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Culture & People

Taiwan religions

Taiwan practices freedom of religion, generously accepting foreign religious ideas while honoring traditional beliefs: even within the same family, it is common for different faiths to exist. As a result, Taipei has welcomed the development of many different religions.

Traditional Chinese religions include Buddhism, Taoism, and folk beliefs. Taoism is indigenous to China, while Buddhism was introduced from India. Taoists and Buddhists originally worshipped separately in Taiwan, but during the period of Japanese occupation (1895-1945) Taoists were singled out for severe persecution and began worshipping their deities secretly in Buddhist temples. By the time Taiwan was returned to Chinese administration at the end of World War II, the two religions had blended together; while a few temples today are purely Buddhist, most Taiwanese continue worshipping a variety of Buddhist, Taoist, and folk deities in a single temple.

Christianity was brought to Taiwan in the early 17th century by Spanish and Dutch missionaries. A number of Presbyterian missions were founded in early times, including the Panhsi Church of Tataocheng (today known as Tachiao Church) in 1874 and Manka Church in 1884; during the Japanese occupation period, the Chungshan Presbyterian Church, Chinan Church, and Chengchung Church were established.

Numerous other religions took hold in Taiwan in the atmosphere of religious freedom than followed retrocession; in addition to the Chinese religions and Christianity, Taiwan today also has followers of many other religions.


Traditionally, Chinese society has always used a lunar calendar (based on the phases of the moon). The biggest holidays celebrate the changing of the seasons, revealing China's ancient agrarian roots.

Because most major festivals are timed by the traditional calendar, the dates that they fall on according to the Western, solar, calendar vary from year to year. Some holidays, however, have come to be associated with the Western calendar and occur on the same predictable date.

Some holidays may be of little interest to non-Taiwanese. Unless you have an ancestor who died and was buried in Taiwan, for example, you probably won't find yourself directly participating in Tomb Sweeping Day. But many holidays are spectacular public events that can easily engage and fascinate visitors from abroad.

Though we won't cover all the many days of note in the year (click here for a full list of holidays and festivals), here are some of the more interesting occasions you might want to observe:

(1) Chinese New Year

The biggest event on the Taiwanese calendar, like everywhere else in the Chinese world, is the New Year, which marks the beginning of spring. It is a festival of renewal, in preparation for which families clean their houses top to bottom and cook elaborate feasts. It is also very important to settle all personal debts before the end of the year.

On New Year's Eve, families gather together at home, eat heartily and let loose a lot of firecrackers. Children and elders receive gifts of money, in red envelopes called hungpao. A visit to a Taoist temple is sure to be a fascinating adventure, as crowds gather to pay homage to the gods. Temples dedicated to Kuan Kung are particularly active.

Much like Christmas, Chinese New Year is a family-oriented holiday, when homes are full of life and public places are boarded up tight. So the very best way to experience Chinese New Year is as a guest of a Chinese family.

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