Chinese Culture: Religion

A number of religions and philosophies were openly and freely practiced throughout China up until the Communist Revolution.

Religion in China

Prior to 1949, a variety of religions called ‘folk religions’ were practiced in China. They incorporated elements of Taoism and Buddhism. The religions were local. They served local people and were based on local gods.

theravada-buddhism-1775946_960_720Christianity has been around in China since the early 17th century. It was brought in by Christian missionaries (Roman Catholics of the Jesuit order). Protestants made their way to China in the 19th Century. Christianity was not very popular among the Chinese, as it was associated with Western imperialism. By 1949 less than 1% of the population (3-4million) were Christian.

Islam grew a lot faster among the Chinese than Christianity. It is estimated that there is more than 4 million Chinese Muslims. Islam was brought into China from Central Asia. Ningxia Huizu Is an autonomous region designated for Islamic adherents.

Buddhism is not strictly a religion but sometimes falls under the description of one. It made its way to China from India and has been practiced from 1 ADE. It is estimated that there are 68 million Chinese who consider themselves Buddhist, though they may not practice regularly.

The Communist regime brought about a change in how religion was practiced in China. Religion was discouraged because it was seen as anti-socialist. Things got worse for theists during the Cultural Revolution. This mass movement ran from 1966 to 1977. Those who practiced religion were persecuted, and churches and temples were closed down. The movement was led by Mao Zedong, the Communist leader of China at the time, as an attempt to reassert his authority over the Chinese government. All religions were targeted. Eventually, after 1977, religion was allowed to be practiced again, though the Chinese government remains wary of all religious activity today.