Confucian church

Project for the Confucian Church Headquarters (孔教总会堂) in Beijing, next to the Confucian University. The Confucian University was opened in 1923, but the main church was never completed.[1]

The Confucian church (Chinese: 孔教会; pinyin: Kǒng jiàohuì or pinyin: Rú jiàohuì) is a Confucian religious and social institution of the congregational type. It was first theorised by Kang Youwei (1858–1927) in the last years of the 19th century as a state religion of Qing China on the model of Europe.[2]

The "Confucian church" model was later continued amongst overseas Chinese communities,[3] who established independent Confucian churches active on the local level, especially in Indonesia and the United States.

In contemporary China, since the 2000s, there has been a revival of Confucianism with the proliferation of Confucian academies (Chinese: 书院; pinyin: shūyuàn), the opening and reopening of temples of Confucius, the new phenomenon of grassroots Confucian communities or congregations (Chinese: 社区儒学; pinyin: shèqū rúxué) and renewed talks about a national "Confucian church".[4] A national Holy Confucian Church (Chinese: 孔圣会; pinyin: Kǒngshènghuì) was established with the participation of many Confucian leaders on November 1, 2015; the current spiritual leader is Jiang Qing.

Kang Youwei's national Confucian Church

The idea of a "Confucian Church" as the state religion of China was theorised by Kang Youwei as part of an early New Confucian search for a regeneration of the social relevance of Confucianism, at a time when it was de-institutionalised with the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Chinese empire.[3] Kang modeled his ideal "Confucian Church" after European national Christian churches, as a hierarchical and centralised institution, closely bound to the state, with local church branches, Sunday prayers and choirs, missions, journals, and even baptism sometimes, devoted to the worship and the spread of the teachings of Confucius.[3][5]

The large community of Confucian literati who were left bereft of a ritual and organisational outlet for their values and identity after the dissolution of state Confucianism, supported such projects.[5] Similar models were also followed by various newly created Confucian folk religious sects, such as the Xixinshe, the Daode Xueshe, and the Wanguo Daodehui.[5]

The Confucian Church was founded by a disciple of Kang, Chen Huanzhang, in 1912, and within a few years it established 132 branches countrywise.[6] From 1913 to 1916, an important debate took place whether Confucianism should become the state religion (guo jiao) and as such inscribed in the constitution of China.[6] This finally didn't occur, and anti-religious campaigns mounting in the 1920s led to a dissolution of the Confucian church.[6]

Modern Confucian churches and congregations

While Kang's idea did not realise in China, it was carried on in Hong Kong and amongst overseas Chinese peoples.[3] The Hong Kong branch of Kang's movement took the name of "Confucian Academy" (Chinese: 孔教学院), while the Indonesian branch became the Supreme Council for the Confucian Religion in Indonesia. Members believe in Tian with Confucius as the prophet (Indonesian nabi).[7] Chinese people in the United States established independent, local Confucian churches such as the Confucius Church of Sacramento or the Confucius Church of Salinas.

In contemporary China, the Confucian revival has developed into different, yet interwoven, directions: the proliferation of Confucian academies,[7] the resurgence of Confucian rites,[7] and the birth of new forms of Confucian activity on the popular level, such as the Confucian communities. Some scholars also consider the reconstruction of Chinese lineage associations and their ancestral shrines, as well as cults and temples of natural and national gods within broader Chinese traditional religion, as part of the revival of Confucianism.[8]

Other forms of revival are folk religious[9] or salvationist religious[10] groups with a Confucian focus or Confucian churches, for example the Yidan xuetang (一耽学堂) based in Beijing,[11] the Mengmutang (孟母堂) of Shanghai,[12] the Way of the Gods according to the Confucian Tradition or Phoenix Churches,[13] the Confucian Fellowship (儒教道坛 Rújiào Dàotán) in northern Fujian which has spread rapidly over the years after its foundation,[13] and ancestral shrines of the Kong family operating as well as Confucian-teaching churches.[12]

Also, the Hong Kong Confucian Academy has expanded its activities to the mainland, with the construction of statues of Confucius, Confucian hospitals, restoration of temples and sponsorship of other activities.[14] In 2009 Zhou Beichen founded another institution that inherits the idea of Kang Youwei's Confucian Church, the Holy Hall of Confucius (孔圣堂 Kǒngshèngtáng) in Shenzhen affiliated with the Federation of Confucian Culture of Qufu,[15] the first of a nationwide movement of congregations and civil organisations that was unified in 2015 by the Holy Confucian Church (孔圣会 Kǒngshènghuì).

Chinese folk religion's temples and kinship ancestral shrines on special occasion may choose Confucian liturgy (that is called 儒 , or sometimes 正统 zhèngtǒng, meaning "orthoprax ritual style") led by Confucian ritual masters (礼生 lǐshēng) to worship the gods enshrined, instead of Taoist or popular ritual.[16] "Confucian businessmen" (rushang, also "learned businessman"), is a recently recovered term that defines people of the entrepreneurial or economic elite that recognise their social responsibility and therefore apply Confucian culture to their business.[17]

Contemporary New Confucian scholars Jiang Qing[7] and Kang Xiaoguang are among the most influential supporters of a structuration of the Confucian revival into a national "Confucian Church".[18] Jiang Qing is the current spiritual leader of the Holy Confucian Church.

List of Confucian churches

See also


  1. Tay Wei Leong. SAVING THE CHINESE NATION AND THE WORLD: RELIGION AND CONFUCIAN REFORMATION, 1880s-1937. National University of Singapore, 2012. pp. 96-98
  2. Ya-pei Kuo, 2010.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Yong Chen, 2012. p. 174
  4. Billioud, 2010. p. 201
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Goossaert (2011), p. 95.
  6. 1 2 3 Billioud, 2010. p. 207
  7. 1 2 3 4 Yong Chen, 2012. p. 175
  8. Fan, Chen. 2015. (a). p. 7
  9. Billioud, 2010. p. 203
  10. Billioud, 2010. p. 214
  11. Billioud, 2010. p. 219
  12. 1 2 Fan, Chen. 2015. p. 29
  13. 1 2 3 Fan, Chen. 2015. p. 34
  14. Billioud (2015), p. 148.
  15. Billioud (2015), p. 152-156.
  16. Clart, 2003. pp. 3-5
  17. Billioud, 2010. p. 204
  18. Angle, 2012. § Ritual, Education, and the State.
  19. 1 2 Tay Wei Leong. SAVING THE CHINESE NATION AND THE WORLD: RELIGION AND CONFUCIAN REFORMATION, 1880s-1937. National University of Singapore, 2012. p. 60
  20. 1 2 3 Clart, Jones. 2003. p. 71
  21. Clart, Jones. 2003. p. 72
  22. D. Palmer. Redemptive Societies as Confucian NRMs?. Journal of Chinese Theatre, Ritual and Folklore / Minsu Quyi, 172 (2011): 1-12. Line 172: «Tongshanshe emphasized that it was “primarily Confucian” 以儒家為主».
  23. 1 2 Clart, Jones. 2003. p. 73


External links

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