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, to Tibetan Buddhism (also known as Lamaism), and the Dai, Blang and Deang to Theravada Buddhism. Quite a few Miao, Yao and Yi are Christians. Religious Han Chinese tend to practice Buddhism, Christianity or Taoism.
Buddhism was introduced to China from India approximately in the first century A.D., becoming increasingly popular and the most influential religion in China after the fourth century. Tibetan Buddhism, as a branch of Chinese Buddhism, is popular primarily in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Now China has more than 13,000 Buddhist temples.
Islam probably first reached China in the mid-seventh century. The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) witnessed the zenith of prosperity of Islam. Now China has more than 30,000 mosques.
Catholic influence reached China several times after the seventh century, and Protestantism was introduced into China in the early 19th century. Now there are more than 4,600 Catholic churches and over 12,000 Protestant churches, as well as over 25,000 other types of Christian places of worship in China.
Taoism probably took shape as a religion during the second century, based on the philosophy of Lao Zi (traditionally said to be born in 604 B.C.) and his work, the Dao De Jing (Classic of the Way and Virtue). China now has more than 1,500 Taoist temples.
(China.org.cn June 29, 2009)