Belief Systems in China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism
581 BCE - 1368 CE
Why This Unit?
This teaching unit explores the three main traditional
, that is, religions or
philosophies of China: Confucianism, Daoism (Taoism), and Buddhism. It provides background
on each of these systems, including how, when, where, and by whom they were developed and
diffused throughout China. Using translations of
, students will examine the
major tenets of each belief system, their specific differences, and their importance in the
historical development of China. Students will understand the significance of belief systems in
helping to establish a sense of belonging and building social cohesion, focusing on China in the
premodern era. Students will also be encouraged to reflect on the impact that their own belief
systems have on their lives.
Upon completing this unit, students
will be able to:
1. Explain the meaning of “belief systems” and give examples.
2. Trace the spread of the three main belief systems in China over time, and assess their
impact on politics, economy, society, and culture there.
3. Identify the similarities and differences between Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.
4. Draw inferences about the effects of a particular belief system on a society residing in a
5. Describe how and why Buddhism spread in China during the period of the Tang dynasty.
Time and Materials
This unit will take three to four 50-minute class periods (150-200 minutes in class).
Materials required: pencils, overhead or computer projector, transparencies, and history
textbooks with glossaries or dictionaries.
Table of Contents
Why this unit?
Time and materials
The historical context
Table of dates
Lesson 1: What are belief systems? Differences between a religion and a philosophy
Lesson 2: Three main belief systems of China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism
Lesson 3: The spread of Buddhism
This unit and the Three Essential Questions
This unit and the Seven Key Themes
This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking