Religious Demographics Of China

A Buddhist shrine in the Himalayan mountains.
A Buddhist shrine in the Himalayan mountains.


Historically, China and its people have been characterized by three religiophilosophical traditions. These are Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. All three traditional beliefs, at one time or another overlapped, to help shape Chinese culture and traditions. Since the earliest times, Chinese family religious leanings and beliefs always depended on family values and cultural practices. This practice permitted all three philosophical systems to flourish in China. However, during the cultural revolution, Mao Zedong began the suppression of all religious organizations and practices in China. Although, it retained its humanist and secularist traditions.

Religious History Of China

The establishment of the Communist Party of China in 1949 eradicated all forms of religious activities in the country until most recently. The move towards a market economy began by succeeding leaders enabled the populace to return to traditional faith systems and welcome foreign religious beliefs as well. Today, the Communist Party of China acknowledges five religions in the country. These religious beliefs are Catholicism, Protestantism,Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism. Although, the present leaders and the Party give more credence to Confucianism and Chinese folk beliefs that include some Tibetan deities. These deities include wealth gods as well.

Survey On Chinese Religion

A study done on Han Chinese households in 25 Han Chinese provinces in 2012 represented about 95% of the population of China. The Chinese Family Panel Studies' Surveys made in 2012 reflect the following data which was published in 2014. China has some of the highest rates of atheism and agnosticism observed in the world today. The percentage of the Chinese population that are strict adherents to Atheism runs to about 61% along with Agnostics. Among the Han Chinese that are adherents to Taoist or Confucian Philosophies account for about 26% of the country’s population. The followers of the Buddhist religion accounts for 6% of the population. Although only 2% are adherents of Christianity, it is becoming a popular alternative. Folk Salvationist adherents count as 2% of the Han Chinese population. The Islam faith has a mere 2% following among the Han Chinese in the country.

Regional Variations In Religion

Regional nuances are the norm in religious affiliations in China. Christians are especially the majority in Zhejiang, Anhui, and Henan. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many Protestant missionaries proselytized residents in these provinces. Muslim Han Chinese are found mostly in Yunan and Henan provinces. Folk religion adherents are concentrated in the northeastern provinces and central plains of the country. Taoist or Confucian Philosophies have many followers in Shandong Province and the northeastern provinces. Buddhist followers are mainly in the eastern provinces of China. However, the leadership of the Communist Party of China is steadfastly an atheist organization that advises its members to remain as atheists, both in thought and practice while in office.

Changes in religious beliefs

The Han Chinese belong to that mindset that thinks in a “harmonious holism.” It may be explained as considering one as part of the whole in the world. It adheres to a combination of religious practices that evolves in a way so that a better understanding is achieved. It is not the rejection of other religions but syncretic in thought. Folk religion has the largest followers in China, but more Han Chinese have no religious affiliations at all or are agnostics. However, a majority of the Han Chinese believed in fate and fortune that are based on folk religious beliefs.

Religious Demographics Of China

RankBelief System% Of Population of Self-Identifying Adherents
1Strict Atheism61%
2Taoist or Confucian Philosophies26%
5Folk Salvationist2%

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