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Buddhists Praised for Contributions
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The Chinese Government supports the development of Buddhist institutes as they have contributed greatly to the building of a harmonious society as well as to world peace, a top Chinese official said yesterday.

"It is an urgent, strategic task to foster more young Buddhist talents, especially in areas of research, foreign language, management and social service," Liu Yandong, vice-chairwoman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said at a function to mark the 50th anniversary of the Buddhist Academy of China yesterday.

The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the development of religious institutions, colleges and universities, Liu said.

"Chinese Buddhist circles will be able to carry out more international cultural exchanges as China further reforms, opens up and promotes its international reputation," Liu said.

The country encourages the fostering of more Buddhist talents with good patriotic backgrounds, and high accomplishments.

Buddhism has a 2,000-year-old history in China. The country is estimated to have 100 million folloers.

The Chinese mainland has 20,000 Buddhist temples and over 200,000 Buddhist monks and nuns. The Buddhist Association of China is a national religious organization.

There are 34 Buddhist schools and colleges, with more than 4,000 Buddhist students on campus and nearly 6,000 graduates.

The official called on Chinese Buddhist institutions to grow into foundations to develop theory research and cultural exchanges.

Founded in 1956, the Buddhist Academy of China, the highest Buddhist institution in the country, laid the foundation stone for its new campus at Tanzhesi Temple in western Beijing yesterday.

Construction of the new campus will be completed before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Addressing the ceremony, Venerable Master Yi Cheng, President of the Academy and the Buddhist Association of China, said the academy will try to become one of the best Buddhist institutions in the world, with the goal of building a "strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modern country."

Apart from Buddhism, China's main religions include Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism.

In China, citizens' right to the freedom of religious belief is protected by the Constitution.

(China Daily December 22, 2006)

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