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Religions of China

China man in prayer Pagoda

The main religions in China are:

  • Atheism, no religious beliefs

  • Buddhism, originating in India and emphasizing meditation

  • Taosim(or Daoism), the "way" of life

  • Confucianism or K'ung Fu Tzu, originating from the writings and philosophy of the Great Master Kong

Other major religions(both travelling to China along the Silk Road):

Religious History

  • Silk Road was a major path bringing in Buddhism first followed by Christianity, and then Islam eastward into China.

  • Communists eliminated organized religions in 1949

  • PRC Constitution(1978) restored religious freedoms(right to believe)

  • The right to not believe in religion(god) also protected in the constitution.


A large percentage of the population and especially the young, are atheist and do not believe in god. The communists officially banned religion in China for over a dozen years in the sixties and seventies. This largely accounts for the lack of religious belief in many younger people.



Chinese CharactersBuddhism travelled to China along the Silk Route nearly 2000 years ago. Originating in India, this faith has three gods, a god of the past, a god of the present, and a god of the future. From a Westerner's viewpoint, Buddha and Buddhist temples are a big part of the culture. In actuality, there are only about 100 million buddhists in China.


Christians are persecuted in some parts of the country, especially catholic religion. As a tourist, you need not worry. You will neither be asked your religion or experience any repercussions as a result. In addition, religious persecution is not found in the major cities where travellers and business people will usually be found. There are christian churches in the largest cities. You might have cause for concern if you were to carry into the country religious articles and pamphlets (multiple copies) for distribution to the population, or openly preach to the local people. There are only a few million Chinese who practice christianity in China.


The ancient philosopher, Master K'ung Fu Tzu. His writings and beliefs did not become popular until well after his death. International recognition and study of Confucianism waited until the last few centuries. Confucius taught in his writings about a social order and ethical behaviors. Each person had responsibilities to live up to within the social order and position they were in.

Well after his death, Confucianism grew into a religion of it's own.


Like Christianity, Islamic beliefs travelled along the Silk Route into China many centuries ago. It was brought by traders coming from Turkey and Persia. Islamic faith can be found primarily in the western provinces of China. There are only a few million people practicing Islam in China.


Like Confucianism, Taoism promotes a way of life, stressing peace and harmony with your surroundings and as a result deeply influences every aspect of a persons' life. Taoism's roots date back to the sixth century B.C.


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