The Asian Wall of Polytheism

In the Western world, if you look for books and articles on polytheism, you will often find Roman, Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythologies. All of those are dead religions which are no longer in practice. But there is a whole world of living “religions” out there that are polytheistic.

I present to you the wall of polytheism in Asia. East of this wall, most countries practice some kind of polytheism. The practice is widely diverse across Asia, spanning from Hindu gods in the Indian subcontinent to Shinto gods in Japan. West of the Indian subcontinent is the Middle East: the cradle of Islam, the second biggest religion in the world and also monotheistic.

Now, defining polytheism can be challenging. Here is my definition: any practice that worships multiple figures in some form or other is polytheistic. Every region and country in the map below has it own unique culture. One common feature of polytheism is lack of uniformity due to its highly decentralized nature.

This post was inspired by the amazing book: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Asian Wall of Polytheism

Polytheism by country

Japan

Shintoism+Buddhism: Shintoism is Japan’s native religion which blended with Buddhism

Koreas

Buddhism and Confucianism

Mongolia

Buddhism and shamanism

China and Taiwan

A combination of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

Vietnam

A blend of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and ancestor worship.

South East Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma

These countries practice Theravada Buddhism where Buddha is worshiped in many forms. Sometimes Hindu deities are also worshiped.

Indian subcontinent

India

Hinduism, Buddhism and numerous tribal religions

Nepal

The only country in the world with Hinduism as its state religion

Sri Lanka

Theravada Buddhism + Hinduism

Bhutan

Mahayana Buddhism

Countries with sizable minorities

Some countries have a rich polytheistic past and minorities that practice polytheism

Bangladesh

Has a minority of Hindus and Buddhists

Malaysia

Minorities like the Chinese and Indian populations still practice polytheism

Indonesia

The island of Bali still has a practicing Hindu population. The rest of Indonesia also has a rich Hindu-Buddhist past with countless polytheistic temples spread across the landscape. The national airlines of Indonesia is Garuda Air