China has been a multi-religion country since the ancient times. It is well known that Confucianism is an indigenous religion and is the soul of Chinese culture, which enjoyed popular support among people and even became the guiding ideology for feudalism society, but it did not develop into a national belief. It makes the culture more tolerant to others, thus, many other religions have been brought into the country in different dynasties, but none of them developed powerful enough in the history and they only provide diverse people more spiritual support In the latest survey 85% of Chinese people have religious beliefs or had some religious practices and only 15% of them are real atheists. (The real atheists here refer to those who do not have faith in any religions nor had any activities related to religions.) 185 million people believe in Buddhism and 33 million have faith in Christianity and believes in the existence of God.
Only twelve million people are Taoists, even though more than one hundred million have taken part in Taoism activities before. This is obvious that the Buddhism has the widest influence. The other major religions are Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity.
Buddhism was started in China 2,000 years ago, it was gradually accepted widely by most Chinese people and developed into three sections, namely the Han, Tibetan and Southern Buddhism. Buddhism not only brought a different religion, but also brought a different culture. It influences the local culture on three main aspects: literature, art and ideology. Many famous poems have ideas from Buddhism and many Buddhist stone statues can be found, which show its huge influence. It also promotes the countries’ intercultural communications with foreign countries. In Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), Jianzhen traveled to Japan to spread Buddhism as well as Chinese culture. Xuanzang, who traveled to India to learn Buddhist doctrines, he brought back with him plenty of information on the language and the religions of the countries he had visited.
Now Buddhism has grown into the most important religion in the country. The latest survey shows that thirty-one% of the people who do not believe in this religion have participated in some Buddhist activities and about seventeen million people have already become converts. Now more of those followers come from different walks of life such as the intellectuals, business elites and the common people. Recently, there is a new report that shows that thirty-nine% of the high class and businessmen have faith in Buddhism. Not only the number of the followers is increasing, and the education of Buddhism obtains more attention from the society.
Under the Buddhist Association of China, thirty four different levels of Buddhist academies as well as almost fifty magazines can be found. Now in mainland China, there are about thirteen thousand temples with around one hundred and eighty thousand monks and nuns. Some important facts are, within the Han Buddhism there are eight four hundred temples and fifty thousand monks, which makes is the largest branch of religion in the mainland. The Tibetan Buddhism is the second largest section has three thousand and one hundred and twenty thousand monks. The Southern Buddhism has eight thousand monks and sixteen thousand temples, which has the smallest scale in the country.
Confucianism, not a real religion, but is an ethical and philosophical system, which developed from Confucius’ thoughts and later was treated as a kind of belief to educate common people. It started its stable position in (202BC-220AD), and became the ideology of the society since then. Based on the Four Books and Five Classics, the traditions and principles Confucianism played an important role in the formation of Chinese people’s thinking patterns and teaching methods. The Doctrine of the Mean is still being used with the communications among people. Now, to some degree, where Chinese people stay or live, there will be Confucianism.
Confucianism is worldwide influence. In many countries and regions of world such as in the UK, USA, branches of Confucius Institutes are established in recent years to spread Chinese culture and expand the language. In China, you can find many Confucius temples, which is an important place for the candidates for important exams. Christianity was first introduces to china in the Tang Dynasty. After 1840, in was widespread in the country. Now about thirty million Chinese people are Christians. Most in which gather in the south part of the country.
Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. Shinto has been around as the Japanese culture, while on the other hand Buddhism was imported from the mainland in the 6th century. Since then the two religions have been co-existing relative and has been even to each other to a certain degree. Most Japanese consider themselves and Buddhist, Shintoist or even both. Religion does not play a big role in everyday life of most Japanese people today, unlike the Chinese. Normally people follows the religion during religious rituals ceremonies like birth, weddings, and funerals. Some may visit the temple, shrine, on the New Year and participates during local festivals. Which has a big religious background.