|Freedom of religion is guaranteed by China's constitution, although religious organizations which lack official approval can be subject to state persecution.An accurate estimate of the number of religious adherents is hard to obtain because of a lack of official data, but there is a general consensus that religious belief has been enjoying a resurgence in China since the late 1980s. A 1998 survey by Adherents.com found that 59% (over 700 million) of the population was non-religious.A later survey, conducted in 2007, found that there were 300 million religious believers in China, constituting 23% of the population, as distinct from the official figure of 100 million.|
Despite the surveys' varying results, most agree that China's traditional religions – Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions – are the dominant faiths. According to various sources, Buddhism in China accounts for between 660 million (~50% of the population) and over 1 billion (~80%), while Taoists number as many as 400 million (~30%). However, because of the fact that one person may subscribe to two or more of these traditional beliefs simultaneously, and the difficulty in clearly differentiating Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions, there is likely a strong degree of overlap in the number of adherents of these religions. In addition, some who subscribe to Buddhism and Taoism follow their philosophies in principle but stop short of believing in any kind of deity or divinity
Major Religions in China
According to some European historians, Mauryan emperor Aśoka the Great sent the royal monk Massim Sthavira to Nepal, Bhutan, and China to spread Buddhism around 265 BCE. However, it has not been widely confirmed that these missionaries arrived in China or that they were responsible for establishing the teachings of Buddhism there.
Admitting the impossibility of saying "when or how the first Buddhist missions in China began", Kenneth Saunders mentions Ashoka and the Fayuan Zhulin (written 688 CE) noting missionaries arriving in Qin Dynasty (221–206 BCE) China. This Buddhist encyclopedia claims that in 217 BCE, the monk Li Fang 李防 and seventeen others arrived in Xi'an – but this legend is uncorroborated by historical sources.
Buddhism was introduced to China around the first century A.D. Since the fourth century A.D, it was widely spread and gradually became the most influential religion in China. Buddhism in China is divided into three branches according to varied language families, namely, Chinese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Pali Buddhism and there are about 200 thousand Buddhist monks and nuns under these three branches. At present, there are more than 13 thousand Buddhist temples that are open to the public, 33 Buddhist colleges and nearly 50 types of Buddhist publications in China.
As one branch of Buddhism in China, Tibetan Buddhism is mainly spread in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province with some 7 million believers from Tibetan, Mongolian, Yugu, Monba, Luoba and Tu nationalities. Pali Buddhism is popular in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture and Simao region in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province with over one million believers from Dai, Bulang, Achang and Va nationalities. The believers of Chinese Buddhism are mainly Han people, who live all over China.
Taoism (modernly: Daoism) is a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (modernly romanized as "Dao"). The term Tao means "way", "path" or "principle", and can also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. In Taoism, however, Tao denotes something that is both the source and the driving force behind everything that exists. It is ultimately ineffable: "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
Taoism is a typically traditional religion in China with a history of more than 18 hundred years since the second century A.D. It advocates the worship of natural objects and ancestors as was practiced since time immemorial and had various factions in the history; later, it evolved into two major factions, namely, Quanzhen and Zhengyi Taoism, and was fairly influential among Han people. It is difficult to calculate the exact number of Taoist believers because there are no formal ceremonies or specific regulations concerning the admission to Taoism. At present, there are more than 15 hundred Taoist temples in China with over 25 hundred male and female Taoists there.
Chinese Muslims have been in China for the last 1,400 years of continuous interaction with Chinese society. Muslims live in every region in China.Various sources estimate different number of Muslims in China, but some sources indicate they are about 1–10% of the total population in China are Muslims
Islam was introduced to China in the seventh century A.D with nearly 18 million believers from Hui, Uygur, Tartar, Kirgiz, Kazakh, Ozbek, Dongxiang, Sala and Baoan nationalities. Most of the Muslims in China live in compact communities in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan Provinces; besides, some Muslims in small groups live in other provinces or cities in China. At present, there are more than 30 thousand mosques in China with over 40 thousand imams or ahungs.
Catholicism was first introduced to China in the seventh century and widely spread across the country after the Opium War in 1840. At present, Chinese Catholic Church boasts one hundred parishes, some five million believers, nearly five thousand cathedrals and places for religious activities and twelve theological seminaries. Over the past two decades, the Catholic Church in China have cultivated more than 15 hundred young bishops who are able to hold consecration and among them over one hundred have been sent abroad for further study. In addition, three thousands young girls have been crowned the nunhood after their admission and two hundred nuns have decided to dedicate all their lives to the church. Every year, more than 50 thousand clerics from the Chinese Catholic Church preside over baptism and the church prints over three million copies of Bible.
Christians in China are also referred to as Chinese: "Christ believers". Although its lineage in China is not as ancient as the institutional religions of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism, and the social system and ideology of Confucianism,Christianity has existed in China since at least the seventh century and has gained influence over the past 200 years