East Asian Religion Timeline


Shang Dynasty

1766 BCE - 1122 BCE

The Shang dynasty created the concept of the high deity called Shang-di, the lord above. They also practiced an early form of ancestor veneration which would become substantial to the Confucian and Daoist ideologies.

Zhou Dynasty

1122 BCE - 221 BCE

Confucius lived and taught during the end of this dynasty. The yin-yang theory and the five substances theory were developed. The cult of Tu-di Gong, the "earth ruler". who controls fertility became widespread among the largely agricultural populations.

Life of Confucius

551 BCE - 479 BCE

Known as Master K'ung, he was the founder of Confucianism. He developed the concepts of righteousness and ren.

Confucius starts a private school and begins teaching

522 BCE

Confucius starts a private school and begins teaching.

Life of Mencius

372 BCE - 289 BCE

Mencius was a Confucian disciple who made major contributions to the humanism of Confucian thought. Mencius declared that man was by nature good. Mencius was an idealist who emphasized justice and humanity; proposed the idea of popular rule; and is credited with articulating the famous "Mandate of Heaven" ideology.

Qin Dynasty

221 BCE - 206 BCE

The first full unification of China, from central Asia to the eastern coast, was brought about by the first emperor, who also instituted a state religion.

Han Dynasty

200 BCE - 220 CE

During this time, civil service entrance was based on Confucian teachings. Also, texts deposited in tombs suggest the notion that a new supreme overlord called Tian di, keeps records on each individual's soul. The content of the Five Classics was officially established for the first time. The state religion developed in this dynasty placed the emperor as chief priest. Daoist thoughts were also integrated.

Buddhism on the rise

220 - 600

With the arrival of Buddhism in China, Confucianism became less popular.

Daoist scripture created


An effect of Buddhism's rise to prominence was to motivate the adherents of Daoism to systemize their texts and teachings and to create institutions modeled after Buddhist monasteries.

T'ang Dynasty

618 - 907

Religious harmony occurred during the beginning of the dynasty. However, Emperor Wu-zong confiscated Buddhist monasteries and destroyed thousands of sacred texts. His main motivation for doing this was that more and more lands were being donated to the Buddhist monastic community, exempting them from taxation. This anti-Buddhist policy reduced Buddhism's dominance in China.

Silla Dynasty (Korea)

668 - 918

In Kora, Buddhism flourished under imperial support once the country was united and Korean monks made great contributions to major texts.

Song Dynasty

960 - 1279

Neo-confucianism moved to the center of Chinese religious life. Song dynasty administrators restored mastery of Confucian learning as the basis for winning a position in civil service.

Taiping rebellion

1850 - 1864

The Taiping rebellion was a massive Civil War in Southern China leading to approximately twenty million lives lost. It was led by Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus.

Shinto state religion


The Shinto tradition was officially adopted as the state religion of Japan.

Changes in Japanese Govt

1889 - 1890

New constitution and Japanese government initiatives draw heavily on Confucian doctrines, showing the heavy interaction of religion and state.

Founding of neo-Shintoism


People's Republic of China

1949 - 1976

The Communist Party persecuted Monks and priests of Confucian and Daoism institutions. In 1949, Mao Zedong, who was then an advocate for egalitarian values and gained grassroots support for promising equity, lashed out at Confucius for being a champion of the old feudal society and the ruling class.

Cultural Revolution

1966 - 1976

The Cultural Revolution brought about renewed persecution of religions and adherents in China.

Buddhist monasteries and Daoist temples reopen in China

1984 - 2013

Buddhist monasteries and Daoist temples reopen in China, many with new monks and nuns in residence, pilgrims increase rapidly and visit major sites to perform traditional rites.

Confucian study in schools supported by state

1990 - 2013

In the 1990s, Confucianism was promoted to provide moral teachings and counteract the decadence and materialism brought about by the Deng reforms. In the early 2000s, a number of schools opened up to teach Confucian values to the younger generation and an institute was set up at Renmin University devoted to the study of Confucius and Confucian thought.