Chinese cultures emerged as agriculture spread across the Yellow River and the (yahng dz) River systems approximately ten millennia ago. Like many early civilizations, the Chinese ways of seeing the world began with an awe of nature and the imagination of an afterlife. Mythical animals and shapes or designs that are recognizable and have a meaning associated with them of nature are depicted on the jades, bronzes, and pottery that were produced during early periods of Chinese civilization. Chinese people believed that as their ancestors died and entered heaven—the top of the three tiers that constituted the world—they would guide their descendants in understanding the future and protect them from evil spirits. This notion became the root of many philosophical ideas, folk traditions, and literary stories that existed in Han Chinese culture. Approximately 2,500 years ago, a system of ethical and philosophical teaching associated with the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE). He developed a system of thought that stressed the importance of good government, social order, and harmonious and moral living. and (dow-ihz-uhm) a philosophy based on the ideas of the Chinese thinker Laozi, who taught that people should be guided by a universal force called the Dao (Way). emerged and were prominent in re-shaping Chinese belief systems. China also has a longstanding history of adopting foreign religions and beliefs through cultural or political exchange. (bood-ihz-uhm) a widespread Asian religion or philosophy founded by Siddartha Gautama in northeastern India in the 5th century BCE. was brought into China in the first century CE, followed by the introduction of a monotheistic religion that developed in Arabia in the seventh century CE. around the seventh century CE and Christianity in the sixteenth century CE. Like in other cultures worldwide, foreign religions were understood and accepted by blending new concepts with established belief systems in China. This complex, intertwined system of beliefs is seen in the artistic legacy that has persisted through the centuries.
- There is no single religion in China. Chinese belief systems appear in diverse forms, both philosophically and religiously, and fluctuated with political power shifts.
- Belief systems that came from outside China were spread mostly via trade and diplomatic exchange, and almost all of them have been assimilated into Chinese culture.
- There is a mutual influence in China between the development of traditions and beliefs and the advances in technology and production.
- Today, people in China and those of Chinese heritage continue to embrace a range of religious beliefs.