Wednesday, 6 December, 2023

Harmonious Coexistence of Religions in China: Significance to Building a Harmonious World

White Pagoda in Beijing, China. It was built by a Nepali artist Araniko some 750 years ago.

Sun Xiqin

At present, there are nearly 200 million people who believe in various religions such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam in China, more than 380,000 religious personnel, about 5,500 religious groups, and more than 140,000 places for religious activities boarding according to law. People of all ethnic groups in China enjoy full freedom of religious belief, and various religions coexist harmoniously in China, forming Chinese religious characteristics. The harmonious coexistence of religions in China has certain reference significance for the harmonious development of various multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries in the world.

Since ancient times, China has had the idea and proposition of respecting multi-religious beliefs. As early as more than 2,500 years ago during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, Chinese Confucianism had the idea of “harmony but difference”, which became the cornerstone of harmonious coexistence of diverse religions in China and formed the unique spirit of religious tolerance of Chinese people. In the long historical development process of China, it is the religious thought of “harmony but difference” that different nationalities and religions blend and coexist and learn from each other. “Harmony but difference” has also become an integral part of China’s excellent traditional culture.

Convergence is the foundation of harmonious coexistence of Chinese religions. China’s Confucianism emphasizes “benevolent people love others”, Taoism advocates advocating nature and governing by doing nothing, and Buddhism adheres to “all evils are avoided, all good ones are pursued”, thus forming a situation of integration of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. After Islam was introduced into China, Islamic civilization adapted to the development and changes of Chinese society, integrated into Chinese civilization, and became a historical story of mutual learning among civilizations. Christianity was first introduced into China in the Tang Dynasty, but it failed to gain a foothold. After many attempts, it eventually merged with Chinese traditional culture. Religion is an important part of Chinese traditional culture, and learning from each other is the inherent essential requirement of harmonious coexistence of Chinese multi-religions.

Exchange and mutual learning is the magic weapon of harmonious coexistence of Chinese religions. Historically, the Chinese nation transcended the restrictions of race, geography and religion, and relied on cultural identity to get together. In this process, learning from each other and seeking common ground while reserving differences are important paths, which shows that religious civilizations can coexist peacefully. Harmonious symbiosis, exchange and mutual learning are also important means to deal with the conflicts and estrangements of civilizations in today’s world. Nowadays, the world is undergoing a great change in a hundred years, and China advocates the construction of Community of Shared Future for Mankind. We should respect the diversity of world civilizations, transcend the gap between civilizations, learn from each other among civilizations, transcend the clash of civilizations, and coexist with civilizations, and work together to build a world of lasting peace, common security, common prosperity, openness, tolerance, cleanliness and beauty.


(Sun Xiqin, Associate Research Fellow, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, China)