Chinese folk religion (also known as Chinese popular religion) is the religious tradition of the Chinese, in which government officials and common people of China share religious practices and beliefs, including veneration of forces of nature and ancestors, exorcism of harmful forces, and a belief in the rational order of nature which can be influenced by human beings and their rulers. The gods or spirits, called shen, can be nature deities, city deities or tutelary deities of other human groups, national deities, cultural heroes and demigods, ancestors and progenitors, and deities of the kinship. Stories regarding some of these gods are codified into the body of Chinese mythology. By the eleventh century (Song period) these practices had been blended with Buddhist ideas of karma (one's own doing) and rebirth, and Taoist teachings about hierarchies of gods, to form the popular religious system which has lasted in many ways until the present day.
Chinese folk religions have a variety of sources, local forms, founder backgrounds, and ritual and philosophical traditions. Despite this diversity, Chinese folk religions have a common core that can be summarised as four spiritual, cosmological, and moral concepts: Tian, Heaven, the transcendent source of moral meaning; qi, the breath or energy that animates the universe; jingzu, the veneration of ancestors; and bao ying, moral reciprocity; together with two traditional concepts of fate and meaning: ming yun, the personal . . . more