During the Bronze Age most of China worshipped many gods and spirits. The most important of these being Ti or “Deity Above” He was believed to reward those that pleased him and punish those that didn’t. Ti was in charge of all the gods and goddesses in the pantheon. The gods and goddesses all represented something in nature for example the “God of Soil”, etc. Some of the Emperors brought their servants with them to the after life. Priests and Priestess’s main job was to act as mediums between the Gods and Goddesses and the worshippers. They specialized in sacrificing and ceremonies of specific Gods and Goddesses. A special type of medium was an Augur. An Augur asked questions of the Gods and Goddesses or read oracle bones.
After the Bronze Age, Three Doctrines or Ideologies became important Chinese Religions. Taoism and Confucianism were native to China and developed in isolation. The Three ideologies can also be viewed as philosophies but they also have a spiritual element, which is why they are classified as religions. The Third Doctrine, Buddhism was brought from China by travelling monks from India.
Confucius was alive during when the Chou dynasty (a part of the Zhou Dynasty) was decaying it was riddled with corruption. Confucius experienced the corruption first hand as he held a position in government. He believed that decline was because the Chinese had abandoned old traditions and old concepts of honor, politeness morality and social roles had been forgotten; this is the base of Confucianism.
Confucianism filtered into different aspect of Chinese culture Confucius’ teachings became the basis for education in China and his writings became the classics that every child in China reads.
The basis of Taoism is the concept of Tao. Tao is translated as “the path” or “the way.” The term has no conclusive definition it refers to a wide force in nature and is the source of all things.
Taoism in its purest form calls followers to pursue Tao. This means he or she should not try to alter nature or force it to do what it was not meant to do. A follower must remain inactive and not make plans. A follower must not do anything contrary to Tao for example building a house or damming a river. Taoists were members of the educated wealthy elite. Some of the less privileged did learn about it but altered it to be more about magic and alchemy than the purest form of Taoism.
Siddharta Gautana founded Buddhism around 500 BC. He was later called The Enlightened One or the Buddha. Buddhism spread to China via the Silk Road. When it first arrived it was considered part of Taoism because of how similar Taoism and Buddhism are. How ever a number of Buddhist monks came from India to China and kept the religion from being incorporated into Taoism. Buddhism encourages followers to throw off self-interest. Through meditation and right living, a Buddhist can reach Nirvana or absence of suffering which was a similar concept to Tao.
All three religions were not intolerant of each other although they did not always agree. Many people were subscribers of more than one religion and all three subtly influenced each other.