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Religions in China

China is a country with a great diversity of religions, with over 100 million followers of the various faiths. The main religions are Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, China's indigenous Taoism, along with Shamanism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Naxi people's Dongba religion. The Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Tatar, Ozbek, Tajik, Dongxiang, Salar and Bonan peoples adhere to Islam; the Tibetan, Mongolian, Lhoba, Moinba, Tu and Yugur peoples, to Tibetan Buddhism (also known as Lamaism); and the Dai, Blang and Deang peoples to Theravada Buddhism. Quite a few Miao, Yao and Yi people are Christians. Religious Han Chinese tend to practice Buddhism, Christianity or Taoism.

Taoist ethics is primarily linked with longevity. Since everyone is eager for longevity, Taoism takes this as a tool to bring up many requests to people. In fact, this is where Taoism is in common with other religions in attaining their goals through cherishing ideals, just like Elysium in Buddhism and Heaven in Christianity, etc.
As Taoism preaches, one must nicely obey the social ethics for the purpose of longevity. Everybody must accumulate good virtues, do good deeds and obey various kinds of social norms. In all kinds of classic scriptures, Taoism emphasizes that in addition to keeping away from bad deeds and helping others, one must also be loyal to his country, show respect to his parents, and avoid the selfishness of human nature. Meanwhile, Taoism also warns that one will suffer from a reduced life span or an early death once he commits evil.
Such kind of Taoist thought is the authentic Chinese ethics. In terms of the effect, to some extent Taoist theories have a positive influence on Chinese society.

The exact time of the introduction of Buddhism into China is hard to be ascertained. At its early years after introduction, Buddhism did not have much influence.
It is said that in the year 2BC, Yi Cun, an emissary of Dayuezhi Kingdom (an ancient mid-Asian country established by a strong Chinese minority originally living in northern China and later moved to the west), arrived in Chang'an (today's Xi'an City), capital of China at the time. He dictated Buddhism to Doctor Jing Lu. And this is the first record about the introduction of Buddhism into China.
There is another saying that during the reign of the Indian King Asoka (272-226 BC), 18 Indians visited China's Xianyang City during the reign of Qin Emperor Shihuang (the first ever emperor of the Qin Dynasty, 246-210 BC, and therefore the first ever emperor of feudal China). In the year 250BC, King Asoka convoked the third conference and, after the conference, Dade was sent to spread Buddhism to other countries including China.
The feature of Chinese Buddhism lies in the coexistence of Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism as well as the concomitance of Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism. Buddhism was initiated in India, developed in China and further expanded to Japan and Korea. However, Buddhist doctrinal classification itself never played any crucial role in Indian Buddhism as it did in China. Indian Buddhists were threatened by the values and socio-political structures of the Indian society dominated by Hinduism and Islam and vanished between 9th century and 10th century in India while Buddhism were developed rapidly in China so that China became the true homeland of Buddhism all over the world.
Another feature of Chinese Buddhism is that Mahasanghika Buddhism plays an important role. Most Chinese Buddhists take Mahasanghika Buddhism as their religion except people living near Thailand, whose religion is Theravada Buddhism as well as people living in Tibet whose religion is the Esoteric Buddhism.
The third feature of Chinese Buddhism is that it has ten sects. Some hierarchs founded new sects according to different canons including Tiantai Sect, Garland Sect, Three Sutra Sect, Reality Sect, Lotus Sect, Vinaya, Zen and Esoteric Buddhism.


Confucianism, the oldest form of Chinese religion whose concepts and teachings have dominated the Chinese ruling class as well as intellectuals for the last two thousand years, is a philosophy rather than a religion. Ancestor worship is widely practiced across the entire country; although it has been simplified in modern time, it never fades away from the Chinese community. Buddhism is the most popular form of Chinese religion. Since its introduction in 400AD, Buddhism has slipped into and occupies every aspect of the Chinese lifestyle. Daoism, named national religion, originated in the Han Dynasty, but is not widely accepted. Besides, there is an increasing number of Chinese who practices Roman Catholicism, Christianism and Islamism. 


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