Taiwan is a country of various religious beliefs. There are currently thirteen registered religions on the island practiced by nearly half the residents of Taiwan. These religions include Buddhism (the most popular), Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hsuan-yuan Chiao, Islam, Li-ism, Tenrikyo, Baha'i, T'ienti Teachings, Tien Te Chiao, I-Kuan Tao, and Mahikarikyo.
Buddhism is the most prevalent institutionalized religion in Taiwan, and is practiced by almost 4.9 million individuals. Originating from India, Buddhism was introduced to Taiwan in the late 16th Century. The more significant type of Buddhism today is the Mahayana (Great Wheel). Devotees of this religion chant mantras and sutras, and practice meditation in the many temples available on the island.
Taoism is the second most popular religion in Taiwan, followed by 4.5 million people of Taiwan. This religion evolved from the philosophy of Lao Tzu, who lived during the 6th Century BC. The central idea of the religion is the fulfillment of divinity. Taoists use incense for prayer and worships.
Roughly 304,000 individuals are believers of Catholicism. Christianity came to Taiwan in 1626 through the Spanish occupation. A Catholic priest, Father Martinez, together with four Dominican priests from the Philippines started this mission to introduce the Catholic faith to the people.
Georgius Candidus of the Reformed Church of Holland was the first successful missionary to introduce Protestantism to this island. In 1997, there were at least 65 Protestant sects, 2,700 Protestant churches, and 2,550 ministers in Taiwan.
Hsuan-yuan Chiao was established by an old legislator named Wang Han-sheng in 1957 in Taiwan. 'Hsuan-yuan' is the name of Huangti, the Yellow Emperor who unified China, while 'Chiao' means teachings or religion in Chinese. This religion was conceived because of Wang's anguish over the dispossession of the Chinese mainland to the Chinese communists.
Each lunar year, a large-scale ceremony is held to honor Huangti on the ninth of the first month. Other smaller ceremonies are held on specific days of other months to celebrate Huangti's birthday and his ascent to heaven. The largest Hsuan-yuan temple is situated in Tamsui.
Islam was introduced to China during the reign of Tai Tsung (627-649 AD). A massive migration of Muslims into China brought about the augmentation of Muslim arts and sciences, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and military science. In 1949, 20,000 Muslims accompanied by the Republic of China (ROC) government came to Taiwan, and Islam was thus established as a religion.
Muslims in Taiwan today, however, have difficulties conforming to orthodox Islamic customs. The hectic city lifestyles and the restraints of a non-Muslim environment contribute to the many problems faced by the Muslims. There are currently three new mosques, which have been constructed in Kaohsiung, Taichung, and Lungkang, together with two other mosques in Taipei.
Li-ism was founded by Yang Lai-ju in the 17th Century. The meaning of Li-ism is 'the doctrine of order'. Li-ism accentuates traditional Chinese morals and ethics. It is an amalgamation of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism while accentuating also on the worshipping of Kuanyin (Goddess of Mercy). Customs and practices of Li-ism are similar to that of Buddhism in terms of worship and 'dos and don'ts'.
Tenrikyo, as the name suggests, is a Japanese religion founded in 1838 by Miki Nakayam, who was a daughter of a peasant family. It teaches people how to abide by God's will by gaining control of their destiny so they can lead a life of joy. This religion was introduced in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation. Due to its similarity to Buddhism, it was accepted and developed in Taiwan. The Tenrikyo headquarters is located in the Yuanshuan area of Taipei.
The Baha'i faith was founded in Iran in 1844 by 'Bab'. Baha'is have few beliefs. They believe that the family is the foundation of human society, and God has sent messengers like Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed to fulfill his purpose. In 1954, an Iranian missionary couple came and constituted Taiwan's first Baha'i center in Tainan. Now, the local headquarters is located in Taipei.
Tienti teachings were founded by Lee Yu-Chieh in the mid-1980s. Tienti teachings focuses on some of China's oldest religious traditions and honors the Lord of Heaven (T'ienti), ruler of the universe. The religion stresses the co-existence between the spiritual and material worlds. However, the absolute goal of Tienti teachings is a world of universal love regardless of race or belief.
Tien Te Chiao
Tien Te Chiao is a combination of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. The religion was brought into existence in mainland China in 1923. Its founder, Hsiao Chang-Ming was gifted with the gift of healing, which attracted much attention. He inducted many principles in which followers were to adhere throughout their lives. Wang Ti-ching, a disciple of Hsiao in Kaohsiung, spread Tien Te Chiao.
I-Kuan Tao is a new faith and also the third most popular religion in Taiwan. It strives to distinguish common principles underlying Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. Worshippers believe that by unveiling the universal truths, the world can achieve peace and harmony.
Mahikarikyo, another Japanese religion, was founded by Yosikazu Okada in 1959. Mahikarikyo believes that anyone can attain healing powers by taking a three-day seminar on the Spiritual Art of Divine Light. Devotees believe that their teachings of the righteous law will bring all people happiness in the coming Holy Twenty-First Century. Mahikarikyo was introduced to Taiwan in 1983, but was only registered with the Ministry in 1996. Now, the religion has vastly developed with shrines available around the island.