[ 2007-02-07 11:39 ]
Believers pray in a church
in Shanghai on the Christmas Eve in this December 24, 2006 photo. A survey
has found that the number of religious believers is three times bigger
than the official estimate. [newsphoto]|
The number of people who describe themselves as religious is a
startling three times more than the official estimate, according to the
country's first major survey on religious beliefs.
The poll of about 4,500 people, conducted by professors Tong Shijun and Liu
Zhongyu of Shanghai-based East China Normal University from 2005 till recently,
found that 31.4 percent of Chinese aged 16 and above or about 300 million are
This is in sharp contrast to the official figure of 100 million, which has
remained largely unchanged for years.
According to the survey, Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Christianity and
Islam are the five major religions, accounting for 67.4 percent of believers.
A striking feature is the re-vitalization of traditional Chinese religions.
About 200 million people are Buddists, Taoists or worshippers of legendary
figures such as the Dragon King and God of Fortune, accounting for 66.1 per cent
of all believers.
Also significant is the big rise in followers of Christianity.
According to official figures, their number rose from less than 10 million in
the late 1990s to 16 million in 2005; but the survey finds 12 percent of all
believers, or 40 million, are Christians.
The survey also sheds light
on reasons behind the religious revival.
Of the 1,361 people surveyed, 24.1 percent said religion
"shows the true path of life"; and 28 percent said it "helps cure illness, avoid disasters and ensure that life is smooth".
"This kind of feeling is especially common in rural areas," Liu was quoted as
saying in the latest issue of Chinese-language Oriental Outlook magazine, which
published the survey.
However, Liu disagreed that religious passion is fanned by
poverty. For example, many new believers in recent years are from the
economically-developed coastal areas.