China has seen many changes throughout the course of their development, yet one aspect about their culture has tended to see continuity over the centuries. The practice of ancestor veneration has been present for thousands of years in Chinese culture. Looking at this single theme from China in 1600 compared to earlier periods, it is not hard to see that China has seen great continuity when it comes to honoring their ancestors. Religion, politics, and the economics of China may have changed over the years, but ancestor veneration has persisted and has even been shaped by these aspects.
Beginning as early as the Shang dynasty, we have found evidence of the Chinese honoring and paying respect to their ancestors. The process of divination used turtle carapace or ox scapula in order to find out if their ancestors wanted certain rituals or sacrifices done. Evidence of honoring the deceased has also ...view middle of the document...
In tomb number one, Lady Dai’s mummified body is found so well-preserved that researchers were able to determine that because she too much sugar and meat, she probably died of a heart attack (Buck). Behind her, they found skeletons of animals, grains, and even a complete meal. This ritual shows that the Han Chinese placed great emphasis in honoring those that had died. The silk funeral banners that were found in these tombs play an important role in understanding the Han philosophies on death. These banners show heaven, earth, and the underworld. Lady Dai’s banner shows messengers sent to bring her to heaven, as well as her family offering sacrifices to help her get to heaven. Chinese deities and Daosist cranes, symbolizing immortality, are found on this banner, showing that the dead live on and sacrificing items to them help in this cause.
Confucianism was the religion of the Han, and these teachings helped to further shape the idea of honoring the dead. With filial piety, there is a great emphasis on respecting your elders and husbands. In future dynasties, this emphasis was even found once that person was dead, such as from the reading Widows Loyal Unto Death. In the Song Dynasty, neo-Confucian thinker Cheng Yi (1033-1107), “had declared that it was better for a widow to starve to death than remarry” (Widows Loyal Unto Death). These are very extreme examples of women honoring their husbands such as killing themselves after their husband had died.
From this course, we have learned about the many differences in religion, politics, economics, geography, and many other changes from China’s beginning up until the 1600s. Although the reasons behind it have changed, the Chinese have practiced ancestor veneration, documented in the Shang dynasty, up to the Ming and Qing dynasties. This practice even persists in modern China, and seems like it will continue to persist. The Chinese culture has characteristics that have been around for centuries, some that have changed over the course of time, and some that have died out in a few generations, but one that has seemed to stay unchanged is the practice of ancestor veneration.