Religion: Managing China’s Pot-pourri Of Beliefs, Nationalities

Ethnic and religious differences have not stopped Chinese people from living in harmony.


China’s major beliefs are Taoism, (which is indigenous), Buddhism, Islam and Christianity (Protestants and Roman Catholics.) Chinese have practised Buddhism and Taoism for about 2,000 years. However, majority of the people do not believe in any faith, though freedom of belief is protected by the Constitution. Some sources suggest that there are about 100 million Christians in China; out of a population of almost 1.4 billion people. According to some Islamic officials in Beijing, China’s Moslem population is 25 million. Each year, 15,000 Chinese Moslems undertake the Hajj to Saudi Arabia.

The Niu Jie Mosque in the Chinese capital, Beijing, was built in 996 BC. Islam was introduced into the area by Ahmed Bourtani Al Ghazwini from Afghanistan and Ali Ibn Quandi Imad Eddim Elboukhari from Tajiskistan. “Because of their devotion and hard work, these two Islamic missionaries were later promoted to Imams,” explained Yang Ali, a Chinese national who is the Imam or Preacher of Niu Jie Mosque.

Located northeast of Beijing near the former palace of ancient Chinese Emperors is the Yonghe Lamasery or Buddhist temple complex. Constructed in 1694, it was later converted from an imperial residence to a Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery in 1744. The vast complex today draws hundreds of Buddhist worshippers and tourists. Its Wanfu Pavilion boasts the 36-metre-high Maitreya deity wood carving that entered the Guinness Book of Records in August 1990.  

Niu Song, Head of the Ethnic Nationalities and Religious Affairs Office for Beijing says the capital city is host to people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs – which is representative of China’s pot-pourri of 56 ethnic groups. He notes that Chinese and foreign believers live in harmony as they tolerate each other and non-believers. “Chinese people have Confucius mentality that stresses tolerance for others,” Song explains.

“Government built a kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school and Moslem hospital near our mosque,” Imam Yang Ali told 27 African journalists on May 13, 2017. He said the State has also renovated the country’s 50,000 mosques since 1978. Niu Song explained government’s offer of financial support to worship sites as being hinged on the need to protect and preserve those that are of historical importance.

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