as acting with love and morality would not only help people with or without religious beliefs to live a sincere and happy life, but also influence their neighbors to perform good deeds.

The Buddhist monk said religious people and clergy should look further ahead, caring for not just their followers, but more importantly all humankind, to help them to find their own pure and original inner realm in this challenging world.

His words greatly inspired me, a Catholic. I believe the reason why Buddhism has been deeply rooted in China and widely accepted by Chinese people is that it has integrated faith with our culture from the past to the present.

Many fans of Chinese culture can easily adopt Buddhism and Taoism, as their teachings help Chinese people’s spiritual needs and fulfill the desire of those who pursue goodness and justice.

The temple offered free meals and accommodation to all participants on this course. “The temple is simple but we must let you feel the warmth. We do not instill Buddhist ideas and help you to have good thoughts about life,” Venerable Huanyin said.

His words reminded me that the Catholic Church should also show such sense in order to spread the Gospel in this materialistic world. For example, during major Church feasts, we should offer free meals and accommodation to Catholics from rural areas, catechumen and non-believers so that they can feel the warmth of the Church family. More concern and more help would make them understand the meaning of sacrifice and thus enable Church development.

Another instructor on this course, Yingzi, is the founder and teacher of Qianya Yoga Center. The non-Catholic lady said learning Chinese traditional culture helps one be a benevolent and strong person.

“There are two major goals in our lives, namely conforming to the natural law and accumulating virtues. If we could fulfill them, the meaning of life would naturally achieve its most perfect interpretation.

“I hope all participants will no longer attach importance to their own interests, but help and care for others. Let us be lights of society to illuminate more people to perform good deeds and make harmony in family and society stay with us always,” she noted.

During the sharing session, a female participant surnamed Li said, “Though I don’t have any religion, this course has given me direction and a goal in life. People at birth are naturally good ... from the inspiration of traditional culture I would let such goodness guide my way of life.”

A schoolteacher surnamed Huang shared that learning traditional culture makes more young people understand the context of the ancient teaching of “refine oneself, get married, govern the nation and bring peace to the world” and realize their mission to make a contribution to humankind and society.

There are many aspects in Chinese culture, in which Confucian teachings can help people achieve holistic growth and be a useful person. To this end, Catholics must enhance their personal qualities and integrate themselves with the virtues of Chinese culture so as to foster the Church’s evangelization.

Wang Rui is a Catholic laywoman from Nanchong diocese in Sichuan province.

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