There are now 1.4 billion people living in China but concepts about reincarnation and karma are no longer religiously held beliefs by most of the Chinese people.
However, many of the ancient beliefs and customs are still influencing how the Chinese people behave towards one another. I find that the majority in China are polite and courteous in their daily interactions. The concept of Karma may no longer be a religious concept, but it is still deeply rooted in the Chinese belief system. Buddhist concepts and the belief in Karma are more of a philosophical pursuit among the Chinese than a religious practice in today’s China.
The concept of reincarnation used to be a widely held belief. That people are reborn, and your life’s fate can be determined by the actions of your previous life. If you were a good person in a past life your present life will be better and for those whose life is burdensome it’s a direct result of bad karma. It was a common held belief that people are reincarnated in order to work through their karma and learn from past mistakes.
Most people living in China today no longer believe in Buddhism as a religion. However, if you were to ask a university student whether Reincarnation and karma are realities or myths many students would respond that it is a possibility and then engage you in a philosophical discussion.
Many of china’s ancient beliefs are philosophically discussed in Universities. It’s a way for the ancient traditions to be remembered and to keep the ancient Chinese culture alive in the modern world.
I find many of the ancient Chinese customs intriguing and discussing them more fully is a way of gaining a greater understanding of why many of today’s cultural differences between the west and the east exist. When we delve deep into the Chinese culture we gain a better understanding of our own culture and many of our misconceptions about China in general fade away toward a greater understanding of ourselves in relation to others.
Living and working in China for the past 9 years has made me a better person and I hope I can bring my personal experiences from living here back to the US for the betterment of others.
This is going to be my last column from China for at least a year because I won’t be back in China until the summer of 2019. But I will write about my personal experiences in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and life at the University there.
I would also like to wish everyone a great summer wherever you may reside.
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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- Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link: