Is Chinese government against Buddhism?

I watched the news above earlier today and was left in doubt about what is the extent of Chinese government’s intervention?

It seems to me they are targeting sanctuaries and statues recently built. Maybe because these are becoming hubs for religious consumerism ?

The idea of the topic is to discuss what people know about whether Buddhism is becoming a target of persecution in China nowadays.

Do we have forum members who live or are from mainland China a lnnd could provide their understanding of the situation?

Or maybe do we know if forums like these can be accessed in mainland China at all?

Last but not least, does the Chinese government have any clear bias towards supporting or not the study of EBTs?

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My impression is that this happens if they decide the organization is becoming political. If an organization stays out of politics, doesn’t criticize or contradict the government, then they leave them alone. But if an organization begins to look like a challenge to the government, then they disrupt it. They’ve done these things to organizations like the Falun Gong movement and individual dissidents.

It’d be interesting to hear from members who’ve been in mainland China. I know that it can be difficult to access some websites or download files from inside China.


Since the Chinese Revolution in 1949 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), like communist parties in the Soviet bloc, adhered to Marxist doctrine which says that that religion creates a false sense of identity and thereby distracts the workers from class consciousness and focusing on the worldwide proletarian revolution. In recent years the CCP has determined that religious practices rooted in Chinese culture and society can in fact reinforce the party’s emphasis on making China a source of so-called “soft power” influence around the world. While China is technically still an atheist state (consistent with Marxist philosophy), the CCP tacitly has promoted Buddhism as its chosen religious instrument to promote Chinese culture both inside and outside the country. Still, the government keeps a tight rein on Buddhist organizations and makes sure that they follow the party’s agenda. This includes discrediting the Tibetan Buddhist leadership in exile and instead highlighting the individuals which Beijing has chosen as its official representatives of Tibetan Buddhism.


I was involved in Tibetan Buddhism for many years. That experience left me highly sceptical about the motives of the Chinese government, on this and on other geo-political issues.

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Quan Yin was actually not taught by the Buddha.

So the Chinese government breaking down the Quan Yin statue in particular isn’t evidence that it is against Buddhism because Quan Yin isn’t a part of Buddhism as taught by the Buddha.

Perhaps the Chinese government is targeting Buddhism in other ways, but this particular example doesn’t seem to be evidence of that.

It’s interesting how certain beings have no problem expressing anger, outrage, and angry outrage at the Chinese government at the demolition of the Quan Yin, yet there is muted if any such expression of anger, outrage, and angry outrage at the distortion of Dhamma-Vinaya/Buddhism as founded by the Buddha - in this case, the addition of a cultural diety that was sort of made up and labelled as “Buddhist” as opposed to acknowledged as a cultural relic likely specific to China or wherever it originated.


With apologies to MN1, my concern with CCP is that although CCP might be happy with:

  • They perceive CCP as CCP. But then they identify with CCP, they identify regarding CCP, they identify as CCP, they identify that ‘CCP is mine’, they take pleasure in CCP.

But CCP might not be happy with:

  • Why is that? Because they haven’t completely understood it, I say.

And CCP would not be happy with that because CCP is an identity view that craves continued existence.


The Chinese government’s position is that any teaching or any kind can only exist if they allow it to exist. It’s not really an issue of sectarianism among Buddhists. They don’t just tear down statues. They send people to re-education camps and subject them to psychological conditioning a la the novel 1984. They’ve just loosened up a bit on considering all religion heretical as it was at the beginning of the Communist revolution in the 1950s.


Such a thought as the one that you just mentioned also arose in my mind when I wrote my previous comment, but I think I did not add it so as not to make the comment too complicated.

However, I agree with the sentiment that you tried to convey.

Even if Quan Yin was actually Buddhist, it would be due to clinging and identifying “as Buddhist” that beings would become and grow angry and outraged and express their angry outrage at “Buddhism” being attacked by XYZ outsider.

This seems to be the case where those who identify as “Buddhists” in “Buddhist” countries (its often unclear whether these beings and/pr countries are “actually” Buddhists") - they get up in arms, sometimes literally, “in defense of Buddhism” - often used to discriminate against Muslims and such…none of which actually accords with the Buddhism or the “Buddhist-ness identity” that they purportedly claim to be defending.

I think you seemed to be hinting at this underlying point - a more significant and important point than the one that I made.

I figured. I didn’t mean to defend the Chinese government.
I am just wondering how self-proclaimed Buddhist don’t seem to be as concerned with say guarding against Adhamma-Avinaya from creeping in and distorting Dhamma-Vinaya as they are about “religious freedom.”

I just find it interesting that whenever the topic of how to preserve and prevent the decline of the Dhamma-Vinaya comes up, there seems to be a lot of feelings of passive resignation - “oh, the Dhamma-Vinaya is impermanent, there’s really nothing we can do about it.”

But then when it comes to “protecting religious freedom against an oppressive government,” they are very much concerned with protecting say, a statue of Quan Yin.

To me, it seems that the concern is misplaced.

I seem more concerned that Quan Yin is considered “Buddhists” than I am about the Chinese government tearing down a Quan Yin statues.

I also sometimes wonder if Mahayana, Vajrayana, and (to a lesser, but still significant degree) Theravada Buddhism do not realize that their misguided (unintentional or intentional) distortions of the Dhamma-Vinaya may be leading them to reap great harm.

Furthermore, I wonder if they may be underestimating just how much harm they may be reaping by distorting the Dhamma-Vinaya.

What if distorting the Dhamma-Vinaya is far more dangerous than the Chinese government could ever be even at it’s worse?

Perhaps distorting the Dhamma-Vinaya should be feared by and far away more than the Chinese government should be.

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Do we have cases of Buddhists being sent to those camps?

Note that what I mean by Buddhist here is someone belonging to a group which at least knows about eightfold path and four Noble truths.

But what if it isn’t? What if human creativity doesn’t impair our ability to understand the underlying principles that the Buddha taught and awaken to them?

In the meantime, the Chinese government is destroying human culture in order to control its populace.

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That’s a good question, in terms of whether more orthodox sects of Chinese Buddhism have gotten a treatment like Falun Gong, which was more of a modern Buddhist-inspired movement. They are more paranoid about mass movements because traditionally popular uprisings in China are organized around quasi-religious movements. There was the White Lotus cult that served as cover for the revolt against the Mongols, and the Boxers who rose up against the colonials in the 19th century.

The greatest excesses were during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao tried to abolish Chinese traditions like Confucianism and Buddhism. Deng Xiaopeng formally ended it after Mao’s death.

Greetings to All!

I’ve been living in China pretty much consistently since the mid 90’s–the North, the South; in villages, towns, small cities, big cities. The only time I wasn’t there was when I went to Thailand or India or somewhere to study dhamma. (I’m in Japan now because of the virus: I happened to be out when it struck and I can’t go back now.)

This is really nothing new. Knocking down statues really pales when compared to watering down the religion and secularizing it in the interests of the State–which the CCP is really into. But, then again, what’s new in that? When, in over 2,000 years of Sino-Buddhist history, hasn’t China done that? When hasn’t anyone done that?

Interesting point(s). But I don’t know that these are mutually exclusive: what the CCP is doing is exactly introducing adhamma, avinaya, and distortion into dhamma-vinaya. For example, there was a big monastic (the name escapes me) who preached a famous sermon a while back (perhaps someone here will recall) on how the Buddha’s teachings align with Chinese communist principles and so on–i.e., Buddhism, essentially, is communism.


Note that what I mean is the entire Mainland is a re-education camp. Case in point: I attend university in Beijing studying Buddhism; and we can’t, when referring to all the stuff they’re discovering in Xinjiang (East Turkmenistan) and such places, call those locations “Central Asia” or speak of “Central Asian Buddhism:” we have to speak of “the Western Regions”–i.e., “the Western regions of China”–because, of course, those areas are all (and always have been) Chinese territory and, by extension, the Buddhism found there would presumably be Chinese Buddhism. Changing the narrative in this way sounds a lot like the South China Sea disputes, no?

The scary thing is forcing (as in, “through force”) other nations to acquiesce to this version of history–which is precisely what is being attempted in the South China Sea. And, since the new laws passed in Hong Kong says that anyone, anywhere who criticizes the CCP in a way that they determine has a destabilizing effect on Chinese society is subject to prosecution by the Chinese government, I would say it is only a matter of time before they expect everyone to accept their version of Buddhist history. That’s re-education!

There’s a lot of persecution of Christians in China. I cannot go into the backstory, but the CCP re-writing the Bible to fit the State narrative, I think, is well-known. What worries me is that, one, Christianity is the fastest growing religion in China and is poised to be number one in China by 2050 if not earlier; two, at that point, Chinese Christians will be the largest Christian population in the world; and, three, Chinese Christians overwhelmingly gravitate to Christian fundamentalism. I am assuming I don’t have to spell out the implications.

Seen in this light, China’s efforts at building bridges with other nations on the academic front by emphasizing a pan-Asian Buddhist unity appears a little less benign to my eyes.

I think “they leave them alone” is pretty strong language. The CCP doesn’t leave anyone alone.


A few months before the Covid-19 pandemic I was watching a program on Chinese Global Television Network (CGTN) on the recent place of Buddhism in China. CGTN, which broadcasts in English throughout the world, is widely understood to be a source of official Communist Party/government positions on matters of politics, economics, culture, and society. In other words, its programming is thinly veiled government propaganda (quite slickly produced, I might add).

Anyway, on the program I was watching on CGTN the host interviewed a Buddhist scholar from Hong Kong and a Buddhist monastic who said that she was from “Taiwan, China.” Both individuals made it fairly clear that while Buddhism does not fully accord with the official atheist position of Marxist-inspired Chinese Communist Party (CCP) doctrine, the government of China does recognize the significance of Buddhism in shaping a modern Chinese identity based on historical cultural practices.

The CCP and the semi-official Buddhist organizations are both walking a fine line between acknowledging Buddhism as an integral feature of Chinese culture throughout history and the CCP’s commitment to subordinate all aspects of civic life in China to the Communist Party supervision of politics, economics, culture, and society. What this means in practice is that the CCP uses Buddhism to promote China’s “soft power” when it suits its purposes, but is prepared to silence Buddhist organizations if they detract from the current party line.


Thanks for the report, @knotty36. I was hoping you would show. Yeah, China is what the Soviet Union would have been if it hadn’t fallen apart. Gorbachev wanted to end that kind of control, and China saw what happened, so they decided to stick to controlling society. Maybe it’ll unravel one of these days, yet.


Thanks for this.

Would you have some thoughts or accounts of how does the CCP approach in anyway go against or limit one’s ability to develop the eightfold path?

I ask this for I want to understand how I would see my practice and study of the practical and fundamental aspects of Buddhism limited in such environment.

Note that as heterodox economist, who appreciates deeply Marxian approach to economic analysis and policy, I have a bias towards the CCP! But let’s not let that affect the dialogue!


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(The English certainly did that in England … think King Henry VIII.)

… and this is why tourists in China can visit Buddhist temples that appear to be functioning, and Tibetan monasteries in the province of Kam where the Chinese Government has been funding rebuidling so that they can reopen, yet be completely unaware of what accommodations the Buddhist groups are making with the state in return for being able to practice ‘openly.’


Yes, from what I’ve heard the most insidious way is that at a target temple they will hire their own people to act as monks, often “disappearing” the original monks in the process. :fearful:

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@cdpatton Good to see you, too! Hey, I wanted to inform you of a different thread where I was asking about an old, pre-WWII Polish scholar named Stanislaw Schayer. Some things you’ve said to me in the past regarding divergent attitudes of Western (read: Theravada) versus East Asian (read: Mahayana) Buddhist scholars on what is “authoritative tradition” make me think you’d like this scholar–or would at least have some interesting things to contribute.

@Gabriel_L No worries about being pro-Marx or anything, I don’t personally think the CCP’s “idiosyncrasies” are necessarily a result of being Marxist. (If they are indeed that, which is an entirely separate debate.) A centralized, authoritarian regime is pretty traditionally Chinese, I would say.

As far as practice, Julius Evola, for of his “idiosyncrasies” said at least one thing I liked: in the modern world, which he was completely at odds with, he felt it was easy to remain wholly aloof. I think that is the key to practice in China. Not being Chinese myself, neither being married into a Chinese family, I am not “on the inside.” I may have been once, but I have worked to remain “in China, but not of China” for quite a few years now. As a foreigner, I have no ties or obligations to anyone, so it is easier to “do my own thing.” How Chinese do this is different, though. Most would have to “play the game” externally to ensure being left alone as much as possible. I think the problem is education (I mean that in the Pink Floyd sense of the word): I have never met anyone in the Mainland who was truly inclined to “renunciation”. (Of course, I allow for the fact that they are, by definition, hard to come across.) They are spoon-fed economic and social theory from the crib: it doesn’t conduce to “lokuttara” Buddhist practice, I think.

I was actually thinking about the English church and the printing and promulgation of the King James Bible when I said that. (Well, actually, at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, let me admit that, first, I was really thinking of Asoka the Great.)


I guess there is one way to find out: distort the Dhamma-Vinaya and see what fruits one reaps from doing that!!

If nothing bad happens and only good things happen, I guess you are right.

When I say “distorting the Dhamma-Vinaya,” I want to clarify that I mean:

If people convey the same exact meaning of what the Dhamma-Vinaya stated in different ways (say different languages, mediums, and maybe subtle but still accurate variations of phrasing), I do not think that’s a distortion.

I think distortion means a distortion in the meaning of the Dhamma-Vinaya.

I also think when people add stuff and put it into the mouth of the Buddha - no matter how in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya it is! - i.e. falsely attribute it to him when he didn’t actually say it and false not attribute it to him when he did in fact say it - those are distortions.

So no matter how “harmless and beneficial” the Mahayana sutras, Vajrayana tantras, and Theravada abhidhammas are, to the degree that the Buddha didn’t actually say it, it is a distortion, modification, change, alteration, etc. that was not authorized/praised and to the contrary forbidden/criticized by the Buddha.

Saying we don’t know “exactly what the Buddha said with absolute certainty” doesn’t seem to be an excuse to take extreme creative liberties in adding to and modifying the Dhamma-Vinaya taught by the Buddha, I don’t think.

Some of the human culture that they are destroying doesn’t necessary seem bad.

There are part of human culture that are harmful and unbeneficial that I think might even be deserve to be destroyed relatively utterly and thoroughly.

Is the Chinese government destroying only harmful and unbeneficial parts? No, I think they are probably misguided.

But, I do think that it should be objectively acknowledged that to the degree they are destroying the harmful and unbenefical parts of culture, they actually are doing the right thing. It’s just a question of to what degree they are actually doing this.

Those who cling to “human culture” seem like they will suffer anxiety and such when human culture gets changed, destroyed, etc. - even when the bad parts are getting thoroughly destroyed and obliterated for the better…

Besides, to the degree one acts in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya, they shall be protected from the Chinese government.

My concern is that because so much creative liberties have been taken on the Dhamma-Vinaya in so many sects (including the supposedly conservative Theravada sect), most beings (myself included) seem to find it extremely difficult to discern what the Dhamma-Vinaya taught by the Buddha even is.

How are we supposed to protect ourselves from the Chinese government then? Complain and express anger and outrage at the Chinese government? Do you really the Chinese government cares? In any case, we cannot control what the Chinese government does not and does do.

Is expressing angry outrage at the Chinese government a more effective solution to this problem than figuring out what the Dhamma-Vinaya actually is underneath all the creative liberties beings took on it and trying our best to act in accordance with it?

I can see that happening.
I totally agree that these are not mutually exclusive.
My overall impression is that China is governed relatively contrary to Dhamma-Vinaya to some degree (I don’t know the exact degree).

Sure. But that could be said about any other government in this planet - capitalist or communist, democratically elected or not. Right? :man_shrugging:

I am not intending into throwing straw man into the conversation.

I just want to understand realistically how would anyone in mainland China be stopped by the government in his/her developmemt of any of the elements of the eightfold path and/or the broader 37 principles to awakening?

I can clearly think of how that may be the case in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

In these places and under their local secular and religious government and authorities, you would have to pretty much hide completely your interest and faith in the Dhamma-vinaya. And, if found doing so, would be risking his/her life:

As of 2019, there are 12 Muslim-majority countries that have the death sentence for apostasy,[31][32][33] whereas in 13 other countries apostasy is illegal and the government prescribes some form of punishment for apostasy including: torture, imprisonment, annulment of marriage, loss of inheritance rights or custody rights, amongst others.[34] From 1985 to 2006, three governments executed four individuals for apostasy from Islam: “one in Sudan in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia in 1992.”[25] The Tunisian Constitution of 2014 stipulates protection from attacks based on accusations of apostasy.[35] In a Pew Research Center poll, public support for capital punishment for apostasy among Muslims ranged from 78% in Afghanistan to less than 1% in Kazakhstan.
Apostasy in Islam - Wikipedia

However, I cannot construct such similar extreme scenario in the case of China!


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