Just three decades ago, few researchers even within mainland China knew whether religion had survived the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong. It is clear now, however, that religion not only survived but that hundreds of millions of Chinese today have some religious faith, according to recent studies by the Pew Research Center.
Nearly 300 million Chinese are affiliated with folk religions. Globally this means that more than seven-in-ten (73%) of the world’s folk religionists live in China.
Some 244 million people in China adhere to Buddhism, making China home to half (50%) of the world’s 488 million Buddhists.
China's 68 million Christians make China home to the world’s seventh-largest Christian population.
China's approximately 25 million Muslims constitute the world's 17th largest Muslim population, right after Saudi Arabia (# 16) and before Yemen (#18).
China has the world's second largest shares of people who belong to faiths in the “other religion” category (16%), many of whom are adherents of Taoism. The World Religion Database estimates there are more than 8 million Taoists worldwide.
The general consensus among scholars of religion in China is that religious affiliation has grown substantially during the past three decades. It is too soon to know, however, whether religion’s growth has peaked or will continue in the years ahead. Whichever turns out to be the case, the religious future of the world’s most populous country will have a major impact on religion in the decades ahead.
Additional information from the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life: