Chinese religion hasn't been characterized as an organized or integrated system of practices and beliefs. On the contrary, it has been characterized as pluralistic since the beginning of Chinese civilization three millennia ago. The term ďReligion of ChinaĒ is used to describe the intricate relations of diverse religious and philosophical traditions in the country.
Chinese religion is primarily composed of three major traditions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, although this last one is a school of philosophy rather than a religion. Many scholars include a four main tradition, the Chinese folk religion. The religious perspective of the majority of Chinese population is a mixture of beliefs and practices from these four traditions. It isnít common practice just one religion excluding the others, even when they often contain contradictory elements.
The number of people who follow Buddhism are over 1 billion (80%) and/or Taoism 400 million (30%). Note that many Chinese consider themselves both Buddhist and Taoist.
Other religions have also been present in minor numbers in China for several centuries, such as Christianity with around 50 millions (4%), Islam with 20 millions (1.5%), Hinduism, Dongbaism, and Bon. There are also other modern religions that are increasing the quantity of their adherents in the country like Xiantianism and Falun Gong.
Some of the Chinese religions were originated in the own country (Taoism, Confucianism), but others were imported from other parts of the world (Buddhism is from India, Christianity is from Western). In general, Chinese people can assimilate easily religions which donít attempt on their basic traditions, but itís not the same if these are imposed, as occurred during the Mongolian or Manchu invasion. Their religious efforts gave more confidence to the Chinese based on the superiority of their beliefs.
Despite of the great number of nominal followers of Chinese religions and that the largest part of people say that they believe in gods, destiny, fate, luck and an afterlife; Chinese population donít have a strong religious inclination. This tendency has been highly increased since the Communist Party took the power in 1949. The Government discouraged the practice of religion for decades and during the Cultural Revolution, extensive religious persecutions were carried out and hundreds of churches and temples were destroyed.
However, many Chinese people kept on practicing their religious beliefs, even though the high personal risk. The following liberalization period permitted that religion was no longer proscribed and in 1982, the constitution was modified to tolerate freedom of religion, but the Chinese Government continue being "atheist" and today, a lot of temples are still considered just "cultural relics".
Read more about Beliefs in China
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