|Religious life in China has always been dominated by
traditional, locally based peoples religion, as well as by
more or less organized movements, many of them summarized
under the term Taoism. In addition, Confucianism has been
important as a state ideology and a basis for social norms.
addition, a number of religions have come to China from
outside as a result of trade or mission over the past two
millennia. The first - and most important - of these is
Buddhism, which reached northwestern China in the first
century AD along the trade routes through Central Asia (the
Buddhism gradually adapted to Chinese culture, both in
terms of terminology and teachings, and eventually gained a
central position in Chinese society. Not least, Buddhism,
thanks to gifts in the form of estate to the monasteries,
became a significant economic factor. This may have been a
contributing factor as Buddhism, like other "foreign"
religions, was subject to widespread persecution under the
imperial power in 845. Among other things, Buddhism was
accused of weakening the family by its demands on monks and
nuns for celibacy. The monasteries were seized and hundreds
of thousands of monks and nuns forced to return to lay
people's status. The government's desire to control
religious activities has always been a pervasive feature of
During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), Buddhism flourished
again, and was particularly represented at the Meditation
School (chan, zen) and the pure land school (jingtu), and
these two schools have maintained their dominant place in
Chinese Buddhism until our time..
The Yuan Dynasty (Mongols, 1280–1368) also supported
Buddhism, but preferably in its Tibetan form. Also during
the last dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), Tibetan
Buddhism was supported by the imperial power, primarily as
an attempt to control the Buddhist Mongols.
Countryaah, Islam came to China already during the Tang Dynasty
(618–907), partly with Muslim mercenaries in northern China,
and partly with Arab traders along the coast of southern
China. The Muslims soon became Chinese in language and
culture, but nevertheless came to form their own people
group (" hui "). Chinese Muslims are Sunni Muslims and are
concentrated in the northwestern provinces of Ningxia and
Gansu. In the autonomous region of Xinjiang, the Muslim
Uighur people, who speak a Turkish language, constitute a
large minority. There are also more than one million Muslim
Kazakhs in Xinjiang.
Christianity came to China in the 6th century with
Iranian merchants belonging to the Nestorian church. In the
13th century, several Franciscan monks from Europe reached
the Mongol imperial court in Beijing, where they seem to
have made some progress, and where a church was built and a
Catholic bishop appointed. However, this mission church
disappeared, and it was not until the 17th and 18th
centuries that Christianity, represented by Jesuit
missionaries, seriously gained entry into China. The Jesuits
became associated with the imperial court as astronomers and
engineers, and became fully acquainted with Chinese language
and culture. Through them, Europe for the first time gained
extensive knowledge about China.
The Catholic Church in China received significant
support, partly because converts were allowed to continue
practicing the ancestral cult. This practice was disputed in
the Catholic Church, and was halted by Pope Klemens 11 in
1704. The resolution had major negative consequences for
Catholic mission in China. Although the Jesuits were
expelled and the church persecuted in the second half of the
18th century, in 1810 there were still 80 Chinese priests
and approx. 200,000 believers in China.
Protestant missionary was active in China from 1807, and
after the opium wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) China became
one of the most important missionary lands for the Western
churches, both Catholic and Protestant. In the early 1900s,
many Chinese intellectuals transitioned to Christianity.
After the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949,
the churches were accused of representing foreign powers,
and all missionaries expelled.
The cultural Revolution
During the Cultural Revolution, all religion was banned,
believers persecuted, and temples, churches and mosques were
either demolished or used for other purposes. After the 1978
liberalization, religions flourished again, and the Chinese
constitution guarantees the right to "normal" religious
activities. What is "normal" is defined by the authorities
at all times, but the prohibitions are primarily aimed at
all unorganized religious activity, often characterized as
"superstition," and against religious movements that evade
government control, such as Falun Gong. Tibetan Buddhists
have been heavily persecuted when suspected of supporting
attempts to promote Tibet independence. Religions are
presumed to operate within the framework of
government-approved organizations, and are controlled by
state religious affairs offices.
1911 Civil Revolution
The upheaval in 1911 had no basis for mass movement. Most
of the generals participating in the uprising were more
interested in power than in the democratic reforms Sun
wanted. There was rivalry between the generals. The country
fell apart and Sun Yat-sen died in 1925. He had not been
able to unify the country and give it a new dynamic.
Sun Yat-sen did not receive the support of the Western
powers he had hoped for, and after the Russian Revolution he
sought support from the Soviet Union. But the nationalist
wave grew in strength. General Yuan who had come to power in
1911 and his successors did not master the problems. When it
became known that the government had approved granting the
German concessions in China to Japan, a new movement was
triggered, and this time it was a mass movement. It was "4.
the May Movement ”(1919), which was led by students and
intellectuals, but also had broad support from other groups.
An extensive boycott of Japanese goods followed in «4.
the wake of the May movement. The nationalist Kuomintang
party formed in 1912 grew strongly on this nationalist wave.
Another impetus in this development was the Chinese
Communist Party, founded in 1921. Initially, Kuomintang
sought to build a powerful party and a modern army with
Russian advisers. After Sun Yat-sen's death, General Chiang
Kai-shek became the leading man in Kuomintang. He saw it as
his most important task to win military control over China.
During all these entanglements, China was changing its
character. The traditional exam system for officials was
formally abolished in 1905. This gave rise to the emergence
of new groups of officials. Trade and industry grew, and a
new group of Chinese industrialists and financiers emerged.
In 1914 China had half a million industrial workers, in 1925
two million and in 1945 three million. Although industrial
workers did not even make up 1% of the population, they
became a new dynamic factor. The peasant rebellions under
the empire had also shown that there was a great latent
revolutionary force in the peasant masses.
Kuomintang, who had originally been a bourgeois radical
party, became, under Chiang's leadership from 1927, more and
more a reactionary and fascist party, relying on the
traditional landlord class, the wealthy and industrialists.
Chiang's 1943 book "China's Destiny" was put on the list of
banned books in the United States because it was
anti-Western and anti-liberal. Although Chiang had brought
China under his leadership in 1927, he did not implement any
radical reforms. Chiang had strengthened his position
militarily, but weakened it socially.