Chinese Folk Religion|
It comprises numerous popular beliefs that are based principally in Chinese mythology and ancestor veneration. Folk religion has been practiced for thousands of years by common people who worship deities, xians, traditional heroes, demigods, ghosts and supernatural beings (especially the dragon). The deities differ according to geographical locations and people believe that they domain nature and protect humanity.
This religious system is independently of the adherence to other religions. They are frequently combined with Confucian ceremonies, Buddhism (veneration of Mother Ruler, a female deity)or Taoism (alchemists looking for the riddle of immortality).
Folk religion also conserves some ancestral (Neolithic) beliefs such as the veneration of the earth, the heaven, sun, moon, major stars, and sacred animals.
Chinese folk religion has never been an organized cult. There isnít any institution, clergy or formal ceremonies. However, there are some popular temples known as joss houses in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The Cultural Revolution destroyed almost all of these houses and today, traditional religion is just practiced privately in home altars.
Some of the most important folk gods are: Guan Yu (a sign of trust and loyalty), Mazu (the patron goddess of sailors), Sun Wukong (the monkey king) and Zhusheng Niangniang (Birth-Registry Goddess).
It was brought to China in the mid-7th century by a Muslim envoy, who was admitted immediately in the Tang court and the first Mosque (Memorial of the Prophet) was built in Guangzhou.
Numerous Chinese Muslims are descended from Persian and Central Asian merchants who imported and exported products with China between the 7th and 13th centuries (Song dynasty period).
The influence of Islam in the country declined gradually in the Yuan dynasty and the Ming Dynasty. However in the subsequent Qing Dynasty, Nanjing became a significant hub of Islamic studies.
Islam, as well as other religions in China suffered persecution during the 20th century. Currently, there are around 20 million Muslims in the country, divided in 10 ethnic groups. The bigger Muslim communities are located in Xinjiang province, Ningxia, Southeastern seaboard and in almost all cities along the traditional Silk Road.
Antique mosques are still active in some cities of China including Xi'an, Hohhot, Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Hangzhou, and Beijing.
The former entry of Christian religion into China dates back to the 7th century, when Nestorian Christians arrived to the country, however decades after Christianity was prohibited by the Tang dynasty.
Between 14th and 17th centuries, Franciscan missionaries were commissioned by the Vatican with a relative success, especially during the Qing dynasty. Russian Orthodoxy arrived to China in the mid-18th century and Protestant in the early 19th century.
In the last century Christianity in all its forms has had an important influence it the Chinese society -despite of its small number of followers; founding schools and hospitals, inspiring new thoughts and even creating ideological conflicts. The most eminent Chinese Christian may be Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
Currently, there are over 4 million Catholics and at least 10 million Protestants in the country. Chinese Catholics worship is through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association rather than the Roman Catholic Church, because the Communist government doesnít permit adherence to the foreign Popeís authority.
Other religions that have a minor presence in China
- Hinduism: in the southeast.
- Judaism: mainly in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
- Native religions like Bon or Dongbaism: in their respective geographical locations.