Survey: Over 23 million Christians in China

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The number of Christians in the country has hit a record 23.05 million in 2010, according to a survey released on Wednesday by the institute of world religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Nearly 69 percent of believers said they converted to Christianity after either they or members of their family fell ill," Li Lin, who organized the survey, said in the Blue Book on China Religions, a book that lists facts on religion in China.

"About 15 percent of believers said they are Christian because of the influence of family traditions."

Li pointed out that the number of female Christians is much higher than male Christians, taking up a whopping 70 percent of the total number.

The book also revealed an increase in other faiths, including Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Taoism.

The number of Catholics in China has reached 5.7 million, according to the survey.

The Christian boom is a result of China's economic growth, the survey found, noting that 73 percent of Chinese Christians joined the church after 1993, and nearly 18 percent of them between 1982 and 1992.

The poll found that most of the Chinese Christians are located in the eastern costal and the Yangtze River areas, which are China's most densely populated and economically prosperous regions.

The demographics of Christians have changed tremendously, with a continuing influx of young people, intellectuals, and professionals from various fields.

To accommodate the increase in the number of churchgoers, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of churches in the country, which currently stand at more than 55,000.

"These statistics clearly indicate that the 30-year period of reform and opening-up has been a period of rapid development for both Chinese society and the Chinese church," Fu Xianwei, chairman of China's Three-Self Patriotic Movement National Committee, said at the annual meeting of the Shanghai Religious Society.

Fu said more than 70 percent of the religious facilities have only recently been built.

Some of these churches are limited in their capacity to accommodate worshippers, while others have extensive buildings that are capable of seating 8,000.

By the end of 2009, more than 50 million copies of the Bible had been printed in China, Fu said.

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