Within early written literature, remnants of the themes and motifs of an ancient mythology can be discerned. These themes include emergence from primordial chaos, the creation of elements of human culture, and recovery from massive natural disasters.
Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings
The divine beings of non-sectarian Chinese religion are the spirits of nature that inhabit mountains, rivers, sun, moon, and the like. Cities and local communities also have earth or city gods that embody their unique locality. Deceased ancestors can also become divinities. Ultimate reality is composed of the interrelated triad of Earth, Humanity, and Heaven.
Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence
Early Chinese thinkers disagreed as to whether human nature was innately good or evil. In either case, one's purpose was to orient oneself harmoniously within human society, and also in respect to the heavenly hierarchy.
Suffering and the Problem of Evil
The earliest texts indicated a preoccupation with moral questions, and in ancient stories of historical figures and events evil individuals who were originally successful often eventually suffered a bad end. Early songs sometimes reflected the social and political inequities characteristic of the lives of ordinary people.
Afterlife and Salvation
Early Chinese nobility envisioned an afterlife much like the lives they lived on earth, and had elaborate tombs built into which were placed all the necessities of life. Later, Buddhist influence led to the development of notions of reward and punishment in the afterlife.