Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

RLST 181: Introduction to the Religions of China and Japan

RLST 181: Introduction to the Religions of China and Japan


Ng, On-Cho


Tues, Thurs


4:35 - 5:50 P.M.


Willard Bldg 267


A survey of the history, philosophy, and cultural impact of the major Far Eastern religions: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Shinto. 

ASIA 181 / RLST 181 Introduction to the Religions of China and Japan (3)(GH;IL)(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements. This is an introductory survey of the historical, philosophical, and cultural dimensions of the major religious traditions in China and Japan.

The course delineates and highlights the organic view of the universe and the hierarchical ordering of society in East Asia. It traces the evolution of the major traditions (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism in China, as well as Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism in Japan) by examining their ideas of humanity and nature, morality and society, and metaphysics and ethics.

It also reveals the interaction and interrelation between ideology, politics and society, and their impact on the development of the major religious traditions in history. A major focus is the relation between the popular and folk practices and beliefs of esoteric Daoism, devotional Buddhism, and fertility-cult Shinto and the elite and literate doctrines and precepts of Confucianism, philosophical Daoism, and monastic Buddhism.

The course also devotes some attention to the influence of religion on various facets of culture, such as medicine, science, literature, art and food. The objectives of the course are first to acquaint students with the religious beliefs, values, and practices of China and Japan by looking at their historical formations and contemporary manifestations, and second, to locate them in a global and comparative context.