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Home > Welcome to China > Welcome to China
Religions
2004/03/08
          China has never had a state religion, but is a country with many
          religious beliefs. The most prominent religions include Buddhism,
          Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodox
          Church. The number of religious believers in China is estimated at
          more than 100 million. In general, those believing in Buddhism and
          Taoism in China outnumber those of other religions. The Huis,
          Uygurs, Kazaks, Kirgizs, Tatars,
          Uzbeks, Tajiks, Dongxiangs, Salars, and Bonans follow Islam; the
          Tibetans, Mongolians, Lhobas, Monbas, Tus and Yugurs are Lamaists.
          The Dai, Blang, and De'ang people's believe in the Hinayana (Lesser
          Vehicle) Buddhism. A considerable number of the Miao, Yao and Yi
          People believe in Catholicism and Protestantism. Some of the Han
          people are followers of Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, or
          Taoism.
              To some extent, Confucianism was treated almost like an official
          religion in Chinese history. Throughout China and other parts of
          Southeast Asia there are many temples built in memory of Confucius
          (c. 551-479? B.C.), who was regarded as a great educator and
          philosopher in Chinese history. But, Confucianism has no clergy
          leadership and it does not teach reverence for a god or gods.
          However, the Confucian temples in China today are treated as
          historical rather than religious sites. Confucianism is viewed as
          moral teaching and ethical humanism rather than as a religion.
              China has more than 85,000 religious sites, over 300,000
          ministers, priests, or other religious authorities, and more than
          3,000 religious organizations. Each religion has its own national
          institutions, such as the Buddhist Association of China, China
          Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Chinese
          Patriotic Catholic Association, the Chinese Catholic Bishops
          College, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the
          Protestant Churches of China, and the China Christian Council.
              There are 74 national and local religious institutes that
          publish many kinds of religious journals and newspapers at home or
          abroad.
              There are over 13,000 Buddhist monasteries and temples in China
          with some 120,000 lamas and nuns, and over 1,700 living Buddhas, and
          more than 3,000 monasteries and temples.
              There are more than 1,500 Taoist temples, with 25,000 Taoist
          priests and priestesses.
              The majority of Muslims come from 10 ethnic minority groups with
          a population of more than 18 million, who have more than 40,000
          Imams and more than 30,000 mosques.
              The number of Catholics in China is four million, and there are
          a total of more than 4,000 clergymen and over 4,000 churches.
              China also has nearly ten million Protestants, up from 700,000
          in 1949. There are more than 12,000 churches and 25,000 other places
          of worship built by missionaries.
              Religious organizations are allowed to publish classical texts,
          such as Buddhist sutras, Taoist texts, the Koran, and the Bible.
              Policy and Laws on Religion
              As a country with multi-religious beliefs, China provides for
          the freedom of religion as a basic right of its citizens according
          to the Constitution. It accords citizens the right to believe in any
          religion they choose or not to believe in any religion. This is a
          fundamental, long-term policy of China. The Chinese government
          respects and protects citizens' religious choice, and applies the
          policy and legal guarantee for religious freedom.
              A bureau of religious affairs has been established under the
          State Council. The Chinese government does not interfere with the
          believers' religious activities, and it protects the religious
          activities of temples and churches. It also ensures that
          non-believers abstain from going into temples and churches to
          propagate atheism. The government makes sure that every religious
          believer has the right to take part in political activities.
          Delegates to people's congresses and political consultative
          conferences at all levels include religious personages to deliberate
          on issues concerning national affairs.
              In addition to the Constitution, there are articles on
          protecting religious freedom and prohibiting religious
          discrimination against believers or non-believers in other laws like
          the Criminal Law, the General Principles of the Civil Code, the Law
          on Regional Autonomy for China's National Minorities, the Military
          Service Law, the Law on Compulsory Education, the
          Electoral Law for the National People's Congress and Local People's
          Congresses, and the Organization Law of the Village Committees.
              In 1994, the State Council approved the "Regulations on the
          Management of Religious Activities of Foreigners within Territories
          of the People's Republic of China" and "Rules on the Management of
          Places of Worship."
              Major Religions
              BUDDHISM, the most influential religion in China, first appeared
          in China in 2 BC and spread widely after the fourth century. There
          are three distinct types of Buddhism in China:
          Mahayana Buddhism (or called Han Buddhism), Hinayana Buddhism (or
          Pali Buddhism), and Tibetan Buddhism (or Lamaism). They are united
          only by a mutual desire for liberation from the pain of the material
          world and a claim to descent from the India's Siddhartha Guatama
          (Buddha).
              Mahayana Buddhism, which the Chinese call Han Buddhism, puts
          emphasis on deeds that will effect the salvation of others.
          Hinayana, or Pali Buddhism, emphasizes individual salvation. And
          Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism), with its system of incarnating Living
          Buddhas, gives vast political powers to a small but selected group
          of monks.
              Before the Buddhism (Mahayana Buddhism) reached Tibet in the 7th
          century A.D., the indigenous religion of that area was Ben. Only
          after ages of struggle between Ben and Buddhism did the gap between
          the two religions begin to narrow. From time to time, a few
          Buddhists from India were invited to bring their teachings into
          Tibet, but Lamaism mainly gained its Buddhist knowledge from Chinese
          Han Buddhist sources. Today's Lamaism is widespread in Tibet and
          Inner Mongolia. Of the various sects that eventually developed
          within Tibetan Buddhism, the main ones are the
          Gelug, Nyingma, Sakya (or Sagya), Kagyu, Ben. The most powerful of
          the Tibetan Buddhism sects is the Gelug, or "Yellow" Sect.
              Hinayana Buddhism (Pali Buddhism) was introduced from Burma,
          about the 9th century A.D., into regions inhabited by the Dai,
          Blang, Achang, De'ang, Bai, Gin and Lahu ethnic groups in Yunnan
          Province. Today its followers are mainly people from these ethnic
          minorities. In China it is called Pali Buddhism because Pali is the
          language of ancient India that is spoken in the temples.
              ISLAM was introduced to China in the middle period of the 7th
          century. During the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties,
          Muslim Arab and Persian merchants of the Islamic faith came overland
          through Central Asia to Northwest China and by sea to Guangzhou and
          other southeastern ports, bringing with them the Islamic faith. The
          largest of the ten Muslim ethnic groups are the Huis. The other nine
          Muslim ethnic groups are Uygur, Kazak, Dongxiang, Kirgiz, Salar,
          Tajik, Uzbek, Bonan, and Tatar. Most of the Muslims live in the
          Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,
          Gansu and Qinghai. China's famous mosques include Libai Mosque in
          Yangzhou, Huajue Mosque in Xi'an, Niujie Mosque in Beijing, Dongda
          Mosque in Yinchuan, and the Titagar at Kashi in Xinjiang.
              The introduction of Catholicism and Protestantism to China
          followed Buddhism and Islam, with less influence. The followers of
          Catholicism and Protestantism mainly concentrate in large cities
          such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Wuhan and certain rural
          areas. The best-known cathedrals are the Xuanwumen Church of
          Immaculate Conception and the Xishiku Church of Our Savior in
          Beijing, the Xujiahui Cathedral to Mary Mother of God in Shanghai,
          the Shishi Stone Room Cathedral in Guangzhou,
          the Shanghailu Church in Wuhan, and the Laoxikai Church in Tianjin.
              TAOISM, taking form in the second century A.D., is the only
          major religion that came exclusively from Chinese roots and grew to
          maturity on Chinese soil. Taoists looked to the philosopher Lao Zi
          (traditionally said to be born in 604 B.C.) as their great teacher,
          and took his work "Dao De Jing" (The Classic of the Way and Its
          Power) as their cannon. Mystifying the philosophical concept of
          "Dao" or "Tao" (the Way) as described in the "Dao De Jing", they
          posited that man could become one with the "Dao" through
          self-cultivation and achieve immortality. The most famous Taoist
          Temples and monasteries are Baiyun Monastery in
          Beijing, Qingyang Monastery in Chengdu and Taiqing Monastery in
          Shenyang.
              To promote academic research, the Chinese Academy of Social
          Sciences and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences have
          established Institutes of World Religion with special departments
          for Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. In addition, religious
          institutes for higher learning, such as the Islamic Theological
          Institute, the Nanjing (Jinling) Union Theological Seminary and the
          Institute of Chinese Buddhism, have been set up to train clergy and
          researchers.


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