Religion in The People's Republic of China

Religion In The People's Republic Of China

Religion in China overall based on different surveys

Folk religions and Taoism (30%) Buddhism (18%) Christianity (4%) Ethnic minorities indigenous religions (including Vajrayana and Theravada) (4%) Islam (2%) Agnostic or atheist (42%)

Religion in Rural China (2008 survey, excluding cities and autonomous regions)

Folk religions and Taoism (31.8%) Buddhism (10.85%) Protestantism (3.54%) Catholicism (0.39%) Agnostic or atheist (53.41%)

Religion in China has been characterized by pluralism since the beginning of Chinese history. The Chinese religions are family-oriented and do not demand the exclusive adherence of members. Some scholars doubt the use of the term "religion" in reference to Buddhism and Taoism, and suggest "cultural practices", "thought systems" or "philosophies" as more appropriate names. The questions of what should be called religion and who should be called religious in China is up for debate.

Buddhism remains a main popular religion in China since its introduction in the 1st century. One of the largest group of religious traditions is the Chinese folk religion or "Shenism", a term coined by A.J. Elliot, which he used to collectively name Chinese folk religions, as the ethnic religion of the Hans, which encompasses Taoism, and the worship of the shens, a collection of various local ethnic deities, heroes and ancestors, and figures from Chinese mythology, among which the most popular ones in recent years have been Mazu (goddess of the seas, patron of Southern China), Huangdi (divine patriarch of all the Chinese, "Volksgeist" of the Chinese nation), the Black Dragon, Caishen (god of prosperity and richness), and others.

Although an established presence since the 7th century, Christianity in China declined as a result of persecution during the 10th through 14th centuries. It was reintroduced in the 16th century by Jesuit missionaries. In the 18th and 19th centuries, with the widespread influx of European ideology into China, Western religions gained a foothold, notably causing the Taiping Rebellion. While the Communist Party of China came to power in 1949, it was regarded as an atheist faction which viewed traditional religions as backwards, and Western religions such as Christianity as the tool of Western colonialism, and has steadfastly maintained separation of church from state affairs in order to prevent recurrence of situations like the Taiping Rebellion. After the "opening up" of the 1980s, more religious freedoms were granted, and traditional beliefs like Taoism and Buddhism were supported as an integral part of the Chinese culture.

Nowadays "Shenism", Taoism and Buddhism are the largest religions in China with respectively over 30% (of which 160 million, or 11% of the total population of the country, are Mazuists) and 18–20% of the population adhering to them, thriving throughout the country as the government is allowing them to spread. Almost 4% of the religious composition is made up of non-Han ethnicities who follow their traditional tribal and autochthone religions. Christians are 4-5% of the population according to various detailed surveys, Between 1949–2007, indigenous Chinese Christianity has been growing. Muslims are 1–2%. However, the biggest part of the population, ranging between 60% and 70%, is mostly agnostic or atheist. Various new religious movements, both indigenous and exogenous, are scattered across the country. Confucianism as a religion is popular among intellectuals.

China has many of the world's tallest statues, including the tallest of all. Most of them represent buddhas, deities and religious personalities and have been built in the 2000s. The world's tallest statue is the Spring Temple Buddha, located in Henan. Recently built in the country are also the world's tallest pagoda and the world's tallest stupa.

Read more about Religion In The People's Republic Of China:  Ancient and Pre-historic, Modern History, Demographics, New Religious Movements

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