Chapter 2 The Gray Market: Semi-Legal Religions

In: Atlas of Religion in China: Social and Geographical Contexts
Fenggang Yang
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J. E. E. Pettit
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1. Confucianism

Confucianism is not officially classified as a religion in the PRC. However, the religious dimension of Confucianism and its religious elements are widely acknowledged by scholars and ordinary people. In recent years, some people have advocated for the party-state to recognize Confucianism as a religion, under the name Ru jiao 儒教 [Confucian religion]. Opponents of this position often emphasize Confucianism as a body of teachings, under the name Ruxue 儒学 (Confucian teachings). The core teachings of Confucius (Kongzi 孔子 551–479 BCE) and his followers Mengzi (孟子 372–289 BCE) and Xunzi (荀子 313–235 BCE) include the “three cardinal guides and the five constant virtues” (sangang wuchang 三纲五常). The three cardinal guides refer to the three key moral responsibilities of humans: a ruler must guide his/her subjects, a father must guide his children, and a husband must guide his wife. The five constant virtues are benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and fidelity (ren yi li zhi xin 仁义礼智信).1

The founding thinkers of Confucianism did not have much to say about the supernatural world—gods, spirits, or life after death.2 However, Confucius frequently mentioned Tian 天 [Heaven] and tianyi 天意 [Heaven’s will] in his teachings. Tian appoints kings and teachers to govern and educate the masses. The king is chosen by Tian as a tianzi 天子 [Son of Tian] and entrusted with the mandate of Heaven (tianming 天命), and he carries out Heaven’s will or plan in his governance of society.

In traditional times, the specialists of Confucianism were officials who organized and performed many of the state rituals, such as heaven worship ceremonies (jitian dadian 祭天大典).3 Over the centuries, Confucius temples became conspicuous sites for imperial rituals, and the worship of Confucius was incorporated into the legitimation of imperial rule.4 Emperors took on the role of the highest priest, offering sacrifices to Tian. For Confucius, collective worship rather than supplication was the goal of these sacrifices. The worship of heaven and Confucius ended together with the Qing Dynasty in 1911. In the early Republican period, President Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) attempted to restore both the rituals and monarchy, which backfired. Not only did the restoration of monarchy fail, but Chinese intellectuals also mounted fierce attacks on Confucianism, blaming it for holding China back from modernization. Nevertheless, Confucianism remained influential in Chinese society.

When the People’s Republic of China was founded, the CCP made a great effort to put an end to the worship of Confucius. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), mobs of Red Guards (hongweibing 红卫兵) destroyed nearly all Confucian temples. In the 1980s, however, Confucian temples began to be restored. In the twenty-first century, Confucianism has revived in various guises, including the establishment of research and teaching institutes at universities, the formation of associations for Confucian rituals, and the introduction of Confucian classics into schools. Since 2005, the study of Confucianism has been subsumed into China’s new national learning or national studies (guoxue 国学) institutes at institutions such as Tsinghua University, Xiamen University, and Wuhan University, which began recruiting undergraduate and graduate students to study Confucian culture as national learning majors.5 The debate over whether Confucianism and national learning should be recognized as an independent discipline has stirred heated discussion. A report in 2015 stated that the Ministry of Education had decided to institute national learning as a major in many more universities. The most recent education minister, Yuan Guiren 袁贵仁, urged Chinese universities to introduce more textbooks that focus on China’s culture and history.6

Chinese professionals have begun enrolling in national learning courses.7 The craze for reading classical books has led to a rapid increase in the number of old-style private schools (sishu 私塾), summer camps (xialingying 夏令营), weekend classes (zhoumoban 周末班), and kindergarten programs for reciting classical Chinese books. Every province in China except Tibet has at least one such semi-private organization (see Map 12).8 Many organizations host programs that encourage children and parents to read traditional Chinese books together. They assert that reading to children is critical if they are to internalize or memorize classics, and can be beneficial even when a child is still in the womb. Some Chinese parents believe that reading and reciting can help train the brain and advance the academic abilities of children. Moreover, reading the classics is viewed as a way to cultivating children’s temperament and character, teaching them how to distinguish right from wrong. These organizations also offer a number of courses relating to various facets of traditional Chinese culture, including canonical books, calligraphy, traditional music, arts, and sports. Recently, the China Confucius Foundation established a Confucian institute in the Juvenile Detention Center in Shandong Province, aiming to teach morality and law to young prisoners through the reading of Confucian classics.9 The China Confucius Foundation promotes the establishment of Confucian institutes nationwide to spread traditional Chinese culture and cultivate a moral sense among Chinese people.

MAP 12
MAP 12

Location of Confucian sites.

One of the most common signs of the rising status of Confucianism is the reading of Confucian classics in Chinese elementary schools. Some elementary schools require students to recite from the Analects (Lunyu 论语) for 10 minutes in the morning, noon, and evening. This is referred to as “children reading classics.” President Xi Jinping has repeatedly iterated the importance of traditional Chinese culture,10 encouraging schools and universities to teach traditional Chinese culture through debate contests, speech contests, and essay competitions.11 Likewise, Chinese parents have encouraged their children to read books on traditional Chinese culture. The hope is that these children will benefit from being exposed to national studies at an early age.12

In China today, there is an increasing number of Confucian “academies” (shuyuan 书院), or colleges where Confucian scholars study scriptures, debate academic and social issues, criticize policy and administration, and teach students. The history of the Confucian academy can be traced back to early medieval times. The activities of Confucian academies were restricted during late imperial China as emperors and powerful officials tried to tighten control over spaces where scholars could freely discuss and criticize political affairs. In the late Ming era, a large number of academies were dissolved following the demise of the Donglindang 东林党, a political party of scholar-officials. In 1905, the imperial government abolished the traditional examination system for selecting officials (keju zhidu 科举制度) and ordered the remaining academies to emulate Western education systems.

Although Confucianism has been marginalized since the early twentieth century and attacked by several political movements, some contemporary scholars, and even top political officials, have tried to restore it to a position of importance. There has been an active effort to reestablish the Confucian academies. An example is the rebuilding of the Yangming Academy 阳明精舍, which was undertaken by Jiang Qing 蒋庆 in the 1990s. Jiang is a retired college professor who studied law, religion, and philosophy. He serves as a representative of Confucian scholars in contemporary China and is active in academic and social affairs. He has published a number of controversial books and articles calling for reform of the Chinese political system on the basis of Confucian principles. He calls this type of thinking “Political Confucianism.” Yangming Academy is located in Longchang Town 龙场镇, Guizhou Province, and occupies about 33 acres. This academy has become famous and attracted many visitors. In 2010, for example, 800 people visited the site, including government officials and scholars from China, Japan, and Canada. Most stayed for a short visit to participate in academic discussion or conduct research. The academy has also hosted several academic conferences on Confucianism.13

Another example of a contemporary Confucian academy is Yuandao Academy 原道书院, which was founded by Chen Ming 陈明, a philosophy professor at Capital Normal University in Beijing. Chen’s research focuses on the relationship between Confucianism and culture, civil society, and civil religion. He is the founding editor of a journal titled Yuandao 原道, which is widely recognized in Chinese academic circles. Yuandao Academy was established in 2015 and has hosted a series of activities, such as the spring and fall memorial ceremonies for Confucius. In summer and winter the academy provides training courses for instructors teaching about traditional cultures. The academy sponsors quarterly academic conferences and offers monthly talks on Confucianism for the public.14

At present, two major official organizations have taken responsibility for the development of Confucianism and the protection of Confucius temples in mainland China. In 1984, the China Confucius Foundation (Zhongguo kongzi jijinhui 中国孔子基金会) was established. The foundation is registered as a nonprofit organization under the supervision of the Cultural Affairs Ministry (Wenhuabu 文化部). The goal of this foundation is to promote and spread Confucian thoughts and values at home and abroad by raising money from private sources as well as state funds. The Confucius Temple Protection Association of China (Zhongguo kongmiao baohu xiehui 中国孔庙保护协会) was formed in 1994 and registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China (Minzhengbu 民政部). It is a national voluntary association that embraces scholarship on Confucianism as well as Confucius temples and Confucius academies and aims to preserve Confucius monumentary buildings, promote research on Confucianism, and build connections with Confucius temples and Confucian associations worldwide. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (Guojia wenwuju 国家文物局) supervises the activities of this association, which is in charge of 128 Confucius temples in mainland China (Map 12). Kong Deping 孔德平, the secretary of the Party Committee and director of the Qufu Tourism Administration, serves as the current president.15

There are also many nongovernment Confucian organizations. The Chinese Association of Confucius the Holy Sage (Zhonghua kongshenghui 中华孔圣会, hereafter HCCC) was established in 2015. Its primary aim is to spread and develop Confucianism as a religion. It was formed in Shenzhen by the Holy Confucian Hall (Kongsheng tang 孔圣堂) along with a number of other Confucian organizations. Its founding members include many well-known Confucian intellectuals in mainland China, such as Jiang Qing, Chen Ming, and Zhang Xianglong. The official doctrine of the HCCC regards Confucius as a holy sage. It explicitly claims that Confucius is not only a prominent scholar, but a source of holiness deserving of worship along with heaven and ancestors. HCCC has developed an organizational structure. The Confucian Scholars Committee (Rujia xuezhe weiyuanhui 儒家学者委员会) is in charge of making important decisions and appointing personnel. The current president of this committee is Jiang Qing. The board of directors is responsible for daily administration and the director-general is Zhou Beichen. HCCC focuses on the construction of Confucian sites (daochang 道场) resembling Christian churches. These Confucian churches host weekly religious activities such as listening to a sermon, chanting Confucian scriptures, and singing religious songs. They also provide services for weddings and funerals and conduct ceremonies to worship heaven and Confucius and celebrate some traditional holidays. They also reach out to schools, communities, and companies to evangelize on behalf of Confucianism. An important ritual of this group is the quasi-baptismal rite called guizong 归宗 [Returning to one’s own lineage]. After this ceremony, a practitioner officially becomes a member of the church.

There are two kinds of Confucian ritual practices that are most common in China today: personal devotions and formal ceremonies. Some formal ceremonies are held annually, such as the veneration on Confucius’s birthday, September 28. This ceremony began as ancestor worship by the family of Confucius, but later expanded into a formal event involving government officials. Since 2005, the grand ceremony of the worship of Confucius in China has been a state event. The event commonly takes place in Qufu 曲阜, the birthplace of Confucius, and last about two weeks, from September 26 to October 10, and includes music, songs, dances, and rituals. Government officials, descendants of Confucius, Confucian scholars, Confucian followers, and students participate in the ceremony. In 2014, President Xi attended the International Conference in Commemoration of the 2,565th Anniversary of Confucius’s Birth.16 The veneration of Confucius is primarily organized and conducted by the descendants of Confucius with the help of several associations related to Confucius’s thought and Confucianism, including the World Federation of Confucius’s Descendants (Shijie kongzi houyi lianyi zonghui 世界孔子后裔联谊总会), the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee (Kongzishijiapu changtaihua xuxiu gongzuo xiehui 孔子世家谱常态化续修工作协会), the Confucius Temple Protection Association of China (Zhongguo kongmiao baohu xiehui 中国孔庙保护协会), and the Qufu Federation of Confucius’s Descendants (Qufu kongzi houyi lianyihui 曲阜孔子后裔联谊会).

When the ceremony of the veneration of Confucius became a state event, the government started participating in hosting the activities. Party-state officials invite descendants of Confucius and Confucian scholars in China and abroad to the ceremony.17 During the ceremony, musicians and dancers dress in Song and Ming Dynasty style, wearing yellow silk robes with dark blue waistbands and black hats. The most iconic part of this ritual is the ceremony of the presentation of three gifts (sanxian li 三献礼). The first gift is yellow silk, the second is incense, and the last is wine. When the gates of the temple open, the gifts are offered as a sacrifice to Confucius. All participants are required to wash their hands before bowing down in front of the incense table to offer incense.18

In recent years, many Confucian temples have been restored. At these temples, people sometimes burn incense sticks and pray to a tablet, statue, or portrait of Confucius (bowing or kneeling). Commonly, they make wishes to Confucius. Some write prayers on prayer cards that are hung in the trees or placed on special shelves within the temple yard.19 The frequency of the performance of these rituals varies greatly from temple to temple, and also according to the time of year. The most popular period is right before the highly competitive national university entrance examinations in early June. Students and their parents go to temples seeking blessings.20

Another ritual practice related to Confucius or Confucianism is ancestor worship—the ritualized commemoration of, communication with, and sacrifice to one’s deceased relatives.21 This practice is sometimes considered to be part of Chinese folk religion. Ancestor worship is an activity practiced by many Chinese people in the home, at temples, and at the graves of relatives. Filial piety (xiao 孝) and reverence (jing 敬) for parents and ancestors are two chief concerns of Confucian thought. Ancestor worship shows reverence for the elders and is a means of cultivating the virtue of filial piety. People commonly visit the graves of relatives at least once a year to show their respect. The most important time to visit is on Qingming 清明, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, when family members clean ancestors’ tombs and make offerings of food, fruits, and wine. Family members also burn incense and paper money while kneeling before the grave to show respect. During ancestor worship, in the home or at the grave, parents or grandparents lead the ceremony, holding the incense and presenting gifts during the ritual.22

Ancestor worship and other Confucian rituals were banned during the Cultural Revolution. The CCP viewed these practices as part of feudal superstition. Since the Cultural Revolution, temples and tablets dedicated to ancestors have been restored and renovated. Although the Chinese government does not encourage ancestor worship or any kind of religious practice, Confucianism and its rituals and practices have revived in Chinese society as a manifestation of Chinese traditional culture.23

The influence of Confucianism persists in contemporary China. However, very few people self-identify as Confucians when responding to surveys. Although quantitative data on Confucians in China is scarce, data from the 2007 Chinese Spiritual Life Survey allows us to estimate their numbers and outline the general demographic characteristics of Confucians in China. Due to the small size of the Confucian sample in the survey (Table 6), the findings presented here offer only a rough sketch of this population.


Demographic characteristics of Confucians and others (%)


Notes: (1) CCP: Chinese Communist Party. CCYL: Chinese Communist Youth League; (2) Numbers do not always add up to 100 due to rounding; (3) two-tailed t-test ***p<.001 **p<.01 *p<.05.

According to the 2007 CSLS, only about 0.4 percent of respondents indicated that they were Confucians, which corresponded to about 4.5 million adults in China in 2010.24 Because of the very small number of Confucians in the sample, no statistical significance can be assigned to differences between Confucians and other respondents. Nevertheless, some of the percentages may be indicative of special characteristics of self-identified Confucians. Unlike followers of most other religions, females do not outnumber males among Confucians. The proportion of college-educated persons seems to be higher among Confucians than among the other respondents, and Confucians are more likely to live in urban areas. It is also noteworthy that 56.6 percent of the self-identified Confucians in the sample were CCYL members, a much higher proportion than among other religions.

2. Folk Religion

Folk religion refers to beliefs and practices that lie outside the more organized or institutionalized religions. These supernatural beliefs and practices were often diffused or embedded in other social institutions such as the family, the clan, the village, the city, the state, and the guild.25 Unlike institutionalized religions in China such as Daoism and Buddhism, folk religion does not require professional clergy or “orthodox” knowledge about its ritual practices; the beliefs and practices are shared and performed by ordinary people. Because folk religion is embedded in the life of ordinary people, most people usually do not consider it to be religion. In traditional China, ancestor worship and local deity worship provided opportunities for clansmen and villagers to gather and engage in collective activities. Beliefs in gods, ancestors, and ghosts help to attach a feeling of awe and of respect for social norms and regulations. The ritual practices and activities of folk religion serve the important function of fostering solidarity and group cohesion.

After the founding of the PRC, folk religion was suppressed as part of the legacy of feudal superstitions. It survived in such an unfavorable environment by reducing its ritual content to a minimum. People were able to secretly conduct rituals in their homes and practice covertly.26 When the reform era began in the late 1970s, folk religion gradually emerged from hiding. People started to re-enact rituals, rebuild temples, and reorganize temple fairs around religiously meaningful festivals.

Folk religious beliefs typically involve three categories of supernatural beings: ghosts, ancestors, and gods. All three of these are invested with moral authority, and they model (and are modeled by) the social and political structure.27 For example, these supernatural beings are understood in hierarchical terms that mirror the organization of society. At the top are the mandarins, representing the emperor and the empire; they became gods after they died. Next come the family and the lineage, whose deceased members became the revered ancestors. Finally, strangers and outsiders, bandits and beggars, are reflected in the dangerous and despised ghosts. People show varying levels of respect to these beings according to their status in the hierarchy. Gods and ancestors are worshipped by way of remembering them, while ghosts are worshipped as a way of warding them off and protecting oneself from them.

Ghosts are often viewed as the souls of people who died in the wrong way or at the wrong time, for example, people who died from accidents, suicide, or war. These souls are ranked very low in the underworld system, and are believed to suffer from the tortures of the underworld, such as fire and coldness. Ghosts can only avoid these sufferings with the aid of their living relatives, if they have any. Relatives can help ghosts by hiring priests, often Daoists or Buddhists, who know how to communicate with the underworld officials and assist the ghosts as they endure their trials. Those ghosts who do not receive such help are unfortunately trapped in the world of the living because they do not have money or food for the underworld. These ghosts are believed to be dangerous. For example, ghosts who died from drowning remain in the water, but they can regain their freedom by drowning another victim to replace them.28 According to folk religious beliefs, Buddhist monks or Daoist priests may conduct a releasing ritual to send the spirit of the dead person off to the other world (chaodu wangling 超度亡灵), so that the spirit will not become a vagrant ghost remaining in this world to disturb or harm living people.

The most conspicuous event centering on ghosts in China is the Ghost Festival on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month. On this day, people throughout the country feed vagrant ghosts. The Ghost Festival is also known as Yulapen Festival (yulanpen jie 盂兰盆节) by Buddhists and Zhongyuan Festival (zhongyuan jie 中元节) by Daoists.29 Buddhists and Daoists utilize different techniques in the celebration of the ghost festival, but they have one common goal: the salvation of ghosts.30 In Chinese culture, the seventh lunar month is believed to be a time when ghosts and spirits are released from their usual torments in the underworld and allowed to wander the earth. On the evening of the Ghost Festival, different rituals are conducted according to whether the spirit is that of a vagrant ghost or a relative. For relatives, people will make lanterns and float them on the river to help their relative’s spirit back home in the other world. The lanterns are usually shaped like lotus flowers and illuminated by electric light or candles. As for vagrant ghosts, in Chinese culture they are believed to be malevolent bringers of trouble. Thus, on the evening of the Ghost Festival, people will use firecrackers to ward off them. They also offer ghosts food and money to bribe them away.31 There are two types of ghosts: pitiful ones like beggars, and malevolent ones like bandits. The former should be treated with sympathy, the later with caution. Thus, the purpose of worship is to show sympathy to pitiful ghosts while propitiating the malevolent ghosts. Note that ghosts are ranked low in the underworld system: the offerings for ghosts are usually placed on tables outside of a house; they are never served in a house. It is believed that it is dangerous to invite vagrant ghosts to a house or have any contact with them.32

Part of the impetus to feed ghosts stems from beliefs about life in the underworld, where all souls must go after death. The chthonic realm is a penal world dedicated to punishing wrongdoers. The living must make offerings or perform rituals in order to improve the condition of their ancestors in the underworld by alleviating their punishment. Good and evil deeds in this life determine the punishment and reward a ghost receives in the underworld during the next life.33 Belief in these spiritual authorities does not distance ordinary people from worldly authority. Instead, it enhances the effectiveness of worldly government, for it impresses on people the idea that the order of morality and justice govern not only this world but also the world beyond. The idea of reincarnation has been reinforced by the Buddhist concept of karma, namely, that one’s present happiness or suffering may result from the good or evil deeds performed by the same soul in a previous life.

In China, the worship or veneration of ancestors is often centered on their gravesites, the tablets (paiwei 牌位) inscribed with their names, and the lineage recording book (jiapu 家谱) that lists the names of people belonging to different generations and describes lineage ties. The activities associated with the tablets of ancestors often take place in the household, or in the temple of the ancestors (citang 祠堂). Some households set up an altar bearing tablets inscribed with the names of deceased family members and ancestors. Family members, often led by males, worship their ancestors at the altar. This ritual practice echoes the two important concepts in traditional Chinese culture: solidarity and filial piety. People commemorate their ancestors on several occasions throughout the year, including daily worship, the Ghost Festival, and the first and fifteenth days of every month. Incense is often offered for ancestors in the incense pot at the altar. Most of the time, people prepare full meals or the favorite dishes of ancestors and serve them with bowls and chopsticks and rice, noodles, and wine as if they were living kinsmen. These behaviors show filial piety and respect to the deceased. After the ritual, the whole family shares the meal after the ancestors have been allowed to finish.34

Another type of ancestor worship or veneration is paying visits to their gravesites (shangfen 上坟). People show respect for their ancestors by offering food, burning incense and paper money, and sweeping the tombs.35 Also, there are some differences in ancestor worship or veneration between mainland China and Taiwan. It is more frequently practiced and also treated with much more gravity in Taiwan. Taiwanese people are more likely to believe in the existence of ancestral spirits. Nearly 73 percent of Taiwanese believe they can get ancestral blessings if they worship their ancestors at certain times, and almost 88 percent of people pray to ancestral spirits, according to the 2009 Taiwan Social Change Survey. In contrast, only 2.9 percent of mainland Chinese said they prayed to ancestral spirits for protection or a blessing, although 72.4 percent of them had visited ancestors’ graves during the previous 12 months.36 Yet, we cannot tell for sure whether people in mainland China or Taiwan are honoring the real spirits of their ancestors or simply memorializing the dead by conducting the ritual practices. Very often, people cannot articulate why they perform these rituals, or why they perform them in a certain way. They do it because it is a Chinese tradition: “our ancestors did it this way.”37

The worship of local deities is another type of communal folk religion. In traditional Chinese folk religion, there are many gods. Different gods may affect different aspects of life, and they may have specialized areas of efficacious expertise.38 For example, earth gods help to reinforce community boundaries and solidarity among villagers. Ferry gods and bridge gods are common in places where rivers, streams, and canals are numerous, and they protect people from dying by water. In general, gods are believed to uphold society’s moral order.39 Indeed, a whole judicial system can be derived from the belief that gods control all human affairs in this life and the next, including health and wealth. Some gods are believed to record the good and evil deeds of the living, some respond to prayers for intervention, and others administer justice in the underworld. These beliefs are reflected in sayings such as “the gods hover three feet above one’s head” (jutou sanchi you shenming 举头三尺有神明) and “people do deeds under heaven’s [watchful] eye” (renzaizuo tianzaikan 人在做天在看).40 Building temples for gods is believed to be a way to please them. For each temple, there is always one principal god who has an established reputation for answering the prayers of worshippers. Sometimes people build a new temple for a newly recognized god, or associate the god with an existing temple. Very often, news of the miraculous ability of a god spreads quickly and attracts many people to worship that god.41 In this case, an individual form of folk religion drives the formation of a communal type of folk religion. For example, in a small village in Hebei Province, a spirit-medium was believed to be able to cure people in the name of the goddess Silkworm Mother (Cangu nainai 蚕姑奶奶). The believers then built a Silkworm Mother Temple as a way to express gratitude. The temple later on became a community temple that attracted visitors from nearby villages.42

Some temples are built for deified historical figures or legendary heroes, such as individuals or groups who accomplished great deeds for the local community or even the nation. They may have helped in constructing dams, defending the community against banditry and invaders, or bringing relief to a community plagued by a natural or man-made crisis. In a word, they have contributed greatly to the community good. The community builds them a temple or adds them into a pre-existing temple as a way of expressing gratitude. It is believed that a man of unusual virtue or ability would become, after death, a spirit of extraordinary prowess, capable of performing a variety of miracles. The deified hero can enter the daily life of ordinary people by responding to their prayers. The legends about how the deified hero has cured sickness, brought prosperity, or provided an heir in accord with people’s requests are what keep the deified hero active in the life of ordinary people. Otherwise, the group memory of the magic of the hero would gradually fade away, and the hero would be forgotten.

Temple fairs (miaohui 庙会) are regular community gatherings to worship the principal god of that temple (Photo 10). They are particularly common in the countryside of north China. Villagers as a community hold a fair to express their gratitude to the god for his reputed efficaciousness in answering prayers or bringing miraculous benefits to the worshippers. A committee of local leaders is often in charge of holding the fair and raises funds from fellow villagers. Temple fairs are frequently held in winter, when farmers are not busy with farm work. They usually last for three to five days and attract thousands of visitors. The popularity of a temple is often closely related to the reputation of its principal god. During the fair, sacrificial rites are conducted in the temple and followed by several kinds of social activities inside and nearby the temple. The evening before the fair begins, the villagers worship the god in the temple by burning incense and offering a feast and lamp-oil money. A community play by a hired troupe is also part of the conventional worship, which is held on the stage inside the temple. Individual visitors burn incense and candles and kneel down in the temple as a way to express gratitude to the god. This kind of worship is better known as huanyuan 还愿. People make a wish before the god, vowing to come again to worship and offer sacrifice if the wish comes true. People can make various requests to the god, such as to cure an illness, illuminate a problem, bring good fortune to the family, or keep misfortune at bay.43 Besides the religious worship, there are a number of temporary stalls where visitors can buy utensils, hardware, toys, food, farm tools, and other goods. There are also other forms of entertainment, such as peep shows, puppet shows, magic shows, acrobatic and boxing performances, and also stalls for gambling and fortunetelling.


Sending off the royal boat during a ceremony at Shuimei Temple in Zhongshan Village (Haicang District of Xiamen).

Credit: Henry Liu.

Apart from regular worship in the temple, religious observances are also held when the community is in crisis due to natural or human causes, such as droughts, floods, locust devastation, epidemics, looting, and destruction by civil war soldiers. For example, if the village suffers from a long drought, which is very common in northern China, villagers will offer sacrifices to gods that control rain, such as the dragon gods (longwang 龙王). The worship is often performed by villagers who carry the rain god through the streets to the accompaniment of religious music played by a group of Daoist and Buddhist musicians. Sometimes villagers may hire a troupe to give a play as a way to please the dragon gods in order to induce them to send some rain.

Folk religion is an all-encompassing category that includes many different locally varied beliefs and practices. Three major types of Chinese folk religion may be distinguished, namely, communal, sectarian, and individual folk religions.44 Communal folk religion refers to beliefs and ritual activities based in the local community. It includes the worship of local deities such as the earth god (tudi 土地), the city god (chenghuang 城隍), the seafaring goddess Mazu 妈祖, ancestor worship, and some gods known only to the locals. Communal folk religion plays an important role in enhancing solidarity and collective cohesion.45 Ancestor worship serves as an effective social bond for a kinship group. It creates a sense of the continuity in lineage that connects family or relatives beyond two or three generations. It is believed that those who had the same ancestors are trustworthy. Thus, people prefer to loan money to others with the same family name.46 Meanwhile, worship of the local deity is an integral part of traditional community life (Photo 11). Temples serve as centers for communal religious life where people can gather for temple festivals, collective celebrations of other festival occasions, and mass religious observances during public crises.47 In contemporary China, local temples can also provide a moral framework in which officials can be sanctioned for their performance.48


The nine challenges presented during the Khorchi shaman’s ordination, Tongning City, Inner Mongolia.

Credit: Baigula Dai.

Sectarian folk religion includes an organizational structure beyond local boundaries, such as Yiguandao 一贯道 (Way of pervading unity), Bailianjiao 白莲教 (White lotus teaching), and Tiandijiao 天帝教 (Heavenly thearch teaching). Upon the founding of the PRC, sectarian folk religions were suppressed as counterrevolutionary organizations (fandong huidaomen 反动会道门).49 Beginning in the 1980s, some sectarian folk religions have re-emerged in the name of Qigong, especially those that claim lineages. Since 1999, the sectarian Qigong have been banned as “evil cults” (xiejiao 邪教). The following paragraphs mainly introduce the beliefs and practices of individual and communal types of folk religion; Yiguandao is discussed in the section on black-market religions.

Of the three varieties of folk religion, individual folk religion is the least developed in its organization and belief system. It comprises supernatural beliefs and practices that are independent of any collectivity, including fortune-telling, palm reading, fengshui 风水, wearing a red waist belt in one’s zodiac year of birth, worshipping the God of Wealth (Caishen 财神), hanging mirrors (aicao 艾草) at home or in the workplace, and wearing jade or gold. For example, some people may hire geomancers to locate a good business site, or change the location of doors and windows in order to benefit from good fengshui.50 Individual folk religion also includes practices that are often not considered religious by ordinary people.

It is hard to estimate the number of folk religion adherents due to its unorganized nature. According to the 2007 Chinese Spiritual Life Survey, only 11.8 percent of the respondents self-identified with folk religion. However, the percentage of people who actually practiced it was rather high. About 51.9 percent of people had engaged in at least one kind of folk religious practice in the previous 12 months. About 30 percent of people would wear a red garment, ribbon, or belt in the zodiac year of birth; 18.2 percent had engaged in fengshui practices, and 9.8 percent participated in fortune-telling. Also, 24.4 percent of people believed in the existence of at least one kind of supernatural being, either ancestral spirits, ghosts, or the God of Wealth. The proportion varied according to the type of supernatural being. Only 5 percent of respondents believed with certainty in the existence of ghosts. By contrast, 16 percent fully believed in the existence of ancestral spirits. As for gods, as many as 10 percent of respondents were certain of the existence of Laotianye 老天爷 [God of Heaven].

In mainland China, females are more actively engaged in practicing folk religion and more likely to believe in the existence of supernatural beings, including ghosts, the God of Heaven, ancestral spirits, and the God of Wealth. Approximately 60 percent of the folk religion adherents who responded to the 2007 CSLS were adult females. They were also more likely to practice some individual form of folk religion practices. For example, females are more active in paying visits to temples or placing folk-religious objects in workplaces. No gender difference is found in terms of practicing fengshui. However, males are more actively engaged in ancestor worship than females in mainland China, which is consistent with the teaching of the five constant virtues in traditional Chinese culture.

Besides the gender difference, older people and less educated people tend to engage more in the communal variety of folk religion practices, such as paying visits to temples. According to the 2007 Chinese Spiritual Life Survey data, those who believe in ancestral spirits and practice ancestor worship (Table 7), and those who believe in the God of Wealth (Table 8) are the most prevalent. The God of Wealth may not be the most prominent god in traditional folk religion. However, this god has gained popularity during the market transition in the economic era. The worshippers of the God of Wealth believe that the worship of this god will bring prosperity. Meanwhile, this god will watch their economic behaviors, rewarding the good and punishing the bad. The embodied form of this god varies, including the armed marshal or the cultured Mandarin official. The former type is often worshipped by soldiers, police, or triad members; the latter is commonly worshipped by bureaucrats and office workers.


Demographic characteristics of Ancestor Worshippers and others (%)


Notes: (1) CCP: Chinese Communist Party. CCYL: Chinese Communist Youth League; (2) Numbers do not always add up to 100 due to rounding; (3) two-tailed t-test ***p<.001 **p<.01 *p<.05.


Demographic characteristics of God of wealth believers and others (%)


Notes: (1) CCP: Chinese Communist Party. CCYL: Chinese Communist Youth League; (2) Numbers do not always add up to 100 due to rounding; (3) two-tailed t-test ***p<.001 **p<.01 *p<.05.

According to the 2007 CSLS, about 18 percent of respondents were ancestor worshippers, which corresponded to roughly 200 million adults in 2010. Approximately 22 percent of respondents believed in the existence of the God of Wealth or had images or statues of the God of Wealth at home or in the workplace. This corresponded to roughly 245 million adults in China in 2010. About 88 percent of ancestor worshippers were below the age of 60, as were more than 90 percent of believers in the God of Wealth.

In terms of educational attainment, around 65 percent of ancestor worshippers and believers in the God of Wealth had at most a middle school education, a proportion that is significantly higher than among other respondents. Among the ancestor worshippers, about 28 percent had a high school or vocational school education, and less than 7 percent went to college. Among those who believe in the God of Wealth, about 29 percent attended high school or vocational school, and 9.2 percent had a college education. A significantly higher proportion of ancestor worshippers and believers in the God of Wealth lived in rural areas. Rural residents accounted for about 70 percent of ancestor worshippers and 65 percent of believers in the God of Wealth; these proportions are much higher than the proportion of rural residents in the general population. Among ancestor worshippers, about 4 percent were CCP members, and about 8 percent were members of the CCYL. Among believers in the God of Wealth, about 5 percent were members of the CCP, and about 11 percent were CCYL members.

3. House Churches

Protestant churches that are not affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee and the Christian Council are usually called jiating jiaohui 家庭教会, which literally means “home churches” or “family churches” but is usually translated as “house churches” in English. These churches used to be limited to small gatherings at people’s homes, but since around the year 2000 some large congregations with hundreds or even thousands of people have emerged, yet they have continued to self-identify as house churches. The party-state cracked down on house churches severely in the 1980s and 1990s, including jailing their leaders, confiscating properties, and dispersing gatherings of believers. In the new century, however, most house churches have been able to operate with only occasional interference from the authorities. They are no longer in the underground per se, as the police and other government agencies know about these house churches. However, they are not legal either, as they are not registered with the government nor the TSPM/CCC. They operate in the gray market of religion.

The origins of the house churches lie in the 1950s. The TSPM National Committee, which was formally established in 1954, included various denominations and independent churches. Many Protestant leaders who refused to join the TSPM were jailed. One such leader was Wang Mingdao 王明道 (1900–1991), who was the founding pastor of the Peking Christian Tabernacle 基督徒会堂, formed in 1935. Wang openly spoke against joining the TSPM. In an article he published in June 1955 in the church’s magazine Spiritual Food Quarterly 灵食季刊, entitled “We Are for the Faith” (Women shi weile xinyang 我们是为了信仰), he accused leaders of the TSPM as theological liberals who were actually nonbelievers, and declared that true Christians who upheld the fundamental beliefs of Christianity could not join the organization of nonbelievers. This refusal to join the TSPM has become the common ground of the house church movement in contemporary China. Wang Mingdao was jailed in August 1955 and released a year later after making a forced confession, which he later recanted. He was rearrested in 1958 and jailed until 1980. Other well-known leaders who refused to join the TSPM include Yuan Xiangchen 袁相忱 (Allen Yuan, 1914–2005) in Beijing, who was jailed between 1958 and 1979, and Lin Xiangao 林献羔 (Samuel Lamb, 1924–2013) in Guangzhou, who was jailed between 1955 and 1978. After they were released, they still refused to join the TSPM and held gatherings at their homes for Bible study and worship services, which were among the first urban house churches in the reform era.

In 1958, all denominations were disbanded and all Christians were ordered to participate in the union worship service (lianhe libai 联合礼拜) under the TSPM. In response, many Christians stopped attending church. Some of those Christians who retained the faith began gathering for worship at private homes or in the wilderness. During the Cultural Revolution, all churches were closed down, but house churches continued to grow as an underground movement. After 1979, many Christians resurfaced to attend the churches that were reopened under TSPM committees, but many more refused to join the TSPM-affiliated churches and carried on the house church movement. In the 1980s and 1990s, along with the independent house churches in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Fuzhou, and other big cities, house churches flourished in the rural areas. Several house church networks or prototype denominations emerged in Henan, Anhui, and Zhejiang. Amid persecution, they actively evangelized in many parts of China, including Heilongjiang Province in the northeast and Yunnan Province in the southwest.51 For example, the China Gospel Fellowship (Zhonghua fuyin tuanqi 中华福音团契), a Pentecostal-like church network founded in Henan Province in the 1980s, is said to have about two million followers today.52 Another example, Fangcheng Fellowship (Fangcheng tuanqi 方城团契), which also originated in Henan, has an estimated 10 million members.53 In the 1990s and 2000s, many new house churches emerged in the cities and attracted many college students and young professionals. Normally they rent an apartment or business office and transform it into a place of worship. In many cases there are few formal relationships between these churches. Within the churches, the organizational networks are horizontal and church governance is more democratic than in the other types of churches. A good example is the Beijing Shouwang Church (Shouwang jiaohui 守望教会), which drew up its own charter and held three consecutive elder elections and member assemblies.54 A more recent example is the Chengdu Early Rain Blessings Reform Church (Qiuyu zhi fu guizheng jiaohui 秋雨之福归正教会). Under the leadership of Pastor Wang Yi 王怡, this church has developed into a Presbyterian denomination with several other churches in Chengdu and elsewhere.55

Some house churches would like to become legal without joining the TSPM. For example, the Beijing Shouwang Church submitted an application in 2005 to the RAB of the Haidian District of Beijing Municipality. However, the authorities insisted that the church had to join the TSPM, or its ministers had to be certified by the TSPM. Following the position articulated by Wang Mingdao in 1955, the Shouwang Church refused to compromise on the principle of not joining the TSPM. Thereafter, the authorities made multiple attempts to disband the church, including sending in police and other agents to stop worship services, evicting the congregation from its rented hall in an office building, and forcing the building’s owner to forfeit the lease. In 2011, the church gathered donations and purchased halls in another office building, but the authorities ordered the real estate developer not to hand over the keys to the church. Having failed to secure a rental space or occupy the property they had purchased, church leaders called members to gather in a public plaza for Sunday worship services. The authorities responded by arresting house church leaders and sending hundreds of police to guard the plaza. The standoff started on April 10, 2011, and continues today. Senior pastor Jin Tianming 金天明 has been under de facto house arrest since then.

At present, most house churches continue to gather at people’s houses or apartments. Many of the gatherings also move around to avoid harassment from the authorities or for the convenience of participants. When a house gathering grows too big for its physical facilities, it divides into two or more groups, just as living cells divide and grow. House churches thus have grown fast. For example, informed researchers and church leaders say that there are at least two to three thousand cell-like house churches in Beijing alone. Some of the small house churches have merged to form large congregations and subsequently moved into large halls in office buildings, such as the Beijing Shouwang Church and the Chengdu Early Rain Blessings Reformed Church.

There are many house church congregations as well as small-cell house churches in various cities throughout China. However, because of their semi-legal or illegal status, it is very difficult to know how many house churches exist and how many house church Christians are in China today. Thus we did not attempt to map house churches or profile the house church Christians in this atlas.

4. Underground Catholic Churches

Catholic churches outside the official system are often called “underground churches” (dixia jiaohui 地下教会). In the early 1950s, many Catholic clergy refused to collaborate with the Chinese Communist party-state and remained loyal to the Vatican. They operated secretly, even during the Cultural Revolution. In the era of “Reform and Opening Up” (gaige kaifang 改革开放), marked by an increase in economic and social exchanges with other countries, many Catholics resurfaced, but many others have refused to join the China Catholic Patriotic Association, as the Vatican disapproves of it. Meanwhile, in the beginning of the 1980s, Fan Xueyan 范学淹 (1907–1992), an underground bishop, ordained new bishops without Vatican preapproval. After receiving a pardon from the Vatican, he organized the churches outside the CCPA and allowed them to establish clandestine seminaries and perform new ordinations without direct approval from the Holy See. In 1989, an underground Catholic Bishops Conference operated alongside the official CCPA/BCCCC. The party-state cracked down on the underground bishops and priests severely, including jailing, placing them under house arrest, or putting them in secret detention. Interestingly, it was reported that the underground bishops managed to hold a conference in a prison. Therefore, up until the end of the twentieth century, underground Catholics have remained in the black market of religion. However, in recent years, the suppression has become less severe and more sporadic, so that many underground clergy are able to conduct Mass and perform the sacraments with fewer disturbances by the authorities.

The underground churches’ relations with the official churches are complicated and vary in different regions. In fact, most of the aboveground bishops have secretly sought and obtained the approval of the Holy See, even though the party-state disapproves of any organizational connection with the Vatican. Some bishops serve both the aboveground and underground churches. Therefore, significant segments of the red and black markets have turned gray, acquiring an ambiguous legal status.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Catholics in the PRC urging reconciliation between the underground and aboveground churches.56 One source of contention between the aboveground and underground churches is the demarcation of dioceses. In 1946, the Vatican established 137 dioceses in China, an arrangement that the underground churches continue to honor. However, the aboveground churches have redrawn diocese borders according to the administrative districts newly adjusted by the PRC. Since 1998, there have been 115 dioceses in the CCPA/BCCC. The diocese boundaries of the underground and aboveground churches often overlap, and some regions are under the jurisdiction of two bishops. This has led to frequent chaos and constant conflict between the aboveground and underground churches.57 Pope Benedict’s letter was intended to reduce such conflicts. However, these territorial problems persist.

Since 2013, under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Vatican has made various efforts to improve its relationship with the PRC. The Vatican has expressed its willingness to transfer its diplomatic relations from the Republic of China in Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China. The latest reports indicate that Beijing and the Vatican have moved closer in their negotiations over the procedure to select bishops. If this obstacle can be overcome, the PRC and the Vatican will establish a formal diplomatic relationship, which could mean the dissolution of the underground churches.

5. Mao Cult

The Mao cult refers to both the personality cult of Mao expressed in political form and the worship of Mao as a god in a form of Chinese traditional folk religion. Mao Zedong 毛泽东 (1893–1976) was the supreme leader of the CCP from 1935 until his death in 1976. He is popularly known as Chairman Mao (Mao zhuxi 毛主席) because he held the position of chairman (zhuxi 主席) of the CCP Center since the 1940s and became the first chairman of the PRC, an office that is usually mistranslated as “president” in English. In the 1940s and 1950s, Chairman Mao was depicted in Communist media as a wise statesman, an astute military leader, and a great teacher, in a fashion similar to the representations of Lenin in the early 1920s Soviet Union. After the founding of the PRC, Mao was popularly deified as the Great Savior of the People (renmin de dajiuxing 人民的大救星). In the 1960s, he was glorified as the Great Teacher (weida de daoshi 伟大的导师), the Great Leader (weida de lingxiu 伟大的领袖), the Great Supreme Commander (weida de tongshuai 伟大的统帅), and the Great Helmsman (weida de duoshou 伟大的舵手). Hundreds of millions of Chinese people appeared to be genuinely venerating Mao as a great teacher, statesman, strategist, philosopher, poet, national hero, and liberator of the people. Statues and paintings of Mao depicting him as a strong, healthy, ageless superman appeared in public places and private households throughout the country (Photo 12).


A statue of Mao Zedong at Taiqing Temple (Lanzhou, Gansu).

Credit: Naila Althagafi.

Beginning in 1964, Quotations from Chairman Mao (Mao zhuxi yulu 毛主席语录), popularly known as the “Little Red Book” because of its size and red cover, was widely distributed. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) increasingly used the book in meetings to bolster Mao’s personality cult. The army became the driving force behind the campaign to study Mao’s Quotations. During the 1960s, soldiers, workers, and farmers were required to gather and study Mao’s sayings frequently. Schools began the day by chanting in unison “Long live Chairman Mao” (Mao zhuxi wansui 毛主席万岁). With such intense, ritualized attention to Mao’s words, the little red books became magical tokens, fetishized objects of power.58 Soldiers, workers, farmers, teachers, students, and people of all walks of life often gathered to study Mao’s quotations, danced to express loyalty toward Mao, and even made daily morning invocations and evening confessions in front of Mao’s statue or portrait. There were two repeated propaganda campaigns during Mao’s time: the “Three Loyalties” (sanzhongyu 三忠于) and the “Four Boundlesses” (siwuxian 四无限), namely boundless worship of, boundless love for, boundless belief in, and boundless loyalty to Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong Thought, and Mao’s proletarian revolution route. During the Cultural Revolution, many school-age youths became Red Guards (hongweibing 红卫兵), who were zealots of the Mao personality cult. After Mao’s death in 1976, a mausoleum was built in the middle of the Tiananmen Square and his embalmed body was placed in a crystal sarcophagus. Tiananmen Square has thus replaced the adjacent Imperial Palace of the Forbidden City as the metaphorical center of China, a shrine to the great leader of the new China and his ideas and authority.59

In the era of reform that began in the late 1970s, the CCP abolished many of the practices of the personality cult, but continues to uphold Mao’s thought as part of the official ideology. Meanwhile, the political personality cult has evolved into folk religious beliefs and practices among the masses of people.60 Nowadays, the popular worship of Mao can be categorized into two types: collective rituals and individual devotions. The objects, rituals, rhetorics, and spaces used in Mao’s time have been reappropriated by ordinary people for obtaining personal blessings or curing diseases. Many rural families follow the custom of posting portraits of Chairman Mao on the wall in the house as a way to position him above other deities.61

A folk religious temple in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In 1995, the Hong’en Temple 红恩寺 [Red benevolence temple] was constructed on the site of the old temple. Initially the temple builders, an elderly couple, simply wanted to provide a temple for the traditional deities. Then, the wife told people, she had a dream in 2006, in which Mao appeared and told her that he was in need of a shelter. Hence she began to raise money to build a statue of Mao. This temple houses not only statues of traditional Chinese folk deities such as bodhisattvas and the God of Wealth, but also statues of Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou Enlai 周恩来, and Marshal Zhu De 朱德, who were the top three leaders of the CCP from the founding of the PRC until their death in the 1970s. The temple also has poster portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin hanging on the wall, along with other deities. On the door frame of the main hall dedicated to Chairman Mao, an inscription reads, “The true dragon heaven’s son, fight for common wealth for all under heaven, long live Chairman Mao.”62 The golden statue of Mao was covered in red cloth, with a red sun rising above his head to symbolize the cosmic power that legitimizes Mao’s superior being and leadership. The pilgrims who come to visit this temple include locals as well as travelers from other provinces, old and young people, businessmen as well as farmers.

Mao worshippers express their devotion in various ways. Besides Mao temples and commemoration rituals, many also worship Mao’s statue or portrait or wear Mao badges and charms. According to the 2007 Chinese Spiritual Life Survey, about 11 percent of respondents had a statue or portrait of Mao at home, and more than 3 percent of respondents had worn Mao badges or charms in the past year, corresponding to 127 million and 37 million Chinese adults, respectively.63 The demographic characteristics of Mao worshippers are summarized in Tables 9 and 10.


Demographic characteristics of people keeping a statue or portrait of Mao at home and others (%)


Notes: (1) CCP: Chinese Communist Party. CCYL: Chinese Communist Youth League; (2) Numbers do not always add up to 100 due to rounding; (3) two-tailed t-test ***p<.001 **p<.01 *p<.05.


Demographic characteristics of people wearing Maorelated accessories and others (%)


Notes: (1) CCP: Chinese Communist Party. CCYL: Chinese Communist Youth League; (2) Numbers do not always add up to 100 due to rounding; (3) two-tailed t-test ***p<.001 **p<.01 *p<.05.

Among persons who kept a Mao image at home, 16 percent were age 60 or older; the proportion of elderly persons was even higher among those who wore a Mao-related accessory, at 27.6 percent; by contrast, only 9 percent of other respondents were age 60 or older. Persons who engaged in these Mao-related practices were also more likely to be less educated than the other respondents, and more likely to live in rural areas. The gender difference between Mao worshippers and the other respondents is not statistically significant. Not surprisingly, there are significantly more CCP and CCYL members among the Mao worshippers.


Jordan, “The Canonical Books of Confucianism.”


S. Li 李申, Confucian Teaching and Confucianism as a Religion, 90.


S. Li 李申, Confucian Teaching and Confucianism as a Religion, 100–103.


Sun, Confucianism as a World Religion, 134.


Chen, “The National Studies Craze.”


Florcruz, “China Introduces ‘National Studies’ Textbooks For Government Employees.”


Chen, “The National Studies Craze.”


Chinakongmiao, “Juvenile Prisoners Learning Confucian Classics.”


Renminwang, “Giving Up Tradition Is a Spiritual Suicide.”


Chinakongmiao, “The Final Match of the First Confucian Debate Competition for High School Students.”


Sohu, “Department of Education to Set a Discipline of Guoxue.”


X. Li, ““The Struggle of a Confucian Intellectual in a Modern Society.”


M. Chen, “Yuandao Academy.”


Chinakongmiao, “About China Confucian Temple.”


Xinhuanet, “Xi Jinping Requires Improvement in the Party’s Work on Religious Affairs in a New Situation.”


L. Wang, “The First Official Confucius-veneration Ritual after the Establishment of the PRC.”


For more detailed information about the ceremony, see Cultural China, “The Grand Ceremony of Worship of Confucius”; Mack, “Celebration of Confucius’ Birthday”;, “What Is the Veneration of Confucius Like?”.


Sun, Confucianism as a World Religion, 136–137.


Sun, Confucianism as a World Religion, 143.


Richey, “Confucianism.”


G. Gardner, “Confucianism Worship & Practices.”


Page, “Why China Is Turning Back to Confucius.”


National Bureau of Statistics of China, “Statistical Communiqué on the Major Data of the Sixth Census.”


C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society.


Chau, Miraculous Response, 7.


Weller, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion, 23.


Weller, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion, 23.


Your Chinese Astrology, “Chinese Ghost Festival.”


For a detailed introduction to the origins of ghost festivals in Buddhism and Daoism, and their celebration by ordinary people, see Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China.


K. Yu, “Making a Malefactor a Benefactor.”


Wolf, Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society.


Katz, Divine Justice, 27.


Weller, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion.


China Highlights, “Qingming Festival.”


Yang and Hu, “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan.”


Weller, “Global Religious Changes and Civil Life In Two Chinese Societies.”


Chau, Miraculous Response, 66.


Weller, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion.


Katz, Divine Justice.


C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society.


L. Fan, “Popular Religion in Contemporary China.”


Chau, Miraculous Response, 242.


Yang and Hu, “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan.”


Yang and Hu, “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan.”


Weller, “Global Religious Changes and Civil Life In Two Chinese Societies.”


C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society, 81.


Tsai, Accountability without Democracy.


Yang and Hu, “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan,” 508–509.


Yang and Hu, “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan,” 509.


Aikman, Jesus in Beijing.


Y. Liu, “Pentecostal-style Christians in the ‘Galilee of China,’” 160.


Shaw, Global Awakening, 177.


Ying, Yuan, and Lau, “Striving to Build Civic Communities.”


I. Johnson, Souls of China.


Benedict XVI, “Letter of the Holy Father.”


S. Zhang, “The Challenges that China’s Churches Face in a Changing Society.”


Zuo, “Political Religion.”


Calhoun, “Tiananmen, Television and the Public Sphere.”


Chau, “Modalities of Doing Religion and Ritual Polytropy”; Frolic, Mao’s People, 80.


Ministry of Tofu, “World Press Photo Winner.”


M. Zhu, ““Is It Respectful to Build Such a Statue for Mao?”.


National Bureau of Statistics of China, “Statistical Communiqué on the Major Data of the Sixth Census.”

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