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Religions of China; the World as a Living System

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Daniel L. Overmyer’s

Religions of China; the World as a Living System

Long Grove, Illinois

Waveland Press, Inc.

Copyright 1986

125 Page Count

Daniel Overmyer’s, Religions of China, discusses the historical developments of the different religions of China. It also addresses the impact religion has on the daily life of the Chinese in the past and present. Overmyer introduces the Chinese living system with his knowledge of Feng-shui, and how everything is connected by shared rhythms. “These rhythms are discussed as the cold, dark forces of yin and the hot, bright forces of yang; together with the five powers of metal, plant, life, water, fire and earth; these forces are modes of qi, “vital substance”. Their interaction produces all things” (12).

The author does an excellent job in his approach to teaching Chinese religions and culture. He explains its concept and upbringings then tries to relate them to the reader’s daily life. This book serves as an introduction to Chinese History, in terms of religions and practices, which paved the way for China today.

In order to help introduce the major cultural and religious features of the book, the author places a chronological list of events in the beginning of the text; from the Prehistoric time (6000 B.C.) to the Peoples Republic of China (1949-present). Its geographical limits are all of China, which extends from the Pacific Ocean to India to Afghanistan, and from Burma in the south to Siberia in the north. Overmyer gives a brief historical view of the country’s’ political and social climb, one example was with the decline of the Hans dynasty to the uprising of the Yellow Turbans then to Way of the Celestial Masters. “These two popular movements were also forerunners of Daoism, which became the most important religious tradition founded in China” (37).

The presentation of the text is thematic and it provides the reader with a step by step analysis to religions and practices. The author presents the concept in a very organized fashion. The first chapter introduces the beliefs and values of China’s living system, with the concept of Feng-shui and qi. The next chapter gives a brief overview of the historical developments of the different religions; Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Popular Religion, and Foreign Religion. The proceeding chapters include the traditions and practices in their religious life and also the community’s intervention with the spiritual life; i.e. The Spring Festival, Exorcism and the Buddhist Enlightenment. The last chapter, Chinese Religions Today, emphasizes on present day religion in Taiwan and China mainland.

Overmyer is very knowledgeable in the subject matter, he was taught by his mother during his first 5 years living in China. He obviously has had first hand accounts with the traditions of China and understands the country’s basic ideas and structures. However, with his vast knowledge on the subject matter he remains unbiased in his teaching methods. He tries to incorporate our western civilization with that of China by listing examples to help the audience relate more to a country they may know

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