ChinaKnowledge.de - An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art
About [Location: HOME > Religions > Manicheism]


Religions in China - Manicheism

Manicheism was a religion founded by the Parthian (Persian) Mani in the 3rd century CE. He grew up under the influence of Judeo-Christian baptist sect in Babylonia (modern Irak). After he was enlightened by a visitation of his celestial twin he founded his own gnostic sect with the conception of the cyclical appearance of a true prophet that was sent by the hevenly light. Jesus, Zarthustra, and Buddha are thought to be such prophets. He preached and sent out missionaries to Iran, India, Egpyt and Central Asia (kingdom of Kushana). Mani was incarcerated by the Persian ruler - he died in prison, and the center of the Manichean religion shifted to Mesopotamia (modern Irak) and Central Asia. In the west, Manicheism was extincted in the 6th century, but it had moved along the silkroad by traders who also acted as missionaries and founded Manicheist parishes even in the Tang Dynasty 唐 capitals of Chang'an 長安 and Luoyang 洛陽, we even know the name of a Persian missionary named "Fuduodan" 拂多誕. As a foreign religion (Chinese: Monijiao 摩尼教 or Mingjiao 明教 "Teaching of the Light") it was suppressed together with Buddhism in the 8th century and escaped to the southeastern area of Fujian where Manicheism survived as a Daoist-Synchretist religion until the 15th century. The uprising of the Daoist White Lotus Sect (Bailianjiao 白蓮教) was probably influenced by Manicheist teachings. In the central Asian state of the Turkish Uyghurs and in the city state of Kucha Manichism became state religion in the 9th century.
The center of the Manicheist teachings was a dualism of light and darkness (Chinese: erzong 二宗), spirit and matter that controls the cosm and mankind. The second important point of Mani's religion was the teaching of the three ages (Chinese: sanji 三際). Originally, there was a clear division between the spiritual world of light and the material world of darkness. In the second age, the present age, this clear division has become unclear, and the only hope for mankind and the salvation of man is the advent of the third age when these two principles are clearly divided again. The salvation is performable by a certain gnosis (perception) that is brought to the believer by a divine revelation about the true origin of the soul. The believers were divided into the elected (priests) and the auditors (laymen) that were organized in a church with bishops and priests, head of the church was the archegos (archbishop) as follower and representative of Mani. A very important festival was the Bema Holiday as memorial day of Mani's death. In Turfan and other places Chinese and foreign language documents with Manicheist content were discovered since the beginning of the 20th century.



2000ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail