East Asians of the United States - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Religious beliefs and institutions have been a major force in all East Asian-American communities, both past and present, though the particular beliefs and institutions vary among the four groups. Most Koreans who settled in the United States had already been converted to Christianity (usually Protestantism) in Korea before arriving. In the contemporary Korean-American community the the Korean Christian churches are often the center of Community activity and provide many programs of special appeal to women, the elderly, and children. They have also been the locus of language and cultural maintenance programs. In many churches the services are conducted in Korean.

Nearly all Filipinos in the United States are Roman Catholics, their ancestors having been converted some Generations ago in the Philippines. Because of their dispersed Residence pattern, Filipino-Americans do not form their own churches but instead affiliate with the local church.

The first generation of Japanese-Americans believed in Buddhism and/or Shintoism. Many were converted in the United States by missionaries to various Protestant denominations, and today the Japanese-American community has perhaps the widest range of religious affiliations of the four East Asian-American groups. Recent immigrants have brought with them some of the new Japanese religions, although all have roots in Buddhism and Shintoism.

The religious beliefs and practices of the early Chinese immigrants centered on ancestor worship, Buddhism, and Taoism. Ancestor worship was especially important as a source of community cohesion and as a mechanism to maintain ties with the homeland. Efforts by Protestant missionaries with these immigrants largely failed, and today only about 20 percent of Chinese-Americans are Christians. Recent Immigrants have brought with them some of the revived Chinese folk religions and have formed Buddhist and Taoist associations.

Expressive Culture. The post-World War II immigration has revitalized the expressive elements of East Asian culture in the United States. In all four groups, traditional dance, music, theater, and art are flourishing and are a major focus of ethnic solidarity and pride, as are the public celebration of traditional holidays. Some aspects of expressive culture have also become part of the mainstream culture, most notably Chinese and Japanese cuisines, martial arts, architecture, and artistic styles and designs.

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