There are more than 15,000 registered religious establishments across the country, representing 27 religions and nearly 1.6 million followers, according to a national survey held by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) last year. The results were released on Saturday.
There is a saying in Taiwan that “one may encounter a small temple every three steps, and a big one every five steps” — the saying may well reflect the fact that there were 15,310 religious establishments throughout the country as of the end of last year, figures from the survey showed.
The number includes 11,968 Buddhist or Taoist temples, as well as 3,342 Christian churches and Muslim mosques.
“Registration of religious establishments is not obligatory, it’s the local governments that are in charge of it and different local governments have different rules on it,” Department of Civil Affairs official Huang Shu-kuan (黃淑冠) said. “So there are many more religious establishments in the country than our official tally — some academics have estimated that there may be more than 20,000 unregistered establishments.”
Categorizing the 11,968 temples by religion, nearly 80 percent — or 9,576 — are Taoist temples, and 19.67 percent — or 2,354 — are Buddhist temples, while the remaining 40 temples, accounting for 0.33 percent, are of other religions.
As for churches, 76.48 percent, or 2,556, are Protestant churches, while 22.05 percent, or 737, are Catholic. In addition, there are 47 churches representing other denominations.
The number of temples and churches have been rising for the past five consecutive years. There has been an increase of 2.7 percent in the number of temples in the past five years, while there has been a 4.8 percent growth in the number of churches in the past five years.
Greater Tainan had the most temples, with 1,622, followed by Greater Kaohsiung with 1,470 and Pingtung County with 1,080. The three regions combined accounted for nearly 35 percent of the temples in Taiwan.
In terms of churches, Taipei had the most, with 451, followed by Greater Kaohsiung with 310 and Hualien County with 289.
In terms of annual growth in the number of religious buildings, Protestant churches grew the most, with a 1.39 percent increase compared with a year earlier, followed by Buddhist temples with a 0.81 percent increase and Taoist temples with a 0.55 percent increase.