Chinese religions are often represented as a unity in which each tradition possesses a number of features typical of a Chinese religious system. Some of these features have been described as n-religious, so that from the 17th century there has been debate in Europe as to whether religion in China exists at all or whether what appear as 'Chinese religions' are t atheistic, purely functional, superstitious cults and rituals. However Chinese religions have long been of interest and fascination for Western scholars. Abundant historical material makes Chinese religions a highly interesting case. With their entirely different philosophical and political context Chinese religions are a challenging field of analysis for Western systematic questions and theories of religion. There is a rich and expanding scholarship in Chinese religions. At the same time, Chinese religions provide students with new and challenging perspectives on the nature of reality, environmental contexts, health, and different types of self-awareness. These provoke the question as to whether it is t the Western religious tradition that is an exception amongst the religious traditions of the world. Joachim Gentz explains some systematic problems related to Chinese religions and examines the roots of stereotypes associated with Chinese religions. He then offers a new systematic approach to explain Chinese religions before presenting the main religious traditions in their historical perspective.
Joachim Gentz is Reader of Chinese and head of Chinese Studies at the University of Edinburgh.