The White Lotus Mutation that led to the Ming Dynasty

July 8, 2014

Religions—as Christians, Jews and Muslims practice them—have seldom played a major role in Chinese Culture and Politics. Even today, more than 800 million Chinese say they don’t belong to any religion and the largest religion in China is Buddhism (about 10% of the population).  Even during Imperial times, most members of government didn’t belong to organized religions. The same is true today with the Communist government.

China’s struggle with pagan cults (for instance, the White Lotus Society) stretches back almost a thousand years. The White Lotus Society appealed to poor Han Chinese peasants and more so to women, who found peace in worshiping the Eternal Mother. It was believed that this Eternal Mother would gather all her children at the millennium into one family.

White Lotus Societies started out seeking tranquility through a combination of Buddhism with some elements of Daoism (Taoism) and other native Chinese religions. Even in the 12th century, the Yuan Dynasty was distrustful of the Yellow Lotus Society, which didn’t fit comfortably with Confucianism.

Persecution of the White Lotus Society started during the Yuan Dynasty (Mongols: 1271 – 1368 AD). Due to this, the White Lotus Society changed from one of peace and tranquility and organized protests to violence against the Mongol rulers, the first non-Han to rule China.

Since Yuan Imperial authorities distrusted the White Lotus Society, the Dynasty banned them, and the White Lotus went underground.  The White Lotus predicted that a messianic—Christ like—figure would come and save them from persecution. That man’s name was Zhu Yuanzhang, a Buddhist monk.

The White Lotus led revolution started in 1352 near Guangzhou before Zhu Yuanzhang joined the rebellion. Soon, he became the leader by forbidding his soldiers to pillage in observance of White Lotus religious beliefs.

By 1355, the rebellion had spread through much of China. In 1356, Zhu Yuanzhang captured Nanjing and made it his capital. Then Confucian scholars issued pronouncements supporting Zhu’s claim of the Mandate of Heaven, the first step toward establishing a new dynasty.

Zhu Yuanzhang liberated China from the Mongols and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643).


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.


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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

The State of Religion in Today’s China

December 19, 2010

The U.S. Department of State reports that China is officially atheist (and has been for thousands of years). However, Taoist, Buddhist, Christian and Muslims are allowed to worship in China and these religions have a significant role in the lives of many Chinese.

A February 2007 survey conducted by East China Normal University and reported in China’s state-run media concluded that 31.4% of Chinese citizens ages 16 and over are religious believers.

While the Chinese constitution affirms “freedom of religious belief,” the Chinese Government places restrictions on religious practice outside officially recognized organizations. The five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

Singapore, another nation in Asia, has similar restrictions.

Historically, China has not been accepting of cults, and there is a difference between a religion and a cult. says, cult members are “followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

All one has to do is study China’s history to understand the Middle Kingdom’s sensitivity toward cults and political activists. China’s struggle with pagan cults reaches back almost a thousand years. Source: The Millennium Cult

There are no official statistics confirming the number of Taoists in China.

Fascinating discussion of how Chinese culture interacts with religions.

Official figures indicate there are 20 million Muslims, 20 million Protestants, and 5.3 million Catholics; unofficial estimates are much higher.

According to About Chinese, there are more than 85,000 sites for religious activities, some 300,000 clergy and over 3,000 religious organizations throughout China. In addition, there are 74 religious schools and colleges run by religious organizations for training clerical personnel.

Buddhism, the most popular religion in China with about a 100 million followers, has a 2,000-year history in the Middle Kingdom and there are about 13,000 Buddhist temples.

Taoism, native to China, has a history of more than 1,700 years with over 1,500 temples.

Islam, which was introduced into China in the seventh century has more than 30,000 mosques.

At present, China has about 4,600 Catholic churches and meetinghouses.

Protestantism first arrived in China in the early 19th century. Today there are more than 12,000 churches and 25,000 meeting places.

Although Judaism is not listed as one of the officially recognized religions in China, there are Jewish synagogues in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Jews first settled in Kaifeng, Henan Province in 960 AD after arriving along the Silk Road. The Jews were welcomed by the Imperial government, which encouraged them to retain their cultural identity by building the Kaifeng synagogue, which was finished in 1163 AD.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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