III. Respecting and Protecting Religious Culture
Since antiquity Xinjiang has seen the coexistence of a variety of religions, whose rich cultures have become part of traditional Chinese culture. China’s government is committed to protecting its citizens’ freedom of religious belief while respecting and protecting religious cultures.
Many religious cultures blend and coexist. Xinjiang has long been a region where multiple religions are practiced and their cultures have met and blended. Primitive religion and Shamanism were practiced in Xinjiang before Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and other faiths were introduced into the region from the 4th century BC onward. Gradually there came into being a network of coexisting religions. This network further evolved with the introduction of Taoism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, and Islam. A coexistence of multiple religions, with one or two predominant, was a basic characteristic of Xinjiang’s religious history. During their lengthy coexistence and interaction, the religious cultures in the region learned from one another and adapted to China’s social development. At present, the major religions in Xinjiang are Islam, Buddhism, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, and Taoism. Certain Shamanistic and Zoroastrian elements can still be observed in local customs today. The remains of Buddha niches, lotus patterns, and lotus seat sculptures in Kashgar, Hami, and Ili testify to the once widespread influence of Buddhism in the region.
Religious texts are published and distributed in accordance with the law. The state has translated, published and distributed Islamic, Buddhist, Protestant, and other religious texts to meet the diverse demand of religious believers. The Koran and Irshad al-Sari li Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari have been published in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Kirgiz languages. The New Collection of al-Wa’z Speeches series have been compiled and published in both Chinese and Uygur languages. A website (www.xjmuslim.com) available in both Chinese and Uygur languages was set up for Xinjiang’s Muslim community. Ancient religious books, including Volume II of the Golden Light Sutra (Suvarnaprabhasa Sutra) and Maitrisimit Nom Bitig, have been published. Important scriptures such as the Koran, Bible, and Golden Light Sutra are available at stores specializing in selling religious publications.
Religious heritages are effectively protected. A total of 109 religious sites in Xinjiang, including Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Shengyou Lamasery in Zhaosu, and the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves have been designated as major cultural heritage sites under the protection of the autonomous region and the state. Among the 109 sites, 46 are key cultural heritage sites under the protection of the state and 63 are under the protection of the autonomous region. The central government has allocated special funds to renovate cultural heritage protection sites at the state and autonomous-region levels, including the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves, Bezkilik Grottoes, and Id Kah Mosque. Xinjiang has funded the repair of 28 religious venues, including the Emin Minaret in Turpan, Shengyou Lamasery in Zhaosu, and Red Temple (Taoist) in Urumqi. Elements of intangible cultural heritage relating to religion are also effectively protected and passed on.
Religions adapt to China’s realities.Adapting to local society is essential for the survival and development of any religion. With influence from such Chinese cultural traditions as being inclusive, seeking common ground while reserving differences, and pursuing harmony without uniformity, Buddhism and other foreign religions have all directed their efforts to localization after entering China. After Buddhism was introduced into Xinjiang, it has exerted a far-reaching influence on Xinjiang’s history and culture through proactive adaptation to local social norms and integration into the mainstream culture. Through extended fusion with local faiths and traditions, Islam gradually became part of Chinese culture and developed distinct regional and local ethnic features. The Catholic Church’s principles of independence and self-management of its religious affairs, and Protestantism’s compliance with the principles of self-propagation, self-governance, and self-support facilitated their adaptation to conditions in China. Xinjiang upholds the tradition of religious localization and provides guidance to religions on adaptation to China’s socialist system. Religious circles in Xinjiang are encouraged to promote social harmony and development as well as cultural progress with the aid of religious doctrines and rules, and elaborate on the doctrines and rules that contribute to China’s development and conform to China’s traditions.