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The Largest Buddhist Communities


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Top 10 Countries with the
Highest Proportion of Buddhists

Country Percent
Thailand 95%
Cambodia 90
Myanmar 88
Bhutan 75
Sri Lanka 70
Tibet * 65
Laos 60
Vietnam 55
Japan ** 50
Macau 45
Taiwan 43


*
Tibet: I am not aware of any accurate figures regarding current adherence to Buddhism in Tibet. Prior to the Chinese invasions of 1950 the country was essentially a theocracy in which 100% of the people could be considered adherents of Tibetan Buddhism. There are estimates that up to 20% of the population were monks.

Now many non-Tibetan Chinese live in the region, the region is considered by many a province of China, many of the monks and practicing Tibetan Buddhists have fled and live in neighboring countries, and the Chinese government's active efforts to exterminate religion in the region have had significant impact.

**
Should Japan be on this list? Estimates of the percentage of Japanese who are Buddhist vary widely. Perhaps 85% of the population will cite Buddhism is asked what their preferred religion is, but 75% of the population claim to be nonreligious -- to practice and believe in no religion. Frequently seen high figures of 85% or 90% of Japanese being Buddhist come primarily from birth records, following a longstanding practice of family lines being officially associated with a local Buddhist temple. Japan has a large and thriving Buddhist community, but surveys indicate it to be closer to 20% of the population. Certainly there are high numbers of nominal Buddhism and secularism in other countries on this list, but not as pervasively as in Japan.

Source: Adherents.com.

Top 10 Largest National Buddhist Populations

Country Number
of Buddhists
China 102,000,000
Japan 89,650,000
Thailand 55,480,000
Vietnam 49,690,000
Myanmar 41,610,000
Sri Lanka 12,540,000
South Korea 10,920,000
Taiwan 9,150,000
Cambodia 9,130,000
India 7,000,000


Source: Ash, Russell. The Top 10 of Everything, DK Publishing, Inc.: New York (1997), pg. 160-161.

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Webpage created 1 May 1999. Last updated 30 September 2005.