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Religions of China



Freedom of religion is guaranteed in China's constitution, although religious organizations which lack official approval can be subject to state persecution. An accurate number of religious adherents is hard to obtain because of a lack of official data, but there is a general consensus that religion has been enjoying a resurgence in China since the late 1980s. A 1998 survey by Adherents.com found that 59% (over 700 million) of the population was non-religious. A later survey, conducted in 2007, found that there were 300 million religious believers in China, constituting 23% of the population, as distinct from the official figure of 100 million.

Despite the surveys' varying results, most agree that China's traditional religions—Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions—are the dominant faiths. According to various sources, Buddhism in China accounts for between 660 million (~50% of the population) and over 1 billion (~80%), while Taoists number as many as 400 million (~30%). However, because of the fact that one person may subscribe to two or more of these traditional beliefs simultaneously, and the difficulty in clearly differentiating Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions, there is likely a strong degree of overlap in the number of adherents of these religions. In addition, some who subscribe to Buddhism and Taoism follow their philosophies in principle but stop short of believing in any kind of deity or divinity.

Most Chinese Buddhists are merely nominal adherents, because only a small proportion of the population (around 8% or 100 million) may have taken the formal step of going for refuge. Even then, it is still difficult to estimate accurately the number of Buddhists, because they do not have congregational memberships and often do not participate in public ceremonies. Mahayana Buddhism (Dacheng) and its subsets Pure Land (Amidism), Tiantai and Chán (better known in English by its Japanese pronunciation Zen) are the most widely
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