Published on Nov 30, 2017
China has long been a cradle and host to a variety of the most enduring religio-philosophical traditions of the world. Confucianism and Taoism, plus Buddhism, constitute the "three teachings", philosophical frameworks which historically have had a significant role in shaping Chinese culture. Elements of these three belief systems are often incorporated into the traditional folk religions. Chinese religions are family-oriented and do not demand exclusive adherence, allowing the practice or belief of several at the same time. Some scholars prefer not to use the term "religion" in reference to belief systems in China, and suggest "cultural practices", "thought systems" or "philosophies" as more appropriate terms. There is a stimulating debate over what to call religion and who should be called religious in China. The emperors of China claimed the Mandate of Heaven and participated in Chinese religious practices. Since 1949, China has been governed by the Communist Party of China, an atheist organisation, which regulates the practice of religion in mainland China. It presently formally and institutionally recognizes five religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism (though despite historic links, the Party enforces a separation of the Chinese Catholic Church from the Roman Catholic Church).
The largest group of religious traditions is the Chinese folk religion, which overlaps with Taoism, and describes the worship of the shen, a term describing local deities, heroes and ancestors, and figures from Chinese mythology. Among the grand-scale worship cultures even officially promoted there are those of Mazu (goddess of the seas, patron of Southern China), Huangdi (divine patriarch of all the Chinese, "Volksgeist" of the Chinese nation), Caishen (god of prosperity and richness), Pangu and others. China has many of the world's tallest statues, including the tallest of all. Most of them represent buddhas, deities and religious personalities and have been built in the 2000s. The world's tallest statue is the Spring Temple Buddha, located in Henan. Recently built in the country are also the world's tallest pagoda and the world's tallest stupa. Chinese Buddhism developed since the 1st century, and remains the most influential single religion in modern China.
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