China is a Multi-religious country, meaning there is more than 1 or 2 religions. In China’s constitution “Freedom of Belief” and their activities are protected by a government policy. Though religions and national pride are one of this countries driving forces, Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism all have never been dominant but all have developed and shaped culture and history.
The Four Official Religions
Taoism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity/Catholicism all have a long history in China and culture. A 2015 poll reported that 90% of Chinese citizens classify themselves as atheists or non-religious. However, this is a difficult number to measure due to the fact that many people practice the rituals and thought patterns of various religions but would not classify themselves as a member of a certain group.
Chinese folk religion is a good example of how the people view religious beliefs as a part of their way of seeing the world without putting a label on it. The folk religion is characterized by broad beliefs in salvation, prayer to ancestors and former leaders, and an understanding of the influence of the natural world.
Taoism is the oldest of China’s religions, it was created by Lao Tzu over 2000 years ago. It centers around three main principles/treasures “Humility, Compassion, and Frugality.”.
Taoism or Daoism is about being in complete harmony, as you know Yin and Yang.
道可道，非常道。A way that can be the Way, is not the usual way.
名可名，非常名。A name that can be a name, is an unusual name.
The word Dao means way, the way of life, in chinese terms it means path or road, path of life. There are a lot of ways to keep peace and balance in ones life to prolong it by practicing Tai Chi or honoring ancestors or other rituals they feel fit for them.
The majority of the Han believers are said to be Buddhists, Buddhism came from India some 2000 years ago, It merged slowly with Taoism while ancient texts were transcribed to Chinese and terminology of Taoism were used. The belief of Buddhism is that Buddha isn’t just a teacher but a god to pray to for help and salvation. Buddha was said to be lead to enlightenment by fasting and meditation. In modern China, the “Happy Buddha” is most commonly seen. He is depicted as being fat and laughing or smiling. The main goal of life in modern China is said to “be happy.” Maybe that is why Buddha is shown this way. The “Happy Buddha” has been the common popular Buddha in China for hundreds of years.
Buddhist believers are also made up of Tibetan, Mongolian, Lhoba, Moinba and Tujia nationalities who believe differently from the Han Buddhists.
Islam spread from the Arab Countries to China more than 1,300 years ago. It has more than 14 million believers among the Hui, Uyghur, Kazak, Ozbek, Tajik, Tatar, Kirgiz, Dongxiang Sala and Banan ethnic groups. Who live near the russian part of china (north west)
The Islamic followers mainly live in Provinces of Xinjiang, Ningxia, Ganxu and Qinghai in northwest China. There are also Islamic communities scattered in almost every city. Chinese Muslims do not eat pork, dogs, horses, donkeys or mules. There are many famous mosques in China that make excellent stops on a religious tour of China’s culture.
Though in the communist era most of the Chinese religions had died out because of anti-religious education and persecution in modern day Islam is one of the most leading faiths in China. The Hajj, or the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the pillars of Islam. It had been forbidden for many years due to the travel to Mecca being dangerous due to nature, robbing and war to complete the pilgrimage but from 1979 onwards when the ban was lifted at least 50,000 Chinese muslims have completed the Hajj.
Christianity reached China right after Buddhism had and was soon one of the most practiced religions. But after the death of Christ, During Easter, a lot of christians were prosecuted for their faith. This lasted for many centuries until after the cultural revolution in 1960 to 1970 after this it is one of the most quick-growing religions in Asia.
During these hostile times it was very foreign for the Chinese to believe in the believes that are Christianity. The belief in one man born so many miles away to be the savior of people because of this Christians only become christians by choice, conversion.
Now, Christianity in China is mainly polarized between Jidujiao (基督教, Chinese Evangelical) and Tianzhujiao (天主教, Chinese Catholics), the government supported Three Self Churches and independent “house churches,” and country churches of poor people and city churches of Chinese middle-class people, rich business people, and the highly educated. Jidujiao is far more popular than Tianzhujiao, and there may be something like 70 million Chinese Evangelicals. But it is hard to know for sure, since there has never been a religious poll taken, and many house churches that are Evangelical are reluctant of publicity.