Talk:Chinese folk religion

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Popular religion[edit]

Has anyone ever heard of "Chinese folk religion" being referred to as "Chinese Popular religion"? -- 14:22, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

I wonder the existence of such a Chinese folk religion[edit]

non one once tried to mix so much different belief in one dubious folk religion.--Ksyrie 19:21, 10 March 2007 (UTC)

Religious classification absurdity[edit]

As a Chinese, I found the classification of this "combined religion" absurd, since we Chinese do not identify it as a unified form of religious belief or practice. There is no word in Chinese, as far as I know, that would represent this as a religion.

Fundamentally, an individual can be multi-religious, and it is common for Chinese people to believe in elements of different religions. The practice of believing in only a single religion is a byproduct of Western monotheism. The three major monotheisms all have doctrines telling their followers to denounce other forms of religion. Additionally, the practice of identifying an individual by a religion is also a byproduct of this religious exclusion.

The fact that this article discusses the multi-religious nature of Chinese people as a single religion is absurd. I know Wikipedia is not the first to do it. I have read similar stance on Britannica. --Voidvector 21:38, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

The fact that there is no equivalent article in the Chinese wikipedia seems to confirm this!--Sonjaaa 10:33, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Let's just say, religious beliefs, which evolved into religions, are absurb anyway. (talk) 00:16, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

The meaning of the term 'religion' in English has really no equivalent in Chinese. It is simply translated as 'Belief-Teaching'. Whereas in the West, there is the implicit assumption that religion is the truth, this does not come over in Chinese. Your 'Belief-Teaching' may very well not be the truth, it is merely your belief and your teaching, no proof is attached; in Wiki terminology it is simply your POV. (talk) 00:09, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes, I am sure your 'Belief-Teaching' is the truth. By enforcing your religious perspective on the state of Chinese religious believes, you are holding a POV. Also, you might want to research into etymology before making assertions like that. Here is a link for you: 宗教#宗教的词源. --Voidvector (talk) 02:29, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

'Zong-jiao' is the noun, and 'Xin-jiao' is the verb. 'Zong- jiao' means 'ancestral-teaching', which is the translation given to the word 'religion' in English. Thus the word religion has really no equivalent in Chinese. This article is about Chinese Folk Religion, which is not a religion by the western definition of religion because it really has no dogma, thus it is called Folk Religion. The so called Chinese Folk Religion is a collection of stories and fairy tales, no more and no less. The Chinese people do not believe them in the same way the Jews, Chrisitans or Muslims believe in their respective religion. I have not enforced any religious perspective, but however traditional Christians, Muslims and Jews all claim their respective religion and only their respective religion to be the true religion, and thus the troubles of this world is ensued. (talk) 23:43, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

This article has basically been copied from the following website:

No, that site is a copy of this article :-) (In the right-hand margin, it says "Content courtesy of Wikipedia".) --Bonadea (talk) 08:54, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

Article reconceptualised[edit]

I have recently reconceptualised the entire article, and I've tried to do the same also to the related articles, since as the previous discussions have already highlighted the Chinese Ethnic Religion is NOT a mix of Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism (which is not a religion but a social system) but a definitely distinct religion, the worship of the traditional ethnic deities and ancestors of the Chinese people. -- (talk) 14:57, 20 November 2010 (UTC)

I've just reverted those edits, and this edit against Germanic Neopaganism, as they seem POV and the previous text seems less so. If you want to make that change, can you try rewording it, and leaving the link to Chinese folk religion without piping it. If you wish to see that article title changes, you should look at the Requested Moves process. — OwenBlacker (Talk) 14:59, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
Your arguments have nothing to do with this article. My edit was not "against" Heathenism, i just removed the link to that "Shanghai Heathen Association" since I think it's a joke and the association actually does not exist. -- (talk) 12:51, 18 December 2010 (UTC)


Can someone supply info on the literacy/educational level of the adherents? (talk) 22:35, 16 December 2010 (UTC)

It has adherents from all the strata of the Chinese populations of Mainland China and Taiwan, even Government authorities take part into yearly worship ceremonies in honor of figures such as Huangdi. -- (talk) 12:48, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
  • I like the pictures. Let's keep them (though a bit more spaced out than before). The Sound and the Fury (talk) 20:50, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

Taoism ≠ Chinese Folk Religion[edit]

Doubtless pointed out by others, flagged statement that 400 million chinese are adherents of something not even well defined, organized, etc. The formulation of this statistic is like that where 2 or three billion Christians are arrived at by summing all the populations of the countries counted as Christian. A base reality corresponding to the lower third of education and cultural attainment in the Chinese population also undoubtedly supports this, albeit not in the manner in which "adherents" are (properly) counted for the Abrahamic cults, Buddhist varieties, etc. Apparently it's also repeated at Taoism, presumably from the same source, no such statistic appears in 道教. Lycurgus (talk) 01:20, 15 May 2011 (UTC)


According to the Society and culture of the Han Dynasty, which refers to this page, "People of all social classes believed in various deities, spirits, immortals, and demons." But there is no mention of demons on this page. Can someone clarify this issue? ChangMei (talk) 21:32, 15 November 2011 (UTC)


A recent edit summary said, "removed "Shenism" since it is labeled as controversial; references only to Singapore; not found widely in Google search." However, Google finds Shenism 7,920 times on the web, including 29 pages in the English Wikipedia. Google Books finds it in 473 times. Keahapana (talk) 00:46, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

You are right that "Shenism" should be included, but it also is right that even though it is possibly not controversial, the use of Shenism is almost entirely for one special case. Google Scholar found 64 results, almost entirely to Singapore or Malaysia. They also differ in referring to Daoism as the equivalent of Shenism. They seem to refer to A.J. A. Elliot's monograph of 1950 Chinese Spirit Medium Cults in Singapore (London School of Economics Monographs). So I have slightly edited the lede to reflect that Shenism is a term, but not a prominent one. Hope this is ok. ch (talk) 18:22, 2 January 2014 (UTC)

Other sources:

[The above sources added anonymously by May 2015. None of them mention "Shenism"] ch (talk) 04:47, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

Unreliable sources[edit]

Hello, Aethelwolf Emsworth and thanks for your recent contributions to Chinese religion articles. As a new user, you might be unfamiliar with some basic WP principles and guidelines. Please read Identifying reliable sources, which explains why unpublished papers (such as Lizhu and Na 2013) and most blogs (such as The Immanent Frame) are unacceptable sources for Wikipedia. The easiest solution to this problem might be to remove all these references and then replace them with Reliable Sources. Please let me know if I can do anything to help. Best wishes, Keahapana (talk) 23:32, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

They are reliable. The paper by Lizhu and Na is a publication of the Fudan University, one of the most selective Chinese universities, while the articles from "The Immanent Frame", which I used as sources just for small parts of the article, aren't simple "blog articles" but they are works of recognised scholars of religion in China, such as Mayfair Yang and Fenggang Yang.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:19, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't realize this paper had been published in a journal or book. Google doesn't list a reliable source for either title, neither "The Revival of Indigenous Religion in China" citation nor the "Resurgence of Indigenous Religion in China" PDF (besides Please provide the full citation and accept my apologies. Keahapana (talk) 20:00, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Since you haven't provided any citations for Fan and Chen (2013), I would guess that "this chapter" is unpublished. I'm not sure how to proceed and have posted an inquiry on the Reliable sources noticeboard. Keahapana (talk) 00:12, 14 January 2014 (UTC) Hi,I am ........ — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:50, 14 May 2015 (UTC)

Please remember to make edit summaries![edit]

Please describe changes, as per Edit summaries. ch (talk) 16:15, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

As per above, Aethelwolf Emsworth and others, please use the edit summaries more consistently! ch (talk) 18:04, 24 July 2016 (UTC)

Peer Review and General Editing[edit]

The article is now a major piece of work on an important topic. It has been viewed more than 14,000 times in the last 30 days, showing that it has a good audience. I suggest that it is time to stop expansion and take stock, the aim being to raise it from a Class C to a Good or Featured Article.

I am therefor requesting a Peer Review. The bar for a Good Article is deliberately set low, but we should aim high. This is a “level-4 vital article” in Philosophy and High-Importance in Taoism, China, and Religion projects.

General comment
Wikipedia has reached a stage where it is tempting for energetic editors to start new articles on specialized, but less important topics rather than improve existing ones. “Chinese folk religion” is one of the articles that needs a group of editors to build on the foundation laid by a few.

This will be a great article when we bring the organization and reliability of the references up to par, simplify and clarify the language, make sure that the article follows Manual of Style, and adjust the main themes to reflect the scholarship in the field. To start the process I offer the comments below, with these Good Article criteria in mind but not limited to them:

Well-written – the prose is clear and concise..., grammar correct..., complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch....
Comment: Serious questions on all these points. See below for specifics.
Verifiable with no original research..., contains a list of all references ... presented in accordance with the layout style guideline; all in-line citations are from reliable sources..... counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged..., contains no original research.
Comment: Serious questions on all these points. See below.
Broad in its coverage – it addresses the main aspects of the topic..., stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style).
Comment: Serious questions on all these points. The structure is hard for a reader to understand. The Article size may be too large, and in any case would be improved by judicious pruning. The size now is approaching 180kb, or 8,859 words readable prose size. In comparison, Religion in the United States, is something like 4512 words and Religion in Russia, is 3219 words. Religion in China is 13,010 words. In addition, this article has extensive words in the footer sections. Size in itself is not a reason to cut, but being larger than comparable articles should lead us to look at each section to see what is needed and what is not.
See below for important topics which are omitted or neglected.
Neutral – it represents viewpoints ... giving due weight to each.
  • Comment: fringe views and terms given Undue weight, other topics omitted or underrepresented.
.... images have suitable captions.
  • Comment: The captions do not all meet MOS guidelines because rather than being captions they are often short essays with several footnotes, which contain further short essays or discussions, rather than sources. See below.

There has been tremendous progress in this article for which equally tremendous thanks are due to the hard work of Aethelwolf Emsworth, who has taken charge of the page, with substantial or recent contributions by Thomasettaei, MusicTeacherClub, FutureTrillionaire, Vegetarianjovfg320, Balthazarduju, JohnBlackburne, Keahapana, Chan89 Thatchedhut. Religion in China and the other articles in the Category Chinese folk religion need to be looked at to see if they have aspects it would be good to edit, these include but not limited to Deism, Luoism, Xiaism, Xiantiandao, Xuanyuanism, Tiandism, Qigong and Zailiism. See below for these terms.

All these articles need to be addressed in systematic way by a number of editors. Other editors with experience in the broad China field or Religion might have thoughts or wish to make edits. I think of Philg88, Zanhe, Madalibi, LlywelynII, WhisperToMe, White_whirlwind, TheRedPenOfDoom, Anna Frodesiak, Kanguole, Rajmaan, TheLeopard, In ictu oculi, Ohconfucius, among others.

Below are suggestions to make “Chinese folk religion” more clear, accessible, and in line with Wikipedia Manual of Style. I apologize for seeming to be critical. The remarks are offered with much respect and hopes that the smart and dedicated editors who have been working here will take charge of the process and make the suggested edits.

Overall conception & Topics omitted or imbalanced

A major challenge is that scholars are split on the concept “religion” and there is no agreement on what “Chinese folk religion” is or the terms to discuss it. Many scholars, probably most, would prefer the term “Chinese popular religion.”

But the purpose of a Wikipedia top-level article is not to present a graduate student’s specialized reading on the advanced controversies in the field, but to give an understandable summary for the general reader, college, or high school student. As a college teacher I could not assign this article in my Chinese Civ. course. There are many words here that I did not understand myself and the presentation of the questions is not clear.

The sources and references for the article reflect this problem. The books and articles by scholars to introduce the field are passed over for advanced scholarly articles that go over the head of most readers. Searching the internet for sources is not as effective as a trip to the library or a bookstore.

Further questions follow from this observation.

  • The article presents “Chinese folk religion” or “Chinese traditional religion” as simply the indigenous or original “religion” of China, that is, does not tell the reader why it is “folk religion,” not simply “Chinese religion.” The article could just as easily be an article on “Chinese religion.” Perhaps it should be moved to “Chinese popular religion,” but that is a question for another day.
This question of names might not be such a problem, but there are several important imbalances or omissions:
  • There is little or no sense of change or treatment of history. “Chinese folk religion” is presented as having been formed in the Shang and Zhou dynasties and not changed over the rest of time. Though several dynasties are mentioned in passing, there is no discussion of historical change. There are sections “Sociological typology” and“Demographics” (more on those), but none on a topic like “History” or “Development.”
  • The only mention of change is in the subsection “Recent history,” which starts with the sentence “The Chinese folk religion was subject to persecution in the 19th and 20th centuries” and ends with “The worldview of the Chinese indigenous religion is distinctive; its images and practices are shapen [sic] by the codes of Chinese culture, helping Chinese people to face the challenges of modernization..” (The entire section is referenced to one source, Fan & Chen 2103 – on which more below).
  • Likewise, there is no direct discussion of the distinction between elite and folk religion, an important omission in an article on “folk” religion.
  • The section “Terminology and definition ” is an energetic attempt that ends up in confusion that could have been avoided by the use of better sources and self-editing. The section mentions a number of terms without explaining the issues behind them, mainly that “folk religion” is distinguished from “elite religion.” “Han local indigenous cults.”
  • The section Overview is also confused. Based primarily on Fan& Chen, it does eventually make the point that “folk religion” is local.
BTW, In the first of many mistaken references, Reference #45 should not be to Wang p. 60-61, because Wang is an edited volume. The reference should be to Zhao Dunhua, “The Chinese Path to Polytheism,” in Wang. Chinese Philosophy in an Era of Globalization, pp. 60-61.
Our article says “Local religion preserves aspects of natural beliefs such as totemist,” which is not what Zhao says. At p. 60 he says “Now that we have separated totems from legends and separated totem religious beliefs,” with nothing about the concept “natural beliefs.”
  • The article should include Christianity as a folk religion, as explained in Madsen (Reference 25), and in Reference 26. However, a better source is Madsen, Richard (2001), "Beyond Orthodoxy: Catholicism as Chinese Folk Religion", in Uhalley, Stephen, China and Christianity, ME Sharpe, pp. 233–249 
Questionable or misused sources

The problems with the scope and content of the article come from problems with the sources. Too much weight is given to articles and books of secondary importance in the field or from obscure places while important work is left out. To repeat, searching the internet for sources is not as effective as a trip to the library or a bookstore. Many of the best sources are not online or are online only in snippets.

The reviews of the book are unfavorable. Using Google Scholar I found Capitanio, Joshua (2013). "Resources for Teaching Chinese Religion: A Review Essay". Religious Studies Review. 39 (3): 143–149. , which reviews her later book. Capitanio says it is “written by two scholars who appear to lack any specialized training in Sinology or in the academic study of East Asian religions,” gives examples of mistakes they make, and singles out the fact that the first item they cite is Fowler’s Introduction to Taoism, the reference in question here. Capitanio endorses the review of Fowler’s Taoism book by Russell Kirkland, also in The Religious Studies Review. The review says:
Fowler earned her degree in Semitic languages, but turned to composing textbooks on Hinduism, World Religions, and Humanism..... She devotes only one chapter to “Religious Taoism,” and her “Schools of Taoism” include “Lü Shan San-nai Taoism” and “K’un-lun Taoism” (actually just minor sects in twentieth-century Taiwan). She misidentifies Mao-shan Taoists as “sorcerers who are adept at exorcism,” and reports, “As to ordinary individuals (in late imperial China) their ‘Taoism’ was mixed so much with Buddhist and Confucian beliefs that they could in no way be called Taoists”—although for some reason, no Taoist authority of any period shared any such essentializing position. In sum, Fowler is a dilettante with no competence to provide reliable guidance to students, and there is no legitimate audience for this book. (Religious Studies Review Volume 33 Number 1 January 2007)
  • N. 4 etc. Clart 2014. “Conceptualizations of “Popular Religion” in Recent Research in the People’s Republic of China” is cited 16 times and an extensive quote given. Clart is indeed one of the leading scholars in the field, but his 2014 article is much too thin to base the whole naming structure on.
  • “Lu, Gong 2014" 1) Should be “Lü” not “Lu.” 2) In any case, references should be to author and title of the particular article, not the volume as a whole. That is, Zhuo Xinping, "Theories of Religion in Contemporary China." in Daji Lü, Xuezeng Gong, eds., Marxism and Religion Religious Studies in Contemporary China. Brill, 2014. ISBN 9047428021 2) More important, this is not a good source, at least not for the great number of references for a wide variety of material. Zhuo’s Abstract says that the article describes “Marxist discourse on the nature of religion ...,” which is a serious project, but it should be acknowledged that it is from a particular point of view.
  • Reference #46 is to the phrase “animism and totemism.” This again needs to cite the article, not the volume. That is, Eileen Barker, “Religion in China: Some Introductory Notes for the Intrepid Western Scholar,” in Fenggang Yang, etc. Barker, says “As a Western sociologist of religion, I claim no expertise on the topic of Chinese religion.” (p. 109). Why use this article to cite three words, one of which is “and”? In any case, neither Zhao nor Barker says that “local religion preserves aspects of natural beliefs such as totemist, animism, and shamanism.”
  • David .A. Palmer’s 2011 article “Chinese Redemptive Societies and Salvationist Religion” is cited a dozen or so times (References 128-30, 132-137, 139, 140 (three References)). This is a fine article for grad students, but too “inside baseball” for our general article when there are more basic references available.
  • Joseph Adler is indeed a leading scholar, but almost two dozen References refer to an online conference paper (Reference 22, which is used in successive sentences; 52-54, which are to successive sentences). Adler’s short book or his encyclopedia article cited below would be much better sources.
Good sources that are not used or not used enough
  • Teiser’s “Why ‘Popular Religion?’” @ What is Popular Religion?
  • Joseph Adler, “Chinese Religion: An Overview,” In Lindsay Jones, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed. (Detroit : Macmillan Reference USA, 2005) A revised and expanded version of Daniel L. Overmyer's article in the 1st edition (1986). Lots of references to popular religion.
  • There are a number of online sources at the Google Search Chinese Popular Religion.
  • Clart’s online bibliography (HERE), lists several items that the editors of this article should use more extensively, These and others include:
    • Feuchtwang, Stephan (2003). Popular Religion in China: The Imperial Metaphor. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781135791650. 
    • Gentz, Joachim (2013). Understanding Chinese Religions. ISBN 9781903765777 (pbk.) Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help). 
    • Jordan, David K., Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors: Folk Religion in a Taiwanese Village. Third edition. San Diego, CA: Department of Anthropology, University of California-San Diego, 1999. (Published as a WWW document. Access or directly at HERE)
    • Lagerwey, John. China: A Religious State. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010.
    • Overmyer,, Daniel L. (1986). Religions of China: The World as a Living System. New York: Harper & Row. 
    • Paper, Jordan, The Spirits are Drunk. Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.
    • Teiser, Stephen F., "Popular Religion." In: Overmyer, Daniel L. [ed.], "Chinese Religions -- The State of the Field." "Part II: Living Religious Traditions: Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Popular Religion." Journal of Asian Studies 54(1995)2: 378-395.
    • Wong, Wai Yip. “Defining Chinese Folk Religion: A Methodological Interpretation.” Asian Philosophy 21.2 (2011): 153-170.
    • Yang, Fenggang; Hu Anning. “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51 (2012): 505-521.
The lead

WP:LEADCITE specifies “Leads are usually written at a greater level of generality than the body, and information in the lead section of non-controversial subjects is less likely to be challenged and less likely to require a source; there is not, however, an exception to citation requirements specific to leads.” There are too many notes in the lead.

The first paragraph of the lead needs to be revised to follow the advice in WP:LEAD in these respects:

  • MOS:LEADALT says that “significant alternative names” should be mentioned in the lead; it does not say all possible names. These names that are not significant: “Shenism,” which is generally used only for Singapore; “Chinese Universism,” which has not caught on since De Groot coined the term more than a century ago; “Wuism..” Not a common English word. :There was a discussion of the question of Wuism HERE in November 2014. At best, these could be in the section on Terminology and definition.
  • Second paragraph also has hard to understand but undefined terms: “localized worship forms,” “founder backgrounds,” “Nuo ritualism,” “liturgical framework,.” “Zhengyi Taoism,” “codified Taoism,” “zhengtong,” “lineage churches.”
  • There are 28 Reference Notes in the Lead, more if repetitions are counted (some References are repeated twice in one sentence). This is too many. As noted above, WP:LEADCITE specifies that:
Because the lead will usually repeat information that is in the body, editors should balance the desire to avoid redundant citations in the lead with the desire to aid readers in locating sources for challengeable material. Leads are usually written at a greater level of generality than the body, and information in the lead section of non-controversial subjects is less likely to be challenged and less likely to require a source...
  • The lead paragraph does not make the basic distinction between “Chinese folk Religion’ and “Chinese religion” or “Chinese cosmology.” To be fair, neither does the article. The first paragraph has too many terms, terms in quotes, neologisms.
    • Chinese translations of the article’s title do not belong in the first sentence, if anywhere, especially since the body of the article explains that “the Chinese language does not have a concept or overarching name for this.”
    • The lead paragraph should include links to related articles to show what category it is in, in this case, Religion in China.
    • The lead sentence says “Chinese folk religion ... is the collection of grass roots ethnic religious traditions of the Han Chinese, or the indigenous religion of China.” 1) The body of the article includes non-Han. 2) What does “ethnic” mean here? What would not be “ethnic”? 3) The sentence is sourced to “Lizhu, Na p. 4" Interpreting this as “Fan, Chen 2013 p. 4,” (see below) I do not find any of these terms on the page cited. Fan & Chen do have a useful discussion of “indigenous religion” which, however, is not used.
    • The first clause of the second sentence is: “Chinese folk religion primarily consists in the worship of the shen ("gods", "spirits", "awarenesses", "consciousnesses", "archetypes"; literally "expressions", the energies that generate things and make them thrive).
Reference #8 sources this to Teiser, “Living in the Chinese Cosmos,” the section titled “The Chinese Cosmos: Basic Concepts.” This page does not mention “folk” or “popular” religion, nor do the words “archetypes,” “awarenesses,” “conscious nesses.” appear on it.
Another section of Living in the Chinese Cosmos, which is not used, is called “Popular Religion & Beliefs” which explains why some scholars avoid the term “popular religion” and others find it useful. Teiser notes that it will not do to define Chinese religion primarily in terms of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism :
Such common rituals as offering incense to the ancestors, conducting funerals, exorcising ghosts, and consulting fortunetellers; the belief in the patterned interaction between light and dark forces or in the ruler’s influence on the natural world; the tendency to construe gods as government officials; and the preference for balancing tranquility and movement -- all belong as much to none of the three traditions as they do to one or all three.
  • The last sentence is “Another name of this complex of religions is Chinese Universism,[Reference 3] especially referring to its intrinsic metaphysical perspective.[10][Reference 4]
Several points: 1) Reference 10 gives the date for de Groot as 2004, which is to the facsimile edition. The date should be to the original publication, which is 1912. 2) A simple Google search finds a copy at Internet Archive: Here deGroot argues that Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism have a common basis, which is Universism.(p.. 1). This is a very different concept from “folk religion.” Explanatory note 4 quotes a tertiary source, Koslowski, which says something rather different, but let it pass.
  • Lead, second paragraph: The first clause (!) has two References: Reference 10 is a dead link and to a Chinese source, which should not be used in the lead. Reference 11 is to a table of divinities which should not be at this place.
  • Second paragraph sentence two: “Chinese folk religion is sometimes categorized inadequately as "Taoism", since over the centuries institutional Taoism has acted as a "liturgical framework" of local religions.[13]” The source cited says no such thing.
  • Second paragraph sentences three & four discuss “Zhengyi Taoism” without telling us what it is. Then “Confucianism advocates worship of gods and ancestors through proper rites....” citing Littlejohn 2010 pp. 35-37. Littlejohn does not say this, but he does have a good discussion of Confucius as a “ritual master.” BTW, a search of Littlejohn finds no discussion of Confucianism as a folk or popular religion.
There are further points to be made about the lead, but let’s leave them for others.
Explanatory notes taken to an extreme

There are more explanatory footnotes in the lead alone than there are in the whole of any article I can recall. This results in a confusing bunch of sections at the bottom of the article, in which it is hard to find what you are looking for.

  • Explanatory Notes in the lead make little sense: 1) if the material is important, it should be in the main text 2) the function of the lead is to summarize the article, not introduce material that needs to be referenced. 3) there is a lot of redundancy in any case.
  • There are unneeded explanatory footnotes in the captions for the images. They should either be cut or the text moved to the main body of the article.
  • There is no need or precedent for having three sections: Notes, Notes About the Deities and Their Names, and then References. Religion in Japan has them, but Religion in France and Religion in the United States do not. Again, if this is important material, it should be in the main text.
Reply: I don't think "Religion inthe United States" and "Religion in France" are good articles, and their format should not be taken as a model for an article about a specific religious tradition. They are mostly a list of statistics with little hermeneutical discussion of the topic, like many other "religion in..." articles. Otherwise, "Hinduism" which discusses a national complex of religious traditions similarly to this article, has different sections for notes and sources and uses a lot more of them than this "Chinese folk relgion" article.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 12:33, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
MOS for explanatory footnotes: Maybe it would be best to look at the section Footnotes and references in MOS:LAYOUT, which does indeed allow a section for explanatory notes "that give information which is too detailed or awkward to be in the body of the article...." So 1) This says nothing about "Notes for Picture Captions" or "Notes about the deities and their names" 2) Many of these notes contain information which is not detailed or awkward so much as repetitious, commenting, or (talk) 21:06, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Reference format

Here are some strong suggestions based on WP:REFB.

Reminder: “Note” here means “Explanatory Note” while “Reference” means “Reference Note.”
  • According to MOS:CHINESE, citations for books should be in the style Doe, John (1950). A Book About Sinology. New York: National University Press. ISBN 1-234-56789-0. Many notes are not in this form.
  • References to chapters in an edited volume must be to author and title of the particular article, not the volume as a whole. See examples above and below.
  • Although it is not required, the {{sfnb}} footnote format is very helpful because a reader can jump directly from the note to the reference. In the article’s present form it is difficult to find references. Other useful tools at WP:CITETOOL
  • Although, again, it is not required, it is a great convenience to link to GoogleBooks or online resources. See: Wikipedia citation tool for Google Books.
  • Many References identify an article as being “on” what appears to be a journal, e.g. References 13, 113, 114, 117, 138, and others. This should be corrected, and this would be a good time to put them in {{sfnb}} form.
  • References 54-60, to Didier: These need to be put in correct and full form.
Problems with Notes, References, and Sources
  • Note 1 sets out to give a helpful discussion of the problems with the term usually translated as “folk religion.” If this is an important matter, it should be in the main text.
  • Note 1 says “Chinese scholars” have proposed to “formally adopt a new name ... to create definite field for their study and a state department for their administration.” This is confusing, not least the phrase “state department.” The note cites Clart (2014), which is not a good source for this important question because it was not intended for the purpose of explaining the basic names for this basic concept, Chinese folk religion.”. Even so, by relegating these names to a footnote (#35 p. 409) Clart indicates that he does not think they are of major importance:
Terms proposed so far are Chinese native religion or Chinese indigenous religion (mínsú zongjiào); Chinese ethnic religion (mínzú zongjiào); Simply Chinese religion or Zhonghuaism (Zhonghuájiào), viewed as comparable to the usage of "Hinduism" for Indian religions; Shenxianism (Shénxianjiào), "religion of gods and immortals", coined on the model of Allan J. A. Elliott's "Shenism".
  • “Shenxianism” is misrepresented. The article note says that “Shenxianism” was coined on the model of “Shenism” but 1) does not add Clart’s remark that Shenism “still has some currency in the Southeast Asian context,” implying that the term does not have currency elsewhere. 2) Clart does not use the term “Shenxianism,” which appears to be created by this article. The terms “Shenism” should therefor not be in the lead – see WP:UNDUE – but used in the sections on Southeast Asia.
  • A REFERENCE HAS BEEN ALTERED: Yilong Shi. The Spontaneous Religious Practices of Han Chinese Peoples — Shenxianism On: Journal of South-Central University for Nationalities (Humanities and Social Sciences), Vol. 28, No. 3, 2008. I do not see this cited in the notes. I cannot find it in Google Scholar. The only place I can find it is in Clart p. 409 n. 35. THE WORD “SHENXIANISM” HAS BEEN ADDED TO CLART’S NOTE. <
Reply: The paper has been published in Chinese with partial translations in English. I have added it to the article using its English title. See: 1, 2. --Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 10:43, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't see this note for a while -- maybe it would be better to post in regular size type, and I took the liberty of changing it for the convenience of other editors. In any case, thanks for clarifying. Now I see that one problem is that, as you explain, an article in Chinese has been cited as if it were in English, which makes it hard to check (when I searched I didn't find it). As for the two notes, the first one leads to an index page, not an article, and the second one is to Shi Yilong's article in Chinese with the title translated into English using "Shenxianism." But one translation does not establish "Shenxianism" as a normal term, even if we knew who did the translation, which we don't. :::BTW, though I will comment on the Hinduism article later, I see that it does not coin new terms and sticks to straightforward language. I also do not accept the coining of other terms, including Zhonghuaism (see above).ch (talk) 19:45, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Shenxianism deserves mention as one of the terms that have been proposed to define the indigenous ethnic religion of China, a conceptualisation and systematisation which appears to be in the works of Chinese intellectuals these days. Reganrding "Zhonghuaism", I have replaced it with its literal translation, "Middle Flower", which is not simply a poetic name for China, but a concept of sacral cosmological significance, just like many other Chinese characters which express natural religious sense.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 13:00, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Explanatory Note 2 should also be cut. It is true that the term “Shenism” was first used by Allan J. Elliot (though it has not caught on after that), but the claim that “during the history of China Shenism” was named “Shendao” is not found in the two sources in References 221 and 222, which is not surprising because it is not true.
  • References 4 and 5 should be cut. They are to Chinese sources and need English translations. Note 4 is a dead link. Note 5 is a live link to a very useful table of folk religions in ancient China, but has no business in the lead.
  • Reference 18 Arthur Wolf Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors, again, is an edited volume, and the reference should be to the particular, article, BUT, why cite this major volume for the minor point that “Chinese religion mirrors the social landscape, and takes on different shades for different people” and not use Wolf’s classic introduction?
  • Reference 19-22, 42, 45, 48-51, 92-95, 111-114, 217, 227  : [Fan Lizhu’s family name is Fan, not Lizhu; Chen Na’s family name is Chen. Therefore change “Lizhu & Na” to “Fan & Na” DONE] (though see below, which suggests that this is not the best source in any case).
  • Reference 151, 153, 154, 155, 158. No need for notes to include extensive quotes from Overmyer. Again, if it’s important, it should be in the text, if it’s not important, cut it. Policy allows longer quotations in the Reference Note as a WP:FOOTNOTE to facilitate verification by other editors without sacrificing readability because verification is necessary when a topic is controversial. But the quotes here are not controversial, they are only overkill and should be cut.
  • Subheading “Emanation of the primordial God (Tian) and great thearchs[v][note 12].” 1) Subheadings should not require an explanatory note, much less two of them plus a link 2) If “thearch” requires a note, it is too technical 3) There is no sourcing for the controversial statement that Tian is a a “primordial God.”
  • Note 183 should not to be used for each of four successive sentences. Once is enough.
  • Note 193 is incomplete. Please supply full reference.
  • Clart (2003) “T'uong Pao” should be “T'oung Pao”
  • Notes 200-201, 2020206, 207-211 are each repeated notes to the same page for successive sentences.
Sources section
  • The entries must be alphabetized! DONE
General improvements and style in the body of the article

Here are a few of the many points that could be made:

  • According to WP:NOCHINESEITALICS, “To help establish a simple and clean appearance, if a term is Wikified and has an article, do not provide characters or romanization again.” In the lead alone there are almost a dozen instances of Hanzi for linked articles. There are other examples throughout, including Chinese translations of quotes (e.g. the quotes from Prof. Han Tingfang, Chen Jingo).
Organization and structural conceptualization

The contents of the key section “Core concepts of theology and cosmology” has a good deal of Original Research in the sense that the selection of topics does not follow any source. Reference 19 does give a good reference (though it should be to Fan, not Lizhu), but Fan and Chen mention only the first of these concepts. I leave to others to examine this and following sections.

  • The section “Features”
The selection of topics is Original Research because the selection is not based on any authority but on an accumulation from various sources; it is confusingly organized; it has many needless technical terms (many of which are not defined); and therefor does not adequately reflect reliable sources. The section should be pared down, clarified, and reorganized.
  • The subsection-heading “Hierarchy of Tian, theo-anthropology and polytheism” does not makes sense and does not describe the content of the section it heads. What is the “hierarchy” (order of importance) of these three terms? The term “theo-anthropology” is a piece of technical language which would need to be defined, but it is not clear that it is the right word. In any case, it is not necessary. The section would be clearer as “Heaven, human deities, and spirits,” or some such. (BTW, “Meanwhile, acting wickedly (that is to say against the Tian and its order) brings to disgrace and disaster” is not a grammatical sentence or a correct statement.)
  • Note 65 etc. Cites p. 71 as a source for “yuzhou shenlun loosely translated as ‘cosmotheism’... ” On that page, note 38 says “Probably, it [yuzhou shenlun] is ‘cosmotheism.’ But this term today has a very strong racialist connotation. I leave it untouched.”
  • Note 155 also to Lu & Gong 2014 p. 63 for the statement: “The gods (shen; "growth", "beings that give birth." What Zhuo actually says is quite different: “Shen (literally ‘the being that gives birth to all things.” — Translator) is the most widely-used word employed to express the idea of ‘god’ and its divine nature in Chinese.” That is, “shen” is not “god” and is not “beings that give birth.”
  • Note 7, which is a short essay on the meanings of the character Tian, with Reference to Lagerwey & Kalinowksi, p. 240, and Lu & Gong 2014 pp. 63-66.
Subsection Organized folk religious sects
Much of this is, again, at the grad student level in language not clear to others.
The first clause of the lead sentence is “China has a long history of sect traditions characterised by a soteriological and eschatological character, often called "salvationist religions" (jiùdù zongjiào),” is footnoted to Palmer’s article. The terms “eschatological” and “soteriological” are too technical for a lead sentence; they are not defined (though they are linked); the source, Palmer, does not say that they are “often called” salvationist; and a search of the article does not find the term “soteriological.”
Palmer says, however, that “whether “redemptive societies” in English or “jiushi tuanti” in Chinese, or any other term, the purpose is to find a moniker to identify a specific wave of Republican-era religious movements, rather than to engage in hair-splitting debates on the literal meaning of the name itself.” Probably this terminological discussion can be simplified or removed.” In his Conclusion, Palmer says “Redemptive societies are thus a unique product of Republican China....”
Palmer’s section “Redemptive Societies as Historical Phenomenon” is indeed very helpful, but the Organized fold religious sects should be organized to make clear the historical change, and the 20th century material put after the traditional.
Specific points and unreliable references
  • “Recent” is one of the “Words to Watch,” that is, avoided: WP:REALTIME. It should be replaced in the Section heading “Recent history” and the several other places it appears.
  • Note 61 references Adler p. 4 for the statement “In Chinese religion, Tian ("Heaven" or "Sky"; translated philologically as "Great One", "Great Whole", "Great All") is the absolute principle that is spring of the universal reality, of moral meaning and of all creativity inherent to the nature.” There is nothing on p. 4 to this effect, nor does a search of the article find any of the above terms in quotes.
  • Note 17 and 67 (used five times). Libbrecht is a tertiary source, and is not entirely Reliable Source on these topics. He identifies a “cluster” that developed in the ‘Mongolian’ area with its gravitational center in China,” relying on Werner Eichhorn’s Die Religionen Chinas. (1973). One function of the Reference is to lead our readers to further works for reference, and there are many better ones than this.
In any case, there is no reference to “Primordial Deity” on page 43 of Libbrecht’s book, nor does a search for it find one (HERE).
Note 17 cites Libbrecht p. 43 as a source for the statement that “Taoism in its various currents, either comprehended or not within the Chinese folk religion, has some of its origins from Wuism.” Libbrecht says “Taoism originated from Wuism,” which shows that this is not a reliable source.
  • at note 116, correct “right” to “rite.”
  • This sentence is confusing, ungrammatical, and not right: ”Folk temples and ancestral shrines on special occasions may choose Confucian liturgy (that is called rú, or sometimes zhèngtong, meaning "orthoprax" ritual style) led by Confucian ritual masters lisheng), that in many cases are the elders of a local community.”
  • Likewise: “The ritual masters, who have the same role of the sanju daoshi within the fabric of society, aren't considered Taoist priests by the daoshi of Taoism who trace their lineage to the Celestial Masters. Fashi are defined as of "kataphatic" (filling) character in opposition to professional Taoists who are "kenotic" (of emptying, or apophatic, character).” at Note 127.
  • References 159 (used three times in one paragraph) is unreliable. The text says that the term “Zhenren” is used in the Zhongyong but the linked article Zhenren says it was first used in the Zhuangzi for a Daoist master. Reference 159 gives the reference “Yao (2010) p. 162, but a search of Yao’s book does not find any use of “zhen ren” in relation to Confucius or “zhen ren” at p. 162 nor does a search find “sancai.”
  • Kui Xing Image, with nb 6 says it is “made up of the characters describing the four Confucian virtues (Sizi).” This should be “Si de.” Should be “pointing to the Big Dipper ,” not pointing the Big Dipper”; at this point in the article do not link Confucius; what does “calligraphic art” mean? It’s a rubbing of a stone carving; no need for a footnote of nearly 150 words to explain what the linked article explains.
Original research and neologisms
  • “Tiandism” appears to be a neologism created for Wikipedia. None of the sources in the article Tiandism translate Tiandi jiao as “Tiandism,” which in any case is an impossible term (it would be Tiandi-ism). A Google Scholar search does not find the term in this sense: Tiandism.
  • “Deism” also appears to be a neologism created for Wikipedia. The article De religion offers four sources. Searches of the two sources by Formoso, one by De Jiao (Deism) and by Tan do not find the word. A general search for “Deism” finds only the western sense.
  • Luoism: There are four sources in the Wikipedia article “Luoism,” but the term is not found in any of them (Seiwert, Ma & Meng, Nadeau, or Goosaert & Palmer). A search of Google Scholar did find a hit for Luoism, but it was for East Africa [1].
  • Xiaism: I did not search the books listed, but a search of Google Books did not find the term used in this sense: HERE.
  • Zailism likewise.
  • Would a search for other terms used in the article would turn up negative results?
Reply: This issue was already discussed here. Jiao is frequently translated as ism by Chinese academics themselves, for example see the case of Shenxianism by Yilong Shi quoted above. My position is to translate all the terms for uniformity. An alternative would be to keep the Chinese root word and translate jiao not as ism but as religion, as is the case of the article "De religion".--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 11:23, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
Reply: Coining terms is Original Research and not allowed. I appreciate your thoughtful point, but it does not respond to the objections I raised just above, and it does not either follow policy or produce results that are understandable by readers. You are right that you and I discussed the issue at the Talk Page when the article was titled "Wuism," another word which was coined for Wikipedia. The article is now titled "Chinese shamanism." You are also quite right that this is a thorny problem, since there is not enough English language scholarship to establish a common usage. Some editors would conclude that these topics are not WP:NOTABLE, but in the end I commend you for finding this rich vein of material. However, the articles listed just above do not follow Wikipedia policy in their titles and should be changed. The use in this article, "Chinese folk religion," should be either changed or (talk) 21:43, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
  • There are many passages where there is a need to clear out or clarify jargon, excess detail, and tough reading. Several of many possible examples:
Scholars have defined the Chinese traditional religion as "polytropic" (poly, "many"; tropoi, "turnings")[191] that is to say an underlying way of being that expresses itself through different "modalities" or "styles" of "doing religion".[191] This creates a context of dialectical competition between different modalities of doing religion and within each modality itself.[191]
can be edited to something like
Chinese traditional religion is practiced in a number of competing but complementary and interacting styles and forms. Adam Yuet Chau has identified five styles of “doing” Chinese religion:
  • This sentence is not a grammatical or clear:
China has a long history of sect traditions characterised by a soteriological and eschatological character, often called "salvationist religions" (jiùdù zongjiào), emerged from the traditional folk faith but neither ascribable to the lineage cult of ancestors and progenitors, nor to the communal-liturgical religion of village temples, neighbourhood, corporation, or national temples.”

I repeat that I am sorry to focus only on these points, although other editors will find others. This is an important article which needs the support of editors with a wide range of interests and competences. ch (talk) 06:20, 22 June 2015 (UTC)

  • Many of the issues pointed out here are worthy of discussion. As a work in progress like the rest of Wikipedia, this article will be improved with time. A big problem for articles about religion in China (and popular or folk religion in particular) is that this (extremely vast and varied) field of research has received little attention in the West until recent times and most of its literary heritage has not been translated in Western languages (or has been mistranslated). There are also discrepancies in the Western and Chinese understanding of what is and what is not "religious". Only recently Western and Chinese scholars are cooperating for a clearer analysis of Chinese folk (or popular) religion.
  • Regarding the style I have used in writing this article (for example the use of many notes, quotations, and the explanation of the different names of this religion or complex of religions), it is due to the complexity of the topic itself. I have partially taken inspiration from the article about "Hinduism". Moreover, as a graduate in philosophy I tend to have a philosophical-hermeneutical understanding of the topic (or of the concepts that are part of it), rather than an analytical-theoretical understanding. I think that articles should be as exhaustive as possible, and simple articles with little or no hermeneutical discussion should be left to Simple English Wikipedia.
  • Grammatical errors and bad structuration of some sentences are due to the fact that English is not my mother tongue. I apologise for this.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 11:23, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
Again, many thanks and much praise to Aethelwolf Emsworth for putting so much effort and intelligence into the article. My comments are meant only to point out the Wikipedia policies that should also be used. For instance, it is great to alphabetize the list of sources, but it would be even greater to follow the standard bibliographical form, which does not call for capitalizing the author. See also the other points under Reference Format above based on WP:REFB.
I wholeheartedly agree that the article will improve as it develops, but this is all the more reason to do things right the first time. This includes aiming the article at general readers and college students. It is hard work to write simply and accurately, but very satisfying! It is true that for a long time too little attention was paid to this field in the West, but this is no longer the case. There are many good introductory studies that we can use rather than articles aimed at graduate students and researchers.
Meanwhile, before further expansion, it would be very desirable to edit the existing article to take the above points of style and content into account, many if not most of which are pretty (talk) 06:28, 29 June 2015 (UTC)

COMMENT: Most of these suggestions have not yet been acted upon even though the article is being expanded. ch (talk) 06:30, 19 August 2015 (UTC)

It seems most of other users mentioned above are not aware that there have been this discussion. Alexander4518 (talk) 07:23, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Alexander4518 I tried to ping them, but I wonder if I messed it up. Did you just get pinged? Should I try them again?ch (talk) 18:35, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Questions and discussion about recent edits[edit]

I again offer admiration for the continued hard work of Aethelwolf Emsworth to build and improve this article, and appreciate the new work, especially the start towards sfnb notes, but am having a hard time to understand some of the recent edits.

  • The restoration of “It primarily consists in the worship of the The gods shen (? "gods" or "spirits"; literally "expressions", the energies that generate things and make them thrive),” which is sourced to Teiser but 1) does not appear there 2) does not make sense since I cannot find “expressions” as a translation for “shen” in any of my handy dictionaries. Also, Hanzi should not appear when there is a link to the article where they do appear.
The right reference is to Adler 2011 pp. 16-17. Chinese characters constitute a web that preserves the meaning of words, and the connection of language to reality, much better than Western alphabets. The Chinese thanks to their language-ideograms immediately understand what is a "god" without the verbosities that are needed in modern Western language to explain a concept. Shen 神 is related to 申 shen, "ex-pansion", "ex-planation", "ex-pression" (Latinate words meaning approximately "out-grow"), meaning a force that produces something. If you analyse further in depth you will find that even the words "god" and "spirit" have similar original meanings. Through etymology we can know what is the original meaning even of Western words.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 08:48, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
I correct myself: also Teiser explains this meaning of shen. In the web resume of the 1996 work The Spirits of Chinese Religion you can read this description:
"They (shen, A. E. note) are intimately involved in the affairs of the world, generally lacking a perch or time frame completely beyond the human realm. An early Chinese dictionary explains: “Shen are the spirits of Heaven. They draw out the ten thousand things.” As the spirits associated with objects like stars, mountains, and streams, they exercise a direct influence on things in this world, making phenomena appear and causing things to extend themselves."--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 09:40, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Thanks, Aethelwolf Emsworth, for your quick and detailed reply, which makes our discussion more useful. My admiration for your basic motives and intelligence increases. But I am pained to say that the actual results of your editing in the area of Chinese Religion sometimes produce the opposite of those motives. That is, these articles have become less understandable to most Wikipedia readers and so become an obstacle to the spread of knowledge about the sophistication and strength of Chinese culture. This is deeply troubling to me because I have devoted much of my life to teaching about that sophistication and strength.
Your explanation of the nature of Chinese characters assumes that readers will understand the Hanzi by just looking at them, but most do not know Chinese. Here is the Manual of Style guideline on Characters, not my opinion, although I heartily agree that it is good policy:
“To help establish a simple and clean appearance, if a term is Wikified and has an article, do not provide characters or romanization again.”
In addition, Adler on pp. 16-17 has no mention of anything like “energies that generate things” and in further addition, even if he did, this is discussing the Neo-Confucian conception and etymology of “shen,” which is not appropriate for this part of our article on folk conceptions (BTW, this is one of many places in this article where we see the confusion between high and folk).
Teiser’s discussion of “shen” is quite good, so I suggest that we paraphrase his language, both here in the lead and in the sections below. That is, there is no need to add further (talk) 03:54, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
I have reworded the definition in a way that now it is nearer to Teiser's one. However, it's all a matter of etymology and mastery of language. When I used that definition ("energies that generate things") I conceived it precisely as a few-words paraphrase of Teiser's definition. In fact, "energy" (a word of common usage, from the Greek en-ergon, "inner urging" or "inner work") says, in one word, what Teiser says in more than one word ("make phenomena appear and things to extend").--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:21, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
The informations contained in the note are esoteric and are meant to contextualise Huangdi and explain why the picture of his temple is the first picture of the entire article. This is basically the reason why I decided to put that note there.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 09:48, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
  • 1) The context for Huangdi is already available through the link to the article 2) your explanation does not mention, much less justify the word-for-word repetition of material from later in the article. In most situations, it would not be good to describe an explanation as “esoteric.” The purpose of Wikipedia is not to “esoteric” but to be clear and (talk) 03:54, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
I still have some doubts about removing that note. I agree that the reasoning about the esotericism of the things explained is an inane argumentation, but I think that Wikipedia articles should be as much complete as possible, and I think and feel that without that note the lede with pictures will be less complete.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:21, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Changing “human groups” to “human agglomerations” is not an improvement in readability or prose tone.
  • Changing “Buddhist” to “Indian.” The source (Overmyer) says “Buddhist,” which is correct here because specific.
Retribution or karma is not exclusively Buddhist, and actually different traditions of Indian thought and religious practice entered China together with Buddhism. Moreover, in my opinion "Buddhism" is a misleading Western construction, and organised Buddhist institutions and religious groups with a clear Buddhist identity are a recent development, especially in East Asia. Rathern than an independent religion it is or has been a body of knowledge about awakened beings and awakening beings ("buddha") that is compatible with, and historically has integrated and completed, different indigenous traditions, Hinduism in India and Chinese religion in China.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 09:04, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
1) You say “In my opinion...” rather than citing relevant policy. Neither my opinion nor yours is relevant. Please see the policy Original Research, which is not allowed. Overmyer’s opinion is what counts! “Buddhist” is what the source says, so please restore it. 2) Your opinion that “Buddhism” is misleading certainly has weight, but “Indian” is far more misleading, since it is much vaguer. “India” did not exist at the time in question and was constructed by the British Raj only (talk) 03:54, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
I have tried to resolve the issue by avoiding to mention Buddhism at all. Feel free to add it back if you think it must be mentioned there. I know the OR policy; "i my opinion" was referred to the discussion about Buddhism, but I have never mentioned it in articles and I agree that it is irrelevant here. that my comment was haphazard; I wrote it abruptly without much thinking and pondering words.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:21, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
So rather than “systems” how about just “religious practices and beliefs”?

Meanwhile, perhaps it would be a better use of our time to continue to edit the uncontroversial points mentioned in “Peer Review and General Editing” section above, such as correcting “Lizhu, Na” to “Fan, Chen,” giving the author and title of specific articles in edited volumes, etc.

Again, many thanks! ch (talk) 05:26, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

Original Research, Misuse of sources at Terminology and definition[edit]

I cut the sentence and explain why here in some detail because the problems it illustrates run through this article and many others in the area of Chinese Religion.

The section starts perfectly well, "The terms that have been proposed include "Chinese native religion" or "Chinese indigenous religion" (mínsú zongjiào), "Chinese ethnic religion" (mínzú zongjiào),[28]", but then goes seriously off track:

or also simply "Chinese religion" or "religion of the Middle Flower" (Zhonghuájiào) viewed as comparable to the usage of the term "Hinduism" for Indian religion,[29] and "Shenxianism" (Shénxianjiào, "religion of deities and immortals"), partly inspired by the term "Shenism" (Shénjiào) that was used in the 1950s by the anthropologist Allan J. A. Elliott[30] and earlier by the Qing dynasty scholars Yao Wendong and Chen Jialin in reference to Japanese Shinto.[31];

Note 29 is to Clart (2014) p. 408 where there is no mention of Zhonghuájiào; it is on p. 409. But there is no mention of “Religion of the Middle Flower,” which is OR and a mistranslation in any case, since “Hua” here is not “flower,” but reference to an early tribal kingdom (strictly speaking, it should be romanized ZhongHuájiào.

Clart p. 409 n. 35 correctly says that Zhonghuájiào is a translation from the English “Chinese Religion.” That is, this sentence from our article misreads the source and invents new terms.

Note 30 is to Clart (2014) p. 409 n. 35, where we find: “Shenxianjiao (partly inspired by Elliott Shenism that still has some currency in the Southeast Asian Chinese context), or Zhonghuajiao “Chinese Religion” derived from the English term and viewed as comparable to the usage of “Hinduism”).

Note 31 is to Howland, Borders of Chinese Civilization, p. 179, which is part of an extended discussion of different terms and problems, none of which back up the point for which this is being cited. A fuller version is: “Shinto “way of the gods” indigenous religious tradition for which a Chinese model is not readily apparent... Neither Gu Houkun nor Ye Qingyu mentions Shinto specifically... Yao Wending and Chen Jilin, by contrast, simply note the existence of – not Shinto (shendao) but – what they call the ‘Shin teaching’ (shenjiao)...” (You have decontextualised and misinterpreted the phrase. What the text says is that they discussed Japanese "Shinto" not using the term "Shinto" but "Shenjiao"--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 21:29, 19 August 2015 (UTC)) That is, one set of Qing dynasty scholars says that Shinto has no connection to China (or to Chinese folk religion, the subject of this article) and the other was NOT used in reference to Shinto. This source does not mention Shenxianism.

The issue of OR and Shenxianism was raised above in Talk:Chinese folk religion#Peer Review and General Editing, but was ignored in making the (talk) 05:56, 19 August 2015 (UTC)

Zhong hua 中华 can be translated as "Chinese" or "Middle Flower". Chinese characters have multiple meanings. It has a cosmological meaning, and here it does not refer to specific historical kingdoms. Your interpretation, in this case, is wrong. The source does say "Chinese religion", but I added the literal meaning for completeness. Remember that "Chinese" is not a "Chinese" word. I don't understand your argument about the translation and the misuse of the source: the article doesn't discuss the direction of the translation, and that the two terms "Zhonghua" and "Chinese" refer to each other is a commonly held fact.
All the discussion in the paragraph about "Shendao" does not refer at all to "Shenxianism", that is mentioned in the paragraph above. It is a brief history of the term "Shendao" that has been occasionally used in reference to Chinese religion. The mention of Yao Wending and Chen Jilin refers to the word "Shenjiao" mentioned just earlier, explaining that they used it before Elliot but referring to Shinto.
I don't see original research or misuse of sources in all of this, just a lot of miscomprehension between different styles of writing.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:35, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
In order to help us be clear in our discussion of what is and what is not OR, please read through the articles Original Research and Verifiability, then let me know when you are finished. Then we can procede. You are clearly an intelligent and energetic editor, but we need to follow policy even when it is not (talk) 05:47, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
I repeat that I do not see any original research in that paragraph; all the content is supported by sources and the terminology that I use to express in other words the content of sources is perfectly verifiable (for example di as "deity" or "emperor", as discussed below). Wikipedia policy encourages the rewording of the content of sources and the use of multiple sources. What you criticise in my contribution is actually the COMBINATION OF SOURCES, which is legitimate in Wikipedia.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 18:41, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
  • "Combining Sources" is an essay, not a policy, and in any case explicitly says
Any wikipedia policy or guideline takes precedence over any essay. Therefore the editor who wants to combine sources should refrain from doing so, if met with objections. This may mean leaving information out or trying to find a different single source that fully supports the desired compound statement.[2]
The guideline says "WP:ORIGINALSYN: 'Do not combine material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources. Similarly, do not combine different parts of one source to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by the source."
Thank you for the further documentation, but there is no controversy over the fact that “di” can be translated as “deity” in some contexts. But not all contexts. For instance in 皇帝 (Huangdi), 帝 could not be translated as "deity." Therefore we must have a source for each particular context. In this case, there is overwhelming sourcing for "Yellow Emperor," so I am arguing that this article should change "Yellow Deity" to "Yellow Emperor." ch (talk) 06:01, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
See discussion below for continuation.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 08:42, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
Good. But the point for this section is still that there is NO source for Shenxianism, which is a term coined for Wikipedia, as is discussed above in several places. I would be happy to leave "Shenxianjiao (the teachings of deities and immortals) and to cut the reference to Howland, which in any case does not mention Shenxianjiao. To translate "jiao" here as "religion" is not (talk) 05:29, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
Shenxianism is used by Shi Yilong (2008) even in the paper's title.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:06, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

"Yellow deity" to "Yellow emperor"?[edit]


Could we change “Yellow deity” throughout to “Yellow Emperor”?

This is the term used for the Wikipedia article Yellow Emperor, which does not mention “Yellow Deity." "Yellow Emperor" is used in the sources cited in the notes where "Yellow deity" is used: Fowler p. 200, Bonnefoy/Doniger p. 246 etc., YaoZhao (2010) has four references to Yellow Emperor, none to Yellow Deity. Also, a Google ngram for “Yellow deity, Yellow emperor” reported “Ngrams not found: Yellow deity”

Cheers, ch (talk) 19:55, 19 August 2015 (UTC)

Di 帝 translates "emperor" or "deity", which in China as elsewhere-but especially in China in historical usage in Sinology ("Emperor" is used for various deities)-, and, again, etymologically, have the same meaning. I used the term "deity" instead of "emperor" because the latter has developed into an entirely secular meaning in the modern Western world, and it is no longer understood in its original sense. So "Yellow Deity" renders more accurately what Chinese think about Huang Di.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 21:18, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks again for your quick response, but making your own translation is Original Research and "Yellow Deity" does not appear in the many sources given in the notes nor, as I explained, can I find it anywhere on the web. If "Yellow Deity" "renders more accurately what Chinese think about Huang Di," then it should be possible to find a reliable source that says (talk) 04:56, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
That is not my personal translation, but another (and more accurate) translation of di, and this is discussed in many sources. Here and here you can find examples of this translation. Didier explains the etymological connection of "di" with the European word "deity"; besides, it is frequently translated as "lord" (1, 2) You have not found Yellow Deity, but you can find many occurrences of "Yellow God" (actually the translation of Huangshen) in Google Books. (see). This is all a question of hermeneutics (interpretation); one who knows the etymology and interchangeability of words certainly wouldn't lose time in this kind of discussions.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 06:06, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Good. Thank you for the further citations. I would be happy to see you change "Yellow Deity" to "Yellow God."ch (talk) 16:25, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Di is "emperor" or "deity", shen is "god". It wouldn't be right to translate the occurrenced of di as "god".--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 18:25, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Let me clarify: Your position is that "Yellow Deity," for which there is no source, should be used in the article, but that the article should not even mention "Yellow Emperor," for which there are many reliable sources, including the ones you used to source this article, and which is the title of the Wikipedia article? ch (talk) 18:48, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
No, my position is that di is usually translated "emperor" and/or "deity" (the etymology of the word is an established, well-known fact among scholars of Chinese religion), shen as "god", the three are near synonymous and in English they can be used interchangeably, even though at certain times the Chinese tradition seems to have made a slight distinction between the di and the shen. These are facts, and the use of synonyms doesn't need sources. The main description of Huangdi should mention all the three translations, while in the body of the article they can be used interchangeably. I have favoured the use of "Yellow Deity" for the reasons that I explained above: 1. the etymological connection of di with deity; 2. the fact that "emperor" in the West has been completely deprived of its original meaning and is today perceived by the mass of the population of speakers of Western languages as a secular title.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 19:12, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

This source, p. 48: "Di [...] means divine. [...]"; this, pp. 138-139: "di (both divinity or god)" - "di (deity)". There is even an entire scholarly work dedicated to the concept of Di and Tian: Ruth Chang's Understanding Di and Tian: Deity and Heaven from Shang to Tang Dynasties. Note that the author clearly gives the translation of Di as "Deity" in the title (I should have the entire paper in .pdf file).--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 19:25, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

  • Please see my comment above on Synthesis.
To be sure, our discussion here is over a translation, but the principle is clear. “Yellow Emperor” is the standard translation for Huangdi; “Yellow deity” is drawing a conclusion not found in the sources and created by putting together separate sources to produce a conclusion not found in any of them. Translating ZhongHua as "Central Flower" is an even more clear (talk) 06:14, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
We are discussing about how to translate Chinese characters in English. To me, it is logical to give "Yellow Deity" as a translation given that huang translates as "yellow" and di as "deity" (philologically speaking, is the whole compound Huang+Di that was the title of earthly emperors and translated in English as "Emperor"). By the way, I have found a paper (Ikezawa Masaru's Observing Chinese Excavated Materials from a Perspective of Life and Death Studies: "Image Reversal of the Dead" during the Zhanguo, Qin and Han Periods) which uses the English name "Yellow Deity", as a translation of Huangshen (interestingly, the author seems to make distinction between Huangshen (Y. D.) as the metaphysical concept and Huangdi (Y. E., i.e. the line of Chinese imperial power) as the bodily form of Huangshen), various times (and interestingly explains the religious cosmology that is related to the Yellow and other Color Deities; p. 28: "the Yellow Deity ... begetting the five deities of the sacred mountains"). I insist that "Yellow Deity" is legitimate and should be used in the article. Regarding Zhong Hua, a quick search has given me different results corroborating the translation of "middle/central flower" (Georg Lehner's "China in European Encyclopaedias, 1700-1850", p. 144: "Zhonghua (fleur du milieu, i.e. flower of the middle)"). You can see that my translations of the Chinese characters are right and sources can be found attesting their correctness.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 08:39, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
In fact, the new citations are further evidence for translated Huangdi throughout the article as "Yellow Emperor," as it is in all the sources cited in the notes, and disallowing "Central Flower" as a translation for ZhongHua:
  • Ikezawa translates Huangdi as “Yellow Emperor.” “Yellow Deity,” as you rightly note, is his translation for Huangshen.
  • “Flower of the Middle” may or may not be the same as “Central Flower,” but Lehner is reporting the French language publication of Eduard Biot who died in 1850! You are a strong and energetic researcher, and if the best source for “Central Flower" that even you can find is an early 19th century French source, then this is not a strong case. I repeat that the “Hua” in ZhongHua is the Hua in 華夏. As you rightly note, Hanzi have different meanings in different compounds, and it is simply wrong to chose literal dictionary meanings without reference to the specific situation.
In any case, our job as Wikipedia editors is to reflect the state of the field, not to make corrections, especially when they are not (talk) 18:59, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
  • There is a brief discussion of the term 華夏 in the article Huaxia, whose references make clear that 華 (Hua) has nothing to do with "flowery," although some early Western scholars thought (talk) 05:04, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Here are some thoughts about the ongoing dispute over creative translations in this article.

  • Shén 神 meaning "extend; etc." is not found in modern dictionaries. The (curiously unnamed) "early Chinese dictionary" is the Shuowen jiezi, which defines shén 神 as: "天神 引出萬物者 也从示申" "Shen are the spirits of Heaven. They draw out the ten thousand things.", but circularly uses 神 as the definiens for the phonetic element shēn 申: "神也 七月陰气成體自申束 从臼自持也 吏臣餔時聽事 申旦政也 凡申之屬皆从申". This purported "making phenomena appear and causing things to extend themselves" is pseudolinguistic nonsense.
  • Huangdi is usually translated "Yellow Emperor", sometimes academically "Yellow Thearch", and almost never "Yellow Deity" ("Ngrams not found", as mentioned above). It's worthwhile to mention that some scholars translate one way or another (thearch is accurate but uncommon), but readers should always be given the common English equivalent, not a Chinglish neologism.
  • Mistranslating Zhonghua literally as "Central Flower" also sounds like Chinglish or MT. Wikipedia botanically uses "central flower" a dozen times. Mair translates Nanhua zhenjing 南華真經 as "True Scripture of Southern Florescence"—at least florescence is semantically informative.

Whenever possible, perhaps we should exclusively use translation equivalents from reliable C-E dictionaries. Keahapana (talk) 01:51, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Agree with CWH and Keahapana. "Yellow Emperor" is an anachronism, but is the most common translation. Some scholars advocate the more accurate "Yellow Thearch", but popular usage is hard to change. As for "Hua"/"Zhonghua", Li Feng (sinologist) says (forgot in which book, probably Early China) the word comes from Mount Hua, which was the central sacred mountain in the Zhou domain, roughly equidistant from its two capitals. "Central Flower" is certainly wrong (although Mount Hua probably got its name because its five peaks are positioned like petals of a flower). -Zanhe (talk) 04:03, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
There is a clear consensus.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 20:17, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
I should note that Aethelwolf Emsworth and I have also worked out consensus on a number of other points mentioned in the section Peer Review and General Editing, and I am happy to say that one or both of us has implemented many of the suggestions there. I hope that Aethelwolf Emsworth will continue to make excellent contributions and that other editors will join us in building this article! ch (talk) 20:29, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Doubts about CWH's criticism[edit]

CWH, honestly I start to have doubts about the nature of your criticism to my edits and about your knowledge of Chinese culture.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 21:18, 19 August 2015 (UTC)

Among your recent edits to the article you have removed an entire note and changed the page cited (from 408, to 407), claiming that the source paper doesn't mention that, while it is clearly reported at page 408 (in parentheses, and this is the reason why I added it as a note) and its is clearly in the economy of the discourse about Han Bingfang's project of rectification of distorted names. Maybe Han Bingfang did not say that Christian missionaries distorted Chinese folk religion, but Clart has said it certainly.

Quote from p. 408:

Therefore he rejects both the old denigration of popular religion as “feudal superstition” (a label that interestingly has also been adopted by Christian missionaries to undermine popular religion as a religious competitor)...". --Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 21:18, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
I hope that I can restore your faith in my good intentions and that you can forgive me even if I sometimes might make a mistake. But in this case I think I can straighten things out without the need for such forgiveness. When Clart says "he rejects," this refers to Chen, not Han. Han's quote is on page 407, Chen's on page 408. (Here
In addition, the text that I changed claimed that Han said the distorted names "were derogatorily applied to the indigenous religions by Christian missionaries," when the source said that they were introduced by leftist policies. This is not a criticism of your edits, but a correction. ch (talk) 05:27, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
You should have reworded and correctly attributed the text instead of removing it and changing the quote.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 06:11, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm glad that you no longer have doubts about my criticism and knowledge about Chinese culture!ch (talk) 16:10, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
CWH, "feudal superstition", which the source clearly states was "adopted by the Christian missionaries", is the main label that leftist politics used to bring discredit to Chinese folk religion, and part of the terminology that Han Beichen intends to rectify. This is discussed throughout the article, which is a logical context.--Aethelwolf Emsworth (talk) 19:42, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

Editing the lead[edit]

I cut most of the present second paragraph of the lead because it is confused, self-contradictory, and misleading:

  • After saying (correctly) that Chinese folk religion is “inadequately characterized as ‘Taoism’ or ‘folk Taoism,’” the next sentence goes on to talk of Daoism in modern or esoteric forms, which do not characterize the overall long term development of popular religion.
  • The next sentence switches to Confucian rites without showing that they are part of folk religion (which they may or may not be, but that’s a controversy which does not belong in the lead, or at least not in this form).
  • Then “Taoism in its various currents, either comprehended or not within the Chinese folk religion, has some of its origins from Wuism.” This is a confused concept and confusing sentence, which again is not useful in the lead, even if it were true, and even without the introduction of the term “Wuism,” which is not used widely at all and constitutes WP:UNDUE (Libbrecht is an OK source, but not for unusual things such as “Wuism.”).
  • The sentence “Chinese religion mirrors the social landscape, and takes on different shades for different people” is a mixed metaphor; a truism hardly in need of a source; a wrong reference (should be “Arthur Wolf, ‘Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors,” in etc. etc.) and no page number; concerns modern Taiwan, not folk religion in general (though it is also true of folk religion in general). (The reference is used again below in the section “Features,” for the sentence “Deities reflect the pattern or structure of development of the universe, in a hierarchy in which each god presides an aspect of reality.” This sentence is not grammatical and it conveys no meaning.

I have more edits, which I will explain in detail as I go along. ch (talk) 04:32, 7 December 2015 (UTC)

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