Jiao (Chiao): Teaching or Religion


The Chinese word jiao means "teaching" or "religion."

The original and literal meaning of jiao is "teaching" and it only acquired the meaning "religion" around 1900. Even today it does not always mean "religion."1

Translation of the term jiao as "religion" can cause significant confusion when attempting to explain Chinese religions (which are difficult to categorize into western concepts) in English.1

Compare this term with zongjiao, which does specifically mean "religion."

  1. Sun, Confucianism as a World Religion (2015), 23. “...the word jiao doesn't always mean "religion" in Chinese. Indeed, a great number of confusions about Chinese religions are related to equating the Chinese word jiao with the English word "religion" without further qualifications. In fact, the term jiao did not acquire its current usage as "religion" until the turn of the twentieth century.” 


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