Jiao (Chiao): Teaching or Religion

Definition: Jiao (Chiao): Teaching or Religion
"teaching" or "religion." Generally refers to a religion, but the word only acquired this meaning around 1900 and does not always mean "religion." The original and literal meaning is "teaching."

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."727

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.727

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


  1. Sun, Anna, Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities (Princeton University Press, 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."

Article Info

Title Jiao (Chiao): Teaching or Religion
Last UpdatedJanuary 28, 2021
MLA Citation “Jiao (Chiao): Teaching or Religion.” 28 Jan. 2021. Web. Accessed 31 Jul. 2021. <>