PHIL 348: Religious Tradition and Rituals in India, China, and Japan Methods Essay

Religious studies

Religious Tradition and Rituals Paper Requirement This part of the final project is the paper that presents your description and interpretation of the selected rituals. Write a 5-6 page (1,250- to 1,500-word) essay in which you do the following: Provide a creative title that captures the overall theme of your paper. Include an accurate word […]

Religious Tradition in India, China, and Japan


A ritual is a ceremonial, routinized, and prescribed set of actions or activities. It is a symbolic function and is uniquely important to the performer and their community. Rituals are an inherent part of living on a fundamental level. Rituals are eminent by a unique set of physical features relating to the distinctive dynamics of individual actions that compose them, often structured in repetitive, formal, and rigid ways (Hobson et al. 261). The current study aims to evaluate the Chinese, Indian, and Japanese rituals to shed light on how such activities pervade human life. Whether through politics, business, or religion, the analysis demonstrates how ceremonies are central to the most meaningful cultural practices and traditions around the globe. Therefore, the readers will be enriched with knowledge about the cultural norms represented by the Indian, Chinese, and Japanese rituals, including what it represents, who engages in it, when and where it is done, and how and why it is done in a certain way.

Rituals From India


In India, child marriage has been practised for centuries, with young girls married off before their mental and physical maturity. The culture zone in India is defined as preserving and promoting different regions’ cultural heritage. The challenge of this ritual practice in the country remains rooted in a complex matrix of economic factors, social practices, and religious traditions. As an illustration, various regions in India face lopsided gender ratios resulting in a “marriage squeeze,” involving high demand for brides (“Young Women Sent Into Marriages). The situation forces many underage girls to leave their lives behind and marry men older than them in faraway regions.

The practice’s prevalence is evident among all religious communities, and parents are perceived to be the leaders of the ritual since they are the primary decision-makers of their daughters’ marriage. The parents have a financial incentive and have often been accused of selling their daughters (“Young Women Sent Into Marriages). Various socio-economic factors are also at play. For example, parents make haste in conducting the marriages as soon as they identify a match because strong caste ties limit the availability of suitable spouses. Moreover, families fulfil this ritual due to their belief in ritual scriptures and the notion that these comprise prescriptions for early marriage. Last but not least, social groups, without questioning contemporary relevance, tend to follow traditions from previous eras.

Analysis – Reductionist Approach

The reductionist approach holds that religion is a thoroughly human creation. Based on this theory, the authority of religious specialists whose work has assisted in interpreting the ritual from India is Bruce Lincoln. The argument by Lincoln serves to check and balance the treatment of religion as sui generis, which slips into the claims of theological truth (Martin 25). In this regard, it can be argued that castes in India perform child marriage to maintain a status quo centred on their socio-religious practices. Marriage in Hindu tradition is perceived as a sacrament for parents due to Kanya Daan in marriage, which gets religious merits (Paul 19). The parents also prefer to marry off their daughters before the start of puberty since, at a wedding, “purity” is crucial in Hindu culture.

Historically, patriarchal social-cultural norms, control over women’s sexuality, and poverty are India’s leading causes of child marriage. Childhood marriages are linked to the Hindu religion profoundly. Consequently, customary laws centred on belief are the main challenges in eradicating child marriage in the country; within certain castes, the social pressure to conduct this ritual is enormous (“India – Child Marriage”). In brief, in addition to violence against girls, traditional customs, level of education, and poverty, the sociology behind this ritual in India is centred on the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys and is driven by gender inequality.

Ritual from China


The celebrations of the Chinese New Year are considered to bring wealth, good luck, and health. In essence, this festive season brings togetherness with friends and family for Chinese families. Washing and cleaning houses and belongings is mandatory in this ritual (“Documentary: Chinese New Year”). During the ceremony, street parades are organized where people come together to watch different categories of processions. The dragon and lion dances are the major attraction of these street parades because they symbolize wealth and durability.

Based on this ritual, people light fireworks and firecrackers because they consider that the loud noises wipe out evil spirits. The family resemblance is also in various domains, including food, such as fish and dumplings. The people also regard flowers and plants to be of good luck. Therefore, they purchase them from the market and use them to decorate their homes. In brief, the Chinese people often celebrate this ritual by praying at the temple, sharing their wealth with loved ones, families, and friends, coming together, and watching fireworks and traditional dances.

Analysis – Religionist Perspective

The religious viewpoint is crucial in analyzing the Chinese New Year ritual celebration since it is centred on the domain of theology inquiry through assumptions concerning the reality of a spiritual core, transcendent dimension, and eventually reality. Based on this theory, the thinker whose work will assist in interpreting this ritual is Mircea Eliade. Eliade believes that the homo religion has a strong nostalgia and desire for the sacred (Armstrong 89). In this regard, the people perform various rituals to prolong kratophany or hierophany. For instance, people decorate the festival with red, which signifies fortune, happiness, and luck.

Another example is the celebration of clothes. They believe that wearing new outfits on the first day of the Lunar New Year and doing so from head to toe symbolizes a new start with fresh hopes and a farewell to the old (Lu and Li 21). Last but not least, the bountiful merriment ritual that youngsters received from the elders in red packets; was done to wish them good fortune for the coming year and dispel evil spirits. The stated ritual reflects the mysterium tremendum and the mysterium fascinans, whereby the gods of prosperity are believed to come down from the heavens (“Chinese New Year Traditions”). People often participate in these rituals because they believe they will bring them good fortune and prosperity.

Ritual from Japan


The Japanese Geisha Girl is a category of ceremony regarded as a source of entertainment and companionship. The journey by Yukina demonstrates a unique perspective on the dedication and sacrifice required to enter the restricted but advantageous world of the Geisha trained in many arts, such as performance and poetry (“Geisha Girl”). Since 1750, the Geisha have exemplified the beauty of the Japanese artisan culture, passing their tradition to the present day. Currently, the Geisha share the traditions of their short-lived heyday with businesspeople, tourists, and artists alike, preserving the best parts of their transitory eminence in Japanese mainstream culture.

The occupation of the Geisha persists in modern Japanese culture despite having a short heyday. Nonetheless, there has been some transformation in the tradition of the Geisha sacred space to adapt to the contemporary lifestyle of the Japanese people. Popular with businesspeople and tourists alike, the Geisha of the modern day support the whole sector within the eco-tourism industry of cities in Japan. They offer work for artists in the entire traditional skills of calligraphy, dance, and music.

Analysis – Reductionist and Religionist View

Based on the reductionist viewpoint, as a ritual, the Japanese Geisha served to bolster the political interest of the status quo, which is evident from the effects of confusion, war, and westernization of the occupation. After many years of success, Geisha was influenced by westernization after the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Furthermore, this effect led to the decline of their numbers, particularly with the approach of World War II (Toki). The resources and leisure also declined, resulting in the decimation of the hanamachi where the Geisha operated.

From the religionist perspective, the Geisha is a ritual world informed by centuries of social propriety and culture. Each aspect of the Geisha’s lives is ritualized from their existing social relationships, costumes, and behaviours. Therefore, the Geisha collectively played a vital role for the Japanese as the guardians of national pride and culture. In this respect, many women aspired to become Geishas because the profession had a crucial social function. Of all the working women in Japan, the ones in the job in question had the most artistic skills and comprehensive knowledge (Dalby 30). They were accorded the highest social position due to their rationalization of symbols; they are the instrument of public sociability and serve to educate society. For this reason, they are regarded as the most knowledgeable individuals concerning social going-on and the leaders of fashion.


Viewing the Chinese, Indian, and Japanese rituals from an outsider’s perspective presents various biases. In essence, this is referred to as the etic perspective of an outsider looking at a particular culture. The outsider viewpoint cannot escape relying on the insider’s insight in analyzing the rituals in question. This is because the outsider can only give an account based on third-party testimony and upon observation since they have never been through such rituals. The outside viewpoint is more inclined to depend on generalization and abstractions, probably from sacred books, in the absence of direct experience of the practice routine.

Furthermore, studies from an outside outlook require the analysis, testing, and development of constructs to be done similarly across groups. Thus, the findings may overlook culturally specific behavioural nuances or specific cultural perspectives. An individual viewing the ritual from the inside perspective would be able to answer questions, such as why the involved parties conduct the rituals and what it feels like to be part of the ceremony. Arguably, this is the emic outlook where one views the world as a member of that religion. People, from this standpoint, ask for details that may concern family or local customs and are often based on personal experience.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. Vintage, 1999.

“Chinese New Year Traditions.”, A&E Television Networks, 23 Oct. 2009,

Dalby, Liza. “Modem Geisha – Deepening as They Fade.” Harvard Asia Pacific Review, vol. 10, no. 1, 2009, pp. 29–32.

“Documentary: Chinese New Year – Spring Festival Celebration.” YouTube, uploaded by China History-Culture, 20 Jan. 2018.

“Geisha Girl – Japanese True Beauty – why is this tradition still popular in the modern age?” YouTube, uploaded by Best of British Documentaries, 15 Aug. 2014,

Hobson, Nicholas M., et al. “The Psychology of Rituals: An Integrative Review and Process-Based Framework.” Personality and Social Psychology Review vol. 22, no. 3, 2018, pp. 260–284.

“In India, Young Women Sent Into Marriages Far From Home.” YouTube, uploaded by PBS Newshour, 7 Oct. 2013,

“India – Child Marriage Around The World. Girls Not Brides.” Girls Not Brides, n.d.,

Lu Yan, and Li Qing. “Let The Celebrations Begin. (Cover Story).” Beijing Review, vol. 62, no. 6/7, Feb. 2019, pp. 20–23.

Martin, Craig. A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion. Taylor and Francis, 2017.

Paul, Pintu. “Effects of Education and Poverty on the Prevalence of Girl Child Marriage in India: A District–level Analysis.” Children & Youth Services Review, vol. 100, May 2019, pp. 16–21. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.02.033.

Toki. “The History of Geisha in Japanese Culture.” TOKI, 4 Aug. 2016.

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