Religion in China
China is a country of great religious diversity and freedom of religious belief. It has over 100 million followers of various faiths, more than 100,000 sites for religious activities, about 300,000 religious personnel and over 3,000 religious associations. The main religions are Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, China's indigenous Taoism, along with Shamanism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Naxi people's Dongba religion.
Buddhism was introduced to China from India around the first century AD, growing increasingly popular to become the most influential religion in China after the fourth century. Tibetan Buddhism, as a branch of Chinese Buddhism, is popular primarily in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Now China has more than 13,000 Buddhist temples, with about 200,000 monks and nuns.
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system, developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is a complex system of moral, social, political and religious which had tremendous influence on the history and culture of East Asia.
Taoism is based on the philosophy of Lao Zi (traditionally said to be born in 604 BC) and his work, the Dao De Jing (Classic of the Way and Virtue). It probably took shape as a religion during the second century, originating from pursuit of immortality and other supernatural beliefs in ancient China. China now has more than 1,500 Taoist temples and over 25,000 Taoist monks and nuns.
Christianity was introduced to China in early 19th century and widely spread after 1840s. In 1950, the church called on its believers to shake off the vestige of foreign imperialist influence and uphold patriotism in order to achieve self-administration, self-supporting and self-propagation, which are the cardinal principle of Chinese Christianity. At present, there are about 10 million Christian believers, 18,000 priests and more than 12,000 churches and 25,000 other centers of worship in China.
Islam probably first reached China in the mid-seventh century. During the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, Arab and Persian merchants of the Islamic faith came overland through Central Asia to northwest China, bringing with them the Islamic faith. Nowadays in China there are ten national minorities, with a total population of 18 million, whose faith is Islam. Their 30,000-odd mosques are served by 40,000Imams.
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