Skip to Main Content

Religious Studies: East & South East Asian

Religion 101


“It is important for the good of bruised and suffering humanity, that every people forget its personal interest to think but of those of the whole." (The Caodaist Sacerdocy)

East Asia

Terms & Definitions

  • Minjian Xinyang: academic term for Chinese folk religion.
  • De: Merit
  • Fengshui: Chinese geomancy
  • Guhun yegui: Ancestors that do not get offerings regularly; "wild ghosts"
  • Huangli: almanac for choosing auspicious dates
  • Ming: Destiny
  • The Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water
  • Yin-Yang: Chinese philosophical framework that defines the connected nature of opposites. The traditional Chinese creation story says the universe was created out of chaos, then organized into the framework of yin-yang (which in turn created us!).
  • Yun: Fate

See "Shintoism" tab under "East Asian Religions".

Terms & Definitions

  • Hanullim or Ch'onsim: supreme heavenly spirit
  • Kut: ritual where Gods and ancestral spirits are offered refreshments and entertainment in a kuttang.
  • Kuttang: private shrine, sometimes in a home
  • Mu-ism: Korean ritualized, polytheistic practices
  • Mu-dang: ritual leaders, typically women
    • Mangsin/Kangsin-mu: largest subgroup of the mu; engage in spiritual possession
    • Sesup-mu: subgroup of the mu from the south or east; engage with spirits as mediums

Southeast Asia

Terms & Definitions

  • Aliran Kepercayaan: An all-encompassing name for the religious folk traditions of Indonesia.
  • Kebatinan: mystic, esoteric doctrine from Animistic, Hinduistic, Buddhist and Islamic origin; "the science of the inner".
  • Kejawen or Javanism: the spiritual traditions of the Java people in Indonesia. A syncretic blend of animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and a predecessor to the "Islamification" of Indonesia.
  • Kepercayaan: official term for various forms of mysticism in Indonesia, sometimes conflated with "belief" or "faith".

Terms & Definitions

  • Satsana Phi: religious and spiritual beliefs on the Tai ethnic group, spread throughout Thailand, Laos, and Neighboring countries.
  • Baci Ceremonies: Phi ritual meant to celebrate important events.
  • Khwan: Spirits that inhabit the bodies of humans, animals, and plants; the "vital essence" in all living things
  • Mophi: Shamanic priests

Terms & Definitions

  • Anito: Ancestor spirits
  • Bathala: supreme deity among the Tagalog ethnic group.
  • Dambana: transient altars set up to worship the anito.
  • Diwata: Deities/Gods
    • ​​​​​​​Nature Spirits
    • Guardian Spirits
    • Deified Ancestors
  • Katalonan/Babaylan: Shaman
  • Pag-anito: Seance where a katalonan communicates directly with spirits (typically the anito).

General Terms & Definitions

  • Dao Mau: Shamanic worship of Vietnamese mother goddesses.
  • Than: Spirits/gods with a focus on generational/ancestral roots
    • Thien Than: heavenly deities
    • Nhien than: nature-based deities
    • Nhan than: ancestral deities (folk heroes, legendary literary figures)
      • Thanh hoang: a Nhan than guarding a specific village.
  • Linh: Power of a god to affect the physical realm.
  • Caodaism: monotheistic worship of Highest God Cao Dai.
  • Minh Dao: Grouping of 5 folk religions predating Caodaism.

Popular Deities

  • Lac Long Quan and Au Co: father and mother of the Vietnamese people
  • The Four Immortals: Tản Viên Sơn Thánh, Thánh Gióng, Chử Đồng Tử, and Liễu Hạnh
  • The Four Palace Goddesses: Mẫu Thượng Thiên, Mẫu Thượng Ngàn, Mẫu Thoải, and Mẫu Địa

©2022 Houston Community College Libraries