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People's Daily Online>>China Features

Religion in China: neverending search for meaning

By Alexander Schwabe (Xinhua)

16:09, November 26, 2011

BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- 28-year-old Wang Yuan doesn't reflect for very long when she is asked about her preferred religion. "Actually nothing," she says.

But as soon as she steps over the threshold of a Buddhist temple, she appears to be as devotional as any other worshipper. She says that the temple gives her a feeling of peace and inner calm.

Her experience and attitude are not unlike those held by religious believers all over the world. Although religious adherents aren't always eager to explain their personal beliefs, they all have a similar desire to discover greater meaning and transcend their Earthbound existence.

China, in accordance with this need, offers freedom of religious belief to all of its citizens.

"Freedom of religious belief in China means that every citizen has the freedom to believe or not to believe in any religion," says a white paper issued by the Information office of the State Council.

Today China has 20,000 Buddhist and 3,000 Taoist monasteries, 35,000 mosques, 6,000 Catholic and more than 58,000 Protestant churches. China is home to 100 million religious adherents, largely Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Catholics and Islamists.

The ruling Communist Party of China is officially atheist but allows freedom of religious belief. Four years ago, just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the party added the word "religion" for the first time to an amendment to its constitution.

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