Buddhism beliefs

Cheondoism (Chondoism): Beliefs and Origins

The Cheondoism Building in Seoul, South Korea. Editorial credit: ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock.com.

Cheondoism, also known as Chondoism, is a relatively young religious movement that surfaced in Korea during the 1900s. It has its roots in the Donghak movement of the 1860s which focused on Eastern learning as a medium to rebel against Western learning.

Followers of this religion believe that all life was generated by a God who is in all things. This God-like presence in all living beings is also compared to Heaven, the pinnacle of goodness. The sacred text is called the Great Holy Scripture and contains the commandments in the word of the Hanulnim (the Heavenly Master in all living beings). Followers believe that self-improvement brings one closer to heaven and this earthly existence can be converted into paradise. The religion has, over time, adopted some of the central ideas of Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity.

2. Global presence and notable practitioners

Notable followers of this religion include Jeon Bongjun, the founder of the Donghak movement. He helped organize farmers in the late 1800s to revolt against high taxes and to recover property that had been taken on unsubstantiated claims. Son Byong-Hi is another important member of Cheondoism. He joined the Donghak movement in his youth and later became the commander of the Donghak Peasant Revolution. Moreover, he united several religions during Japanese colonialism to fight for independence.

The vast majority of its followers are in North and South Korea. Estimates suggest there are 1.13 million followers in South Korea with around 280 churches for attendance and up to 2.8 million in North Korea.

1. Development and dissemination of faith

This faith was able to spread throughout the Korean peninsula due to its affiliation with the Peasant Rebellion. People of indigenous descent were tired of being oppressed by foreigners (Japanese and Christians). Joining the Donghak movement was seen as a solution to their problems. When Cheondoism was later founded, its followers found community in their common desire to improve their quality of life.