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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: May 2009

9 - Chinese religious traditions from 1900-2005: an overview


This chapter discusses the rituals and beliefs of the Han Chinese majority, their local communities, indigenous popular religious sects, Daoism and Buddhism, as well as Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity. After many years of suppression, since the 1980s these traditions have been revived in many areas of the country, community festivals in honour of local gods are again being carried out, Daoist and Buddhist clergy are once again being ordained, and there are more Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians than ever before. As for Confucianism, its ethical principles permeated late traditional Chinese culture, and have had considerable influence on the beliefs and values of the practitioners of other religious traditions and on the veneration of ancestors by families and lineages. In Taiwan there are still temples dedicated to Confucius, and some popular sects for which he is the chief deity, but during much of the twentieth century he was attacked on the Mainland as a symbol of all that was out-moded and backward. In recent decades, however, there has been an attempt by some intellectuals in China to rediscover his teachings, and the shrine and tomb in his hometown in Shandong Province have been restored. Before we explore these religions, however, a few words should be said about Islam in China. Muslim merchants reached China by both land and sea by the late seventh century, and eventually settled in many parts of the country, mostly in the northwest.