Popular Religion in Mainland China

Christian Jochim

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Popular Religion in Mainland China

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  • Interfaith Relations
  • East Asian Religions



In China, much of religious activity has been practiced outside the institutional forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and other major religions. This activity has been characterized as “diffused,” rather than institutional, in the sense that it permeates existing social units (family, village, state) instead of having its own specifically religious forms. Its leaders have been family patriarchs, members of village temple committees, mediums, astrologers, geomancers, and so forth. To these we must add those who have led syncretic lay sects in recent centuries, providing religious alternatives to the major religions. These popular forms of religion have created tensions within mainland China where the state attempts to maintain a tight control on social order. In general, the story of folk religion in China has been one of state suppression followed by popular revival. This article focuses on popular religion in mainland China and discusses family rituals as well as divination (fengshui), deity worship and village temples, and popular lay sects (Falun Gong).

Keywords: China; folk religion; family rituals; fengshui; divination; deity worship; Falun Gong; village temples; lay sects

Article.  3012 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; East Asian Religions

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