China is a country with a great diversity of religious beliefs.
The main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and
Protestantism. Citizens of China may freely choose and express their
religious beliefs, and make clear their religious affiliations.
According to incomplete statistics, there are over 100 million followers
of various religious faiths, more than 85,000 sites for religious
activities, some 300,000 clergy and over 3,000 religious organizations
throughout China. In addition, there are 74 religious schools and
colleges run by religious organizations for training clerical personnel.
-Buddhism has a history of 2,000 years in China. Currently China
has 13,000-some Buddhist temples and about 200,000 Buddhist monks
and nuns. Among them are 120,000 lamas and nuns, more than 1,700
Living Buddhas, and 3,000-some temples of Tibetan Buddhism and nearly
10,000 Bhiksu and senior monks and more than 1,600 temples of Pali
-Taoism, native to China, has a history of more than 1,700 years.
China now has over 1,500 Taoist temples and more than 25,000 Taoist
priests and nuns.
-Islam was introduced into China in the seventh century. Nowadays
in China there are ten national minorities, including the Hui and
Uygur, with a total population of 18 million, whose faith is Islam.
Their 30,000-odd mosques are served by 40,000 Imams and Akhunds.
-Catholicism was introduced into China intermittently in the seventh
century, but it had not spread widely until after the Opium War
in 1840. At present, China has four million Catholics, 4,000 clergy
and more than 4,600 churches and meeting houses.
-Protestantism was first brought to China in the early 19th century
and spread widely after the Opium War. There are about 10 million
Protestants, more than 18,000 clergy, more than 12,000 churches
and 25,000-some meeting places throughout China.
China has the following national religious organizations: Buddhist
Association of China, Taoist Association of China, Islamic Association
of China, Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Chinese Catholic
Bishops' College, Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the
Protestant Churches of China, and China Christian Council.
Religious leaders and leading organs of the various religious
bodies are selected and ordained in accordance with their own regulations.
Religious organizations in China run their own affairs independently
and set up religious schools, publish religious classics and periodicals,
and run social services according to their own needs. As in many
other countries, China practices the principle of separating religion
from education; religion is not a subject taught in schools of the
popular education in China, although some institutions of higher
learning and research institutes do teach or conduct research into
religion. The various religious schools and institutes set up by
the different religious organizations teach religious knowledge
in line with their own needs. All normal clerical activities conducted
by the clergy and all normal religious activities held either at
sites for religious activities or in believers' own homes in accordance
with usual religious practices, such as worshipping Buddha, reciting
scriptures, going to church, praying, preaching, observing Mass,
baptising, monkhood initiation, fasting, celebrating religious festivals,
observing extreme unction, and holding memorial ceremonies, are
protected by law as the affairs of religious bodies and believers
themselves and may not be interfered with.
The "cultural revolution" (1966 to 1976) had a disastrous
effect on all aspects of the society in China, including religion.
But in the course of correcting the errors of the "cultural
revolution" governments at all levels made great efforts to
revive and implement the policy of freedom of religious belief,
redressed the unjust, false or wrong cases imposed on religious
personages, and reopened sites for religious activities. Since the
1980s, approximately 600 Protestant churches have been reopened
or rebuilt each year in China. By the end of 1996 more than 18 million
copies of the Bible had been printed, with special tax exemption
treatment speeding their publication. In addition, more than eight
million copies of a hymn book published by the China Christian Council
in 1983 have been distributed. From 1958 to 1995, a total of 126
Catholic bishops were selected and ordained by the Chinese Catholic
church itself. In the past dozen years more than 900 young Catholic
priests have been trained or consecrated by Chinese Catholicism.
More than 3,000 Protestants attend the Sunday service at Chongwenmen
church in Beijing each week. The Beijing Nantang Catholic Cathedral
observes Mass four times each week with an attendance of more than
2,000. Of these, one Mass is held in English specially for foreigners
In the course of the country's long history, the various religions
in China have become part of the traditional Chinese thinking and
culture. It is traditional for Chinese religious believers to love
their country and religions. The Chinese government supports and
encourages the religious circles to unite the religious believers
to actively participate in the construction of the country. The
various religions all advocate serving the society and promoting
people's well-being, such as the Buddhists' "honoring the country
and benefiting the people," the Catholics and Protestants'
"glorifying God and benefiting the people," the Taoists'
"being benevolent, peaceful and harmonious, saving the world
and benefiting the people," and the Islam's "praying to
allah to give great reward in this world and hereafter."
In China all religions have equal status and coexist in tranquillity.
Religious disputes are unknown in China. Religious believers and
non-believers respect each other, are united and have a harmonious
relationship. This shows, on the one hand, the influence of traditional
Chinese compatibility and tolerance, and, on the other, the fact
that since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949
the Chinese government has formulated and carried out the policy
of freedom of religious belief and established a politico-religious
relationship that conforms to China's national conditions.