However, religion in China is actually considered pluralist. Meaning, religion in China is considered to be more family-oriented and does not strictly require observance by its members. This paper shall discuss religion in China, considering its application and the various practices seen in the country.
Considering the pluralist nature of religion in China, various authors and scholars define religion in China as cultural practices, not actual “religions” (Taylor, 1982). Nevertheless, in the popular and contemporary context, various religions abound in China, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, among others. Buddhism is the most common religion in China and was first seen in the country in the first century (Landaw and Baudian, 2003). The Chinese folk religion known as Shenism is however China’s largest religion as it encompasses various religious traditions (Gargan, 2001). Shenism is a combination of various ethnic religions, including Taoism, the worship of the shens, heroes, ancestors, Chinese mythological figures, and local ethnic deities (Gargan, 2001). In the seventh century, Christianity in China was first seen; it re-emerged in the 16th century with the appearance of the Jesuit missionaries. As the 18th century saw the entry of Europeans into China, Western religions were eventually introduced in the country (Hughes, 2005). More religious freedom was seen in the 1980s and Taoism and Buddhism became an important part of their culture. In the current context, Shenism and Buddhism are considered the most popular religions in China, and smaller percentages of the population are Christians or belong to other religious groupings. In considering the historical beginnings of religion in China, it is important to note that before Chinese civilization was established, the ethnic and folk religious practices were practiced alongside shamans (Walter and Fridman, 2004). With the advent of Chinese civilization, the indigenous and folk religious practices slowly emerged and developed; and this saw the introduction of animism and Taoism into China’s culture (Walter and Fridman, 2003). It is very much supported by the Chinese people, with the firm recognition of the impact of these religions in their lives and their daily activities. The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 and it is considered atheist as it sees religion as part of foreign colonialism; it also strictly adheres to the separation of Church and State (Overmyer, 2003). In the mid-1960s, the Cultural Revolution firmly emphasized the elimination of religions; this period saw the destruction of places of worship. In the 1970s, the end of the Cultural Revolution saw improved tolerance in religions and the expression of these religions – with emphasis on the freedom of religions (Hughes, 2005). Their 1978 Constitution also emphasized on this mandate with Article 46 which emphasizes on religious freedom and the non-discrimination of citizens due to religious beliefs (Peale, 2005). There have been various programs to rebuild Buddhist and Taoist temples in the 1980s and these programs have helped in integrating religion as an important part of the Chinese culture. Buddhists in China are spread out all over the country. The Southern provinces are strong in Shenism and Taoism (Hays, 2010). Chinese folk religions are seen in the central regions and are hardly seen in the northern regions. The northern regions are atheist and agnostics with some Buddhists and Taoists mixed into the population (Hughes, 2005). Sichuan is dominated by Taoists and the eastern regions and coastal provinces are mostly Christians (Little and Eichman, 2000). Tibetan Muslim