A-30.10.007
"Temple of 500 buddhist deities."
Hager, C. R. (Mr)
date early : 1896-01-01.0., date late : 1905-12-31.0.


A-30.10.009
"China: temple in Shanghai."


A-30.10.012
"Abbot with rosary and priest of a buddhist monastery."
Quervain, de (Mr)
date early : 1908-01-01.0., date late : 1925-12-31.0.

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Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Confucians:
Religion in the Orient

Both India and China had elaborate, ancient religions with organized priesthoods. Buddhism, an ancient Indian religion, was founded by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, in the 6th Century BCE (BCE means "before the common era". CE means the "common era". An accepted compromise for the Christian calendar and the Muslim one beginning with the hijra.), and is based on his teachings regarding spiritual purity and freedom from human concerns and desires. Hinduism, the main religion in India, revolves around several deities. Reincarnation is a central belief in Hinduism, and the religion upholds the arrangement of society in a caste system. Hindus believe in Karma, and the sum of someone’s lifetime actions is seen as a major influence on their next life. Confucianism is the oldest school of Chinese thought, named after the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BCE). Confucianism emphasizes morality, consideration for others, obedience and good education. Taoism is a Chinese philosophical system based on the teachings of Laozi (6th Century BCE) and others. Taoists advocated a life of simplicity and non-interference with the natural course of events. Taoism recognized several deities with a belief in magic and alchemy. Islam also made an early appearance in Asia. European missionaries reacted to these religions and philosophies very differently from their response to indigenous religions in Africa. In Africa, the missionary strategy was to confront, expose and ridicule indigenous priests as charlatans who preyed on people’s superstition. Few African societies had priesthoods for the supreme deity or worshipped the supreme deity in any organized way. Daily worship revolved around lesser deities and the ancestors. In Asia the scenario was different. Missionaries believed in the superiority of Christianity, but avoided ridiculing ancient Asian religions. Catholic and Protestant Mission Societies in their accommodationist stance even accepted the caste system in India as given in Indian society. Some missionaries gave up eating meat to court the approval of high-caste Hindus. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that Protestant churches in South India took a firm stance against caste, and the decision brought division into the churches. In China, Protestant missionaries engaged Taoism and Confucianism in the nineteenth century not necessarily to discredit these as false teachings, but to underscore the superiority of Christianity. The learned adherents of Confucius were treated with circumspection. The Protestant missionary journal, Chiao-hui-hsin-pao, for example, provided a forum for Chinese Christians in the 1860s to discuss and compare the virtues and demerits of Christianity and Confucianism.
In A-30.10.007 we see a temple of 500 Buddhist deities, highlighting the polytheistic nature of Buddhism. The temple has an elaborate interior with a gated walkway to the altar and raised platforms on both sides of the walkway, where monks are seated. Temples were elaborate architectural edifices, as is evident in the Buddhist temple in Shanghai in A-30.10.009. In A-30.10.012 we see officials of a Buddhist monastery, an abbot and a priest. In A-30.10.015 Buddhist priests celebrate a ceremony at an altar. There are also some similarities in religious beliefs in Africa and Asia, and in both places some deities had sacred groves, as A-30.10.030 shows for China. In A-30.10.031 and
A-30.10.036, several wooden tablets with inscriptions of gratitude are piled outside the grove of a deity in China. This reminds the author of an Akan (of Ghana) proverb that “a powerful deity is the one to whom sacrifices are offered.” The wooden tablets serve as a form of testimony to the efficaciousness of the deity. Africans and Chinese, apparently, also share a reverence for ancestors. In A-30.11.017 we see an Ancestors Hall in Sinning. In Southern Ghana, stools representing the ancestors are kept in stool rooms, where rituals are performed on sacred days.
Indians also built elaborate temples to Hindu deities. We can see the interior and exterior of a Jain temple in Karkala in C-30.62.006 and C-30.62.007.
C-30.62.009 shows a procession during a festival of deities in Udipi. In this photograph, one sees several huge umbrellas, and it is unclear whether they provide shade for the representations of the deities of for important personalities. C-30.62.026 shows a chariot for a deity in India, and C-30.62.027 shows a wagon for the deities. The huge wooden chariot is an exquisite work of art and reflects the devotion of Hindu devotees. Anthropomorphic figures are carved on the chariot. Hindu deities, like Greek ones, often took human form and interacted with humans.
Asceticism and renouncing the material world is encouraged in both Buddhism and Hinduism. In C-30.62.095, we see a Fakir with his head buried. A Fakir was a wandering Hindu or Muslim Holy man who begged for survival. This Fakir and the one in C-30.62.097 have begging bowls, and their unkempt condition and very little clothing underscores their rejection of the material world. For Buddhists and Hindus, Nirvana is the ultimate state of spiritual tranquility achieved through release from everyday concerns and the extinction of individual passions.

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