The People's Republic of China is the most populous country in the world, with over a billion people. Han Chinese are the predominant ethnic group, and Mandarin is the main language, although there are dozens of ethnic groups and languages. The government is a communist government, but the economy is opening up, as is political and religious freedom, although slowly.
Religion in China
China may be opening up to the world economically, however, there is still widespread persecution of religious groups that the government does not trust. The communist government of Mainland China allows a limited degree of religious freedom for members of the five state-sanctioned religious organizations, the Chinese Patriotic Buddhist Association, the Chinese Patriotic Taoist Association, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Chinese Patriotic Protestant Association and the Chinese Patriotic Muslim Association. However, freedom of religion is not extended to members of "underground" religious groups, such as those who worship in Catholic house churches.
The Chinese government does not gather statistics on religious adherence. However, unofficial surveys indicate that Chinese folk religion, Buddhism and Taoism are the most popular faiths. According to unofficial surveys, there are approximately 600 million Buddhists in China and approximately 400 million Taoists. However, the terms "Buddhist" and "Taoist" are not mutually exclusive in China. Many Chinese people follow a mixture of Chinese folk religion, Buddhism and Taoism. Furthermore, there are some adherents of Buddhism and Taoism in China who consider them to be philosophies, rather than religions.
Christianity was introduced to China by Nestorian Christians in the 7th century CE. Jesuit missonaries from Europe arrived in China in the 13th century. Protestant missionaries made significant inroads into China in the 19th century.
Islam arrived in China in 661 CE, eighteen years after the death of Muhammad. Unofficial surveys on religious adherence indicate that there are currently between 20 and 30 million Muslims in China, accounting for 1.5% to 2% of the population.
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