Chinese-style religious sites lauded as examples of sinicization of beliefs

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/18 18:48:40

The Najiahu Mosque is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. It is in a traditional Chinese architectural style. Photo: VCG

Chinese religious authorities for the first time have commended 15 religious sites as representatives of religious buildings with Chinese characteristics.

Experts say this move displays different religions' development alongside Chinese culture as well as their process of sinicizing in history.

The 15 religious sites include buildings from various religions, including Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. The sites include Chongxi Wanshou Palace on Maoshan Mountain in East China's Jiangsu Province, the Sacred Heart Cathedral in South China's Guangdong Province, the Great Mosque of Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province and the Niujie Mosque in Beijing.

"It is necessary to promote these religious sites with Chinese characteristics. They display how some religions have developed to adjust to Chinese society in history," Zhu Weiqun, former head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times.

The 15 religious sites were recommended jointly by more than 40 experts during a seminar in November in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. Officials from the administration of religious affairs and some religious associations, including the Taoist Association in China and China's Islam Association attend the seminar.

Zhu said that in China, architecture in religious sites has taken elements from traditional Chinese architecture, such as the beam column structure. "This religious architecture with Chinese characteristics not only meets the demands of religious groups, but also can be accepted by neighboring residents," Zhu said. 

Take Niujie Mosque, the largest of all the mosques in Beijing, which is also on the recommendation list, as an example.

A worker at the mosque told the Global Times that the mosque was first built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty (916-1125). The local Muslim community constructed the mosque in a style of traditional Chinese architecture, and the interior decorations are in an Islamic style.

The interior of the Niujie Mosque in Beijing Photo: Liuxin/GT

Aside from receiving religious people who come to pray, the mosque also accepts visitors.

Zhu also noted that some places in China have built religious buildings, and some stressed exotic style. For example, some mosques in Northwest China were built in an Arabic style.

"These phenomena may lead to religious zealotry. Managing religious affairs according to overseas standards would cause religions to deviate from socialism," Zhu said.

Suitable for socialism

Zhuo Xinping, director of Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that these recommended religious sites are the epitome of the development of religions in China.

"Recommending these religious sites with Chinese characteristics is one of our efforts to find and carry forward traditional Chinese civilization… in insisting on the Chinese way to realize the great rejuvenation of our nation," Zhuo said.

The recommendation list was put forward amid the authorities' efforts to sinicize religions and guide different religions to be suitable to the development of socialism, experts and religious people said.

"When a religion comes into China, the sinicizing of it is actually a process to recognize the shared values of the Chinese people, to absorb the essence of the Chinese civilization and to develop itself," Liang Xingyang, a 39-year-old Taoist priest who lives in the Temple of the Golden Immortal in the Zhongnan Mountains, Shaanxi, told the Global Times.

Liang said that the core of sinicizing religions is to strengthen the reorganization of the nation among different religious groups.

Aside from religious architecture, sicinizing religions also involves guiding religious people to obey China's national laws and regulations, to serve the Chinese people's interests.

Religions should take an active part in social development and explain their religious doctrines in accordance with the new era, according to Zhu.

He also noted that raising the national flag in religious site is also a move to sinicize religions. "In the land of our country, it is reasonable to require all governmental institutes, social organizations as well as religious sites to raise the national flag," Zhu said.

Raising the national flag was proposed by the heads and representatives of national religious groups, including the Buddhist Association of China, the Taoist Association of China, the Islamic Association of China, and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China when they gathered in Beijing in July for a joint conference.
Newspaper headline: Faith fusion

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