People making offerings and sacrifices or praying for blessings are punished as part of the authorities’ drive to “eliminate feudal superstition.”
by Zhang Feng
For the atheist CCP, religion has always been a relict of “feudal superstition.” That is why it is indoctrinating people from a very young age that religious belief is the result of “low social productivity and underdeveloped science.” Offerings and sacrifices are something that the Chinese have been doing for thousands of years to circumvent calamities, to pray for a good harvest or a rainfall. Even such ancient folk traditions or even the use of the word laotianye, meaning god or heavens, are becoming off-limits for people in China, and according to the Chinese Communist regime, need to be suppressed.
Punished for worshipping before a college entrance exam
For many Chinese people, the National College Entrance Examination, known colloquially as gaokao, is one of the most important days of their lives. Because of its importance, even non-religious teachers, students, and parents often pray for blessings and offer sacrifices on this momentous occasion.
The principal of a high school in Yangquan city in the northern province of Shanxi invited students and teachers in June to pray for success to all during gaokao. Some people filmed the scene and posted it online.
Soon, the director of the local Education Bureau came to the school to investigate the matter and rebuked the principal for engaging in “feudal superstition.” He told the principle that schools are places for propagating science and cultivating loyal followers of the Communist Party; the most they are allowed to do is kowtow to Confucius, but not other gods. The principal was criticized in a school’s circulated notice.
A local elderly man commented to Bitter Winter when asked about the incident at the school that the government says now that everything related to religion is superstition and should be eliminated. “The interpretation of superstition could be very vast: one can believe in reincarnation or karma or think that souls exist. During the Cultural Revolution, these beliefs were all considered ‘feudal superstition’ and ‘cow demons and snake spirits’; and you could be denounced and humiliated in public,” the man explained.
“Praying for rain is not allowed”
At the beginning of July last year, a village in Jiuwo town, under the jurisdiction of Tangshan city in the northern province of Hebei, was suffering from severe drought – for almost a month, not a single drop of rain had hit more than 3,300 acres of the village’s farmland. The soil was so dry that one could insert an entire foot into cracks.
The loss of harvest seemed to be imminent, the thought weighing heavily on the shoulders of farmers. Having no other alternatives, villagers got together to pray for rain. Following ancient folk traditions, hundreds of villagers met on July 6 to beat gongs and drums and kneel down together to worship.
To farmers’ surprise, the next afternoon, town government officials and police officers came to the village to scold them because they said that “worshipping is a superstitious activity” and is illegal. They were prohibited from doing this again.
“There are more than 4,000 people, mostly farmers, but the government doesn’t drill a well or connect us to an electric grid. We’ve asked for this many times but to no avail. What’s wrong with praying? You take taxpayers’ money, but don’t do anything good for the people!” a villager at the scene said in protest.
To ensure that farmers do not get together for worshiping again, a few police cars remained on the riverbank of the village until 2 a.m.
CCP members told to stay away from religious superstition
“I originally thought that performing rites was a traditional custom in the countryside, and there wasn’t a major issue with it. Through education from the government and my studies, I have gained a deeper understanding of the issue of my participation in rites. I’m willing to accept any punishment that the government imposes on me.” These words are part of a self-criticism letter written by Leng Mengguang, a physician and a CCP member from Qianjiazhou village under the jurisdiction of Yiyang city, in the central province of Hunan.
He was told to write the letter after local authorities learned that he took part in a rites ceremony – an ancient folk tradition, also practiced by Buddhists and Taoists, usually organized during funerals and other important events, when people chant scripture and worship. Those who participate in such activities do not necessarily hold any religious beliefs.
In CCP’s view, Leng Mengguang demonstrated an “‘ideological deficiency,’ deviation from behavioral norms, and a lack of firmness in ideals and convictions, causing severe damage to the Party’s image.”
Since President Xi Jinping came to power, ideological discrepancies among Party members have been especially scrutinized. Not only are they prohibited from holding religious beliefs; even interpreting dreams, making astrological predictions, or practicing fengshui – a system of harmonizing individuals’ lives to their surroundings and energies, used in China for more than 3,000 years – have all been designated as “feudal superstition,” forbidden for CCP members. Numerous Party members have been punished as a result.
In early June, at a town government meeting in Shanxi Province, Party members were prohibited from visiting any religious locations. Instead, they were told to visit “red revolutionary bases.” Anyone who disobeys would be disciplined and could even be dismissed.