Religion in Taiwan

Religion in Taiwan

A wide diversity of religions can be found on Taiwan, due to its multicultural history, and religious freedom written in the constitution of the Republic of China.


The original Native Taiwanese tribes traditionally practice nature worship. With the arrival of the Dutch in 1624, Protestant Christianity was introduced to Taiwanese via missionaries. The first converts were Indigenous Taiwanese. Two years later, with the arrival of the Spanish, Catholicism was introduced into Taiwan. The Japanese brought Shinto to Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period which began in 1895. Chinese migrants brought Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism with them to the island over a few centuries of immigration and settlement. In the last half century, Taiwan has also been a safe haven for groups banned in neighboring People's Republic of China, such as Falun Gong and Yi Guan Dao.



Government figures

The table shows official statistics on religion issued by the Department of Civil Affairs, Ministry of the Interior ("MOI"), in 2005. The ROC government recognizes 26 religions in Taiwan.cite web | title = Taiwan Yearbook 2006 | publisher = Government of Information Office | date= 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-01 ] The statistics are reported by the various religious organizations to the MOI: [cite web | title = 2006 Report on International Religious Freedom | publisher = U.S. Department of State | date= 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-01 ]

Statistics for the following religions and new religious movements are missing from the table above:
*Xian Tian Jiu Jiao ( _zh. 先天救教)
*The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( _zh. 耶穌基督後期聖徒教會)
*Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity ( _zh. 世界基督教統一神靈協會)

The figures for Jehovah's Witnesses are not from the MOI rather they are based on the Witnesses own 2007 Service Year Report. [cite web | title = Jehovah's Witnesses: Interactive Map of the Worldwide Work | url =]

CIA figures

*Both Buddhist and Taoist: 93%
*Christian: 4.5%
*Other: 2.5% []

Bahá'í Faith in Taiwan

巴哈伊教, The Bahá'í Faith in Taiwan began after the religion entered areas of Chinacite web
last = Hassall
first = Graham
title = The Bahá'í Faith in Hong Kong
work = Official Website of the Bahá'ís of Hong Kong
publisher = National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Hong Kong
date = January 2000
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 208-08-16
] and nearby Japan.Citation
last = Baldwin Alexander
first = Agnes
authorlink = Agnes Baldwin Alexander
last2 = R. Sims
first2 = Barbara (ed.)
title = History of the Bahá'í Faith in Japan 1914-1938
publisher = Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Osaka, Japan
year = 1977
location = Japan
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =
] The first Bahá'ís arrived in Taiwan in 1949cite book
last = R. Sims
first = Barbara
title = The Taiwan Bahá'í Chronicle: A Historical Record of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Faith in Taiwan
publisher = Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Japan
date = 1994
location = Tokyo
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =
] and the first of these to have become a Bahá'í was Mr. Jerome Chu (Chu Yao-lung) in 1945 while visiting the United States. By May 1955 there were eighteen Bahá'ís in six localities across Taiwan. The first Local Spiritual Assembly in Taiwan was elected in Tainan in 1956. The National Spiritual Assembly was first elected in 1967 when there were local assemblies in Taipei, Tainan, Hualien, and Pingtung. Circa 2006 the Bahá'ís showed up in the national census with 16,000 members and 13 assemblies.cite web | title = Taiwan Yearbook 2006 | publisher = Government of Information Office | date= 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-01 ]

Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religion

According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA, there are about 93% of people identifying themselves as Buddhists, Taoists, or practitioners of Chinese folk religion. However, identification with these faiths does not mean actual affiliation. Many persons simple adopt their parents' affiliation out of respect. It is common for people to practice a blend of the three religions. Some people practice Buddhism exclusively, but most blend Taoist religious practices with elements from Buddhism and folk traditions. It is not uncommon to find a Buddhist temple adjacent to a Taoist temple, or even under the same roof. One example of this is Longshan Temple in Taipei City. Religious diversity has never been a significant source of conflict in Taiwan.

Though many Taiwanese visit temples regularly, religion for the Taiwanese at large should not be considered a precisely "spiritual" activity. Most temples have built reputations on claims of being able to provide good fortune and do not emphasize a particular morality. In fact there are "good gods" and "bad gods" under the same temple. The main purpose of visiting the temples is to pray for fortune. This has been considered to be the cause of a "moral vacuum" in Taiwan. One of the most popular sects, Ma Tzu, could be considered to be entirely materialistic in nature.

Besides large temples, small outdoor shrines to local deities are very common, and can be spotted on roadsides, parks, and neighborhoods in Taiwanese cities and towns. These small pockets of religious atmosphere let people stop by and pray informally anytime. Many homes and businesses may also set up small shrines of candles, figurines, and offerings. Some restaurants, for example, may set up a small shrine to the Kitchen god for success in a restaurant business. Students may visit a shrine to the Learning god for good luck before a test.

Taoist temples are highly decorative. Colorfully tiled sculptures of dragons and other mythological creatures highlight the roof, and temples are often filled with statues of many gods and semi-theistic historical figures, reflecting the polytheistic and ancestor worship tradition of Taoism and folk religion.

Festivities and picnics often take place at Taoist temples.

There are approximately 4.55 million [ [ Religion ] ] or 4.5 million Taoists in Taiwan and 4.9 million Buddhists [ [ Taiwan - Religion ] ] .


Buddhism was introduced to Taiwan in the late 1500s with the Chinese immigration. Several forms of Buddhism have thrived on Taiwan ever since. During the Japanese occupation, Japanese Buddhism (Shingon, Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren Shu, etc.) was introduced as part of the overall policy of cultural assimilation by the colonial government. Although many Buddhist communities affiliated themselves with Japanese sects for protection, they largely retained Chinese Buddhist practices. For instance, clerical marriage and meat-eating did not make the headway they did in occupied Korea. Today, approximately 94% of Taiwan's population is Buddhist [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Taiwan ] ] .

Following retrocession, Taiwan was inundated with Mainland monks, including some who were considered to be of the best and brightest of the previous decades, such as Master Yinshun (Yìnshùn 印順). Tainted by the whiff of collaboration, outshone by these refugees, and underrepresented in the Chinese Buddhist Association (CBA) which served as a liaison with the government, the local lineages declined.

The CBA remained the dominant Buddhist organization until the end of martial law, when its government mandated monopoly was ended. Since the eighties, Buddhism has enjoyed a surge of popularity as the percentage of people identifying themselves as Buddhist rose from the low teens to almost fifty percent. Today there are several large Buddhist organization based in Taiwan that have expanded to become international organization. They include Dharma Drum Mountain (Făgŭshān _zh. 法鼓山) founded by Master Sheng Yen ( _zh. 聖嚴), Buddha's Light International (Fógŭangshān _zh. 佛光山) founded by Master Hsing Yun ( _zh. 星雲), and the Tzu Chi Foundation (Cíjì jījīnhùi _zh. 慈濟基金會) founded by Master Cheng Yen ( _zh. 證嚴法師).

Tzu Chi, one of the largest international non-profit Buddhist organizations, focuses on community service, outreach programs, charity work, and international humanitarian efforts. They have opened hospitals, community centers, schools, and Tzu Chi University in Hualien County.

In the last few years non-Chinese forms of Buddhism, such as Tibetan Buddhism and the Vipassana movement of S. N. Goenka, have also had growing followings.


Confucianism, although not a religion in the Western sense but a moral philosophy and ethical code, has been a major influence on the ideology, ethics, education, and everyday values of the Taiwanese. Confucianism has been a foundation for Chinese society and government since the sixth century B.C., and was spread to Taiwan with the migration of Chinese settlers over the past four centuries. Confucian temples are not places of worship, but rather memorial halls honoring Confucius, regarded as the greatest teacher in ancient China. Confucius's birthday is celebrated as Teacher's Day every September 28.Confucianism was installed as a state cult under the regime of Chiang Kai Shek (Groiller's Encyclopedia, confucianism). Confucianism, with its emphasis on blind following of "Li" (rules) has also been blamed for the Taiwan education system's inability to produce creative/critical thinking and problem solving skills, and has also been pinpointed as a root cause of many of Taiwan's societal ills.


Christian churches exist on the Republic of China (Taiwan). According to figures given by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Christians which include Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and non-denominational Christians make up a total of 4.5% of the population of Taiwan.


Islam originated in Saudi Arabia and spread eastward to China as early as the 7th century AD. Muslim merchants married local Chinese women, creating a new Chinese ethnic group called the Hui people. Islam first reached Taiwan in the 17th century when Muslim families from the southern Chinese coastal province of Fujian accompanied Koxinga on his invasion to oust the Dutch from Taiwan. Islam did not spread and their descendants became assimilated into the local Taiwanese society adopting the local customs and religions.

During the Chinese Civil War, some 20,000 Muslims, mostly soldiers and civil servants, fled mainland China with the Kuomintang to Taiwan. Since the 1980s, thousands of Muslims from Myanmar and Thailand, who are descendants of Nationalist soldiers who fled Yunnan as a result of the communist takeover, have migrated to Taiwan in search of a better life. In more recent years, there has been a rise in Indonesian workers to Taiwan. There are an estimated 80,000 Indonesian Muslims living in Taiwan, in addition to the existing 53,000 Taiwanese Muslims. All demographics combined, there are over 140,000 Muslims in Taiwan.Fact|date=January 2008

Falun Gong

Even though Falun Gong is banned in mainland China, people in Taiwan are free to practice it. There are many followers for this particular religion.Fact|date=February 2008


ee also

*Demographics of Taiwan
*Protestant Christianity
*I-Kuan Tao

External links

* [ Introduction to Religion in Taiwan]
* [ - Religion in Taiwan]
* [ Taiwan Yearbook 2004]
* [ Government Information Office]
* [ The Glyphomancy Factor] "Observations on Chinese Conversion" by David K Jordan (essay on voluntary religious conversion in Taiwan)

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