Blog EntriesReligion in China

Religion in China—By the Numbers


Earlier this month, the State Council Information office released a White Paper titled, "China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief."

There is a lot to digest in the paper, but for now here are some of the statistical highlights that give us a glimpse of the current religious situation in China.

Religious Believers

  • 200 million believers in the five approved religions (Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism)
  • 38 million Protestant believers
  • 20 million Muslims
  • 6 million Catholic believers

Interestingly, the last official number given by the government for Protestant believers was 23 million, as last as 2012. Neither that number nor the current number of 38 million include Protestant believers who are part of unregistered congregations (house churches).

The White Paper also does not include numbers of Buddhist and Daoists since these religions do not have strict criteria for membership or participation.

Places of Worship

  • 144,000 total places of worship
  • 60,000 Protestant churches
  • 35,000 mosques
  • 33,500 Buddhist temples
  • 6,000 Catholic churches
  • 9,000 Daoist temples

I find it interesting that there are more Protestant churches and mosques than Buddhist temples.

Sacred Texts

  • 160 million Bible printed in 100 languages
  • 80 million Bibles printed in Chinese (included in the 160 million mentioned above)
  • 63,000 Buddhist Sutras printed

No figures are given for the numbers of the Quran; only that it has been translated and published in Chinese, Uighur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz.

Religious Schools

  • 91 total religious schools
  • 41 Buddhist schools
  • 21 Protestant schools
  • 10 Daoist schools
  • 9 Catholic schools
  • 10 Islamic schools
  • 10,000 students enrolled in religious schools

It seems to me that those numbers are extremely small given the total number of believers (200 million).

The entire White Paper (in English) can be found here.

In 2013, Tony Lambert wrote an article for the ChinaSource Quarterly highlighting the difficulty in obtaining accurate religious statistics for China. In light of this White Paper, it’s definitely worth re-reading that article. You can find it here.

The previous White Paper on religion in China was published in 1997. It’s a fascinating comparison. You can find it here.

Image credit: Gauthier Delecroix, via Flickr.
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Senior Vice President of ChinaSource. She is the editor of ZGBriefs and Chinese Church Voices, as well as a regular contributor to ChinaSource publications. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and most recently,... View Full Bio


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