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Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ xii ] The traditional Chinese theory of two souls, which developed early in the Chou dynasty (1027–402 bce ) has persisted, subject to some modifications, into modern Chinese popular religious belief. The hun soul is the higher spiritual element which is characterized as yang in nature ( see Y inyang ). After death this becomes shen (spirit). In the ancient belief the shen of the worthy and virtuous was thought to ascend to the Heavenly Palace of S hang ti to reside indefinitely with the shen of other worthy and eminent beings. During the Han dynasty (206 bce -220 ce ), even the shen of ordinary people was believed to have the chance of temporary survival for four or five generations, while the dead person was honoured by their spirit tablet ( shen chu ) situated on the family altar. The p'o soul is the gross or material aspect of the person which is equated with the yin quality. Originally this soul was thought to descend to the underworld or Yellow Springs, where it was controlled by the Lord of the Earth (Hou T'u). In another view the p'o soul was thought to remain with the body in the grave, where it was sustained by food offerings made by the family. If these were not provided or the body was improperly buried, then the p'o could become a dangerous ghost ( kuei ). The considerably flexible Chinese popular religious beliefs about souls and survival ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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