#15 event report: The Rise of Religion in China

March 27, 2012, Bridge Café (Wudaokou)

Speaker: Prof. Dr. LU Yunfeng 卢云峰, Peking University, Department of Sociology


Prof. Lu’s core message was that China is not such a secular country as commonly assumed. The absolute numbers of followers of the main world religions are very impressive and in numbers (not in percentage of the population) exceed those of many other countries in parts of the world. He shortly presented the five officially recognized religions in China (Confucianism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam), with “Folk religion” being an extra category. He presented data to show that the share of atheist in the population decreased from over 90% 3 decades ago to about 75%, which is a clear sign of increasing need for spirituality in China. Particularly Protestant Christianity has been on the rise in China in recent decades. Apart from the well-known religions, Prof. Lu presented hard data on the general extent of spirituality among Chinese people, specifically worshiping ancestors.


After a succinct speech there was ample time for questions, answers and debate. The audience showed a particular interest in the causes for the emergence of a more religious China. Professor Lu drew some parallels to the rise of religion in Taiwan and South Korea. He presented quantitative research for these countries – both used to be restrictive environments for religious activities and now are comparably liberal – that indicates a positive correlation between and “pro-societal behaviour”. Moreover, he gave interesting insights on the relationship between religion and social change in China. In China, religion is not only increasingly popular among old people, particularly women, or the uneducated. Urban dwellers also become members of religious group. Young people for example are particularly prone to religiosity as many of them are migrant workers, living far away from home in a completely new environment and therefore longing for faith, stability, and a community.

The audience thanked Professor Lu with a warm applause and the ThinkIn China team proudly gave him one of the brand new ThinkIN China T-Shirts as a gift.