Reaching the Nations International Church Growth Almanac

Country reports on the LDS Church around the world from a landmark almanac. Includes detailed analysis of history, context, culture, needs, challenges and opportunities for church growth.


By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Area: 9,596,961 square km.  The world’s fourth largest country and occupying a large portion of East and Central Asia, China is a nation of great diversity in terrain and climate.  The most densely populated areas in eastern China have temperate to sub-tropical climates with monsoon rains in the summer and dry weather in the winter.  The Tibet Plateau, which consists of semi-arid plains and rugged peaks with little vegetation subject to cold winters and mild summers, is the dominant geographic feature of western China.  Rugged mountain ranges stretch from the Tibetan Plateau toward the fertile plains in the east.  Large arid basins with remote mountain ranges are found in the northwest where the Taklamakan Desert is located.  The Gobi Desert stretches into China along the Mongolian border.  Manchuria experiences extreme ranges in temperature from hot, humid summer months to cold, dry winter months.  The North China Plain and Sichuan Basin are densely populated.  Major rivers include the Yangzi, Huang, Chang Jiang, and Xi Jiang.  Typhoons, floods, tsunamis, droughts, and earthquakes are natural hazards.  Environmental issues vary by region and include pollution, acid rain, inadequate supplies of potable water, desertification, deforestation, and soil erosion.  The Three Gorges Dam was completed in 2008 and is scheduled to become fully operational in 2011; it remains a subject of environmental debate due to the flooding of vast areas of riverfront, the displacement of millions who once lived in the area now occupied by the reservoir, and the threat to endangered species.  The dam has provides hydroelectric power, thus reducing air pollution, and reduces flooding along the Yangtze River which has affected millions in the past.  China is administratively divided into 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, and four municipalities.  China claims Taiwan as a province although the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China maintain two separate administrations, with the latter based on the island of Taiwan.  Land and border disputes continue along several regions along the Indian and Pakistani border and in additional locations.


Population: 1,330,141,295 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.494% (2010)   

Fertility Rate: 1.54 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: male 72.54, female 76.77 (2010)



Han Chinese: 91.5%

Other: 8.5%


Most the population is Han Chinese.  Other large minority ethnicities include Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uighur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyi, Dong, Yao, and Korean.  Most of these ethnic groups live near border regions or in a patchwork of communities, such as the Hui.  The government over the past several decades has moved Han Chinese throughout the country in an effort to increase national stability and mute regional ethnic differences in culture and identity. 


Languages: Mandarin Chinese is the official language and used in all schools.  292 indigenous languages are spoken in China.  Many of these languages use the simplified Chinese character script officially adopted by China.  Native speakers of Chinese languages number approximately 1.15 billion (86.5%).  Languages with over one million speakers include Mandarin Chinese (840 million), Wu Chinese (77.2 million), Yue Chinese (52 million), Jinyu Chinese (45 million), Xiang Chinese (36 million), Hakka Chinese (25.7 million), Min Nan Chinese (25.7 million), Gan Chinese (20.6 million), Zhuang dialects (14.6 million), Min Bei Chinese (10.3 million), Miao dialects (10.1 million), Min Dong Chinese (8.82 million), Uighur (8.4 million), Huizhou Chinese (4.6 million), Tibetan dialects (3.4 million), Mongolian (3.38 million), Min Zhong Chinese (3.1 million), Bouyei (2.6 million), Pu-Xian Chinese (2.52 million), Nuosu (2 million), Korean (1.92 million), Dong dialects (1.46 million), Kazakh (1.25 million), Bai dialects (1.24 million). 

Literacy: 90.9% (2000)



China was home to some of the most advanced civilizations in the ancient world but did not establish its current boundaries until the 20th century.  Ancient Chinese civilizations thrived in the east and went through several cycles of unification and division from several centuries before Christ until the establishment of the Song Dynasty in the 10th century.  China once held large portions of Southeast Asia in its sphere of influence, and surrounding peoples with which the Chinese came into contact - Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, and others - adapted much from Chinese language, culture, and technology.  The defeat of the Chinese armies at what is now Talas, Kyrgyzstan, by the Arabic Abbasid Caliphate in 751 AD ended Chinese hopes of hegemony in Central Asia.  The Mongols invaded and in the 13th century and established the Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan.  The Ming Dynasty began in the 14th century and reestablished Chinese rule.  In the 17th century, the Qing Dynasty came to power and expanded China’s border to include Mongolia.  European powers, especially the United Kingdom, occupied large regions of China and fought for greater influence and power in the 19th century in several military conflicts including the Opium Wars. Chinese resistance to foreign domination culminated in the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1901.  In 1912, the Republic of China was established thereby ending the Qing Dynasty.  During the first half of the 20th century, Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalists attempted to unify China and fought the communists lead by Mao Zedong.  War with Japan occurred from 1937 to 1945 and ended only with the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.  Following the Second Sino-Japanese War,  civil war broke out until 1949.  Communist forces overpowered the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan and maintained the Republic of China, whereas the Communists established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. 


Mao Zedong sought to rapidly modernize China and attempted to outcompete the world’s leading agriculture producing nations through the Great Leap Forward.  The program instituted massive agrarian reforms and established communes in an effort to increase crop yield and productivity, but resulted in tens of millions of deaths due to famine caused by drought, poor agriculture practices, and the shipment of food by government officials to certain areas to fabricate unexpectedly abundant harvests.  Mao also initiated the Cultural Revolution, which aimed to erase China’s cultural history and traditions through destruction of historical sites, the banning of art and literature seen as a threat to the communist state, and the production of art and literature support the communist and socialist cause by state-sponsored writers and artists.  Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1976 following Mao’s death and brought about major economic and social reforms which prepared for the modernization of China.  In 1979, the controversial state-sponsored family planning program called the One Child Policy came into effect which limited Chinese couple to have just one child to slow population growth.  In 1989, anti-government protesters clashed with law enforcement and military in the Tiananmen Square Massacre which reaffirmed China’s intolerance toward rapid social change and rebellion.  Rapid economic growth has occurred in the 1990s until present as many institutions have become decentralized and a free-market economy has been established.


China, the "Middle Kingdom" or 中國, was viewed by Chinese as the center of civilization and center of the known world.  Although China has experienced its share of internal and external conflicts, China on the whole has historically been a relatively peaceful nation without the expansionistic aims of an Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, or Tamerlane to carve out a vast empire of subject peoples; many of its actions - from the construction of the Great Wall of China to the Sino-Japanese Wars - have been primarily defensive.  This is reflected to this day by the fact that over 80% of the citizens of modern China are Han Chinese.  Even Tibet was incorporated into the Mongol Empire and then inherited by the Yuan  Dynasty of China founded Kublai Khan, rather than being conquered by the Chinese, and the ongoing dispute over Taiwan is viewed by the Chinese as a matter of territorial integrity.


China's current status as a developing nation is a historical anomaly, as China was a world leader in technology and development through much of its history, although China's rapid growth and strong economy suggest that it is on track to again take a preeminent place among the nations.



Traditional Chinese values focus more on stability, harmony, order, and societal good, and less on change, innovation, and personal liberties, than Western societies.  The Chinese people have experienced a long and illustrious history with no tradition of democracy in the Western sense; most modern Chinese appear to be generally content with their government and accept various controls as necessary to maintain order.  Chinese cultural values often emphasized the importance of emulating exemplars of the past and revering ancestors.  Change and innovation were often viewed less positively than in the West, although numerous important inventions which have benefited the West - the adjustable plow, the stirrup, and thousands more - were invented in China.[1]  To this day, Chinese demonstrate dedication and love of learning. Chinese pupils and students at all levels often study much longer than their Western counterparts, and Westerners are sometimes regarded as less disciplined.  Principles of personal, family, and national honor and behavior according to socially accepted principles are very important to Chinese. 


Few foreigners have succeeded in mastering the intricacies of Chinese language and protocols.  Even the depth of a bow has significant meaning depending on the age, status, and relationship of individuals. To the civilized Chinese, foreigners were regarded largely as barbarians. These social barriers have begun to break down with government policies encouraging Han Chinese to intermarry with ethnic minorities, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as increasing cross-cultural relationships among Chinese working and studying overseas.


Confucianism and Daoism originated in China.  Confucianism provided the source and philosophy for government and society for nearly two millennia and served as the basis, at least in part, for a well-ordered system of civil service exams for prospective public servants under the emperors. The ideals of the proper Confucian gentleman, or Junzi, continue to significantly influence Chinese culture.  Communist reforms have removed much of the previous role religion played in culture and daily life.  Han Chinese are the most influential ethnic group. Historically, China was a technologically advanced civilization and was the first to invent paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder and boasts a proud, ancient tradition of astronomy.  Scholarship and interest in science continue today.  Soccer, martial arts, and many Western sports are popular recreational activities.  China hosted the 2008 Olympic Games which brought increased worldwide attention and awareness of the country.  Alcohol consumption rates are moderate whereas cigarette consumption rates are high.  Chinese customs and culture have preferred males over females – especially in the countryside – resulting in a disproportionate number of males due to gender-selective abortions (which are illegal), and a gender imbalance with many men unable to marry.  Some relaxation of the one-child policy has occurred in recent years to allow a second child if the first is a girl.  Non-Chinese ethnicities also receive some exemptions to the One Child Policy. 



GDP per capita: $6,600 (2009) [14.2% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.772

Corruption Index: 3.6

The economy has transformed dramatically over the past 30 years from a centralized, closed system to a free-market economy with international investment and trade.  Hundreds of millions have relocated from rural areas to cities and eastern provinces for better employment, creating major demographic and ecological challenges.  China has the world’s largest workforce and is capable of leading the world economically if development continues. In mid-2010, China overtook Japan to become the world's second largest economy after the United States. China's per capita income under a controlled economy and communist government is now at least three times the per capita income in India, the world's largest democracy, although both nations have similar populations and started at approximately the same level of income and development at independence in the late 1940s after World War II.


The environmental impact of mass population migrations has been devastating but the agriculture section has the largest percentage of the workforce (39.5%) followed by services (33.2%).  Industry employs 27.2% of the workforce.  Agriculture produces only 10.6% of the GDP whereas industry and services account for 46.8% and 42.6% of the GDP, respectively.  GDP growth rates rank among the highest worldwide despite China’s massive population.  Only 2.7% of the population lives below the poverty line (2007) but many experience poor living conditions.   Primary agriculture products include rice, wheat, potatoes, and corn.  Major industries include mining, metal, machinery, textiles, oil and oil products, toys, electronics, food processing, vehicles, spacecraft, and telecommunications equipment.  Primary trade partners include the United States, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Germany. 


With a centralized government with few checks and balances, corruption is apparent in many aspects of society.  As China integrates into the global economy, much of the nation’s wealth is controlled by a small subset of the population.  China has struggled to fight drug trafficking, especially heroin originating from Southeast Asia.  Human trafficking of Chinese in nations around the world for exploitation and a poor human rights record are major international concerns.  China has experienced some success in addressing organized crime in some of the larger cities. 



Chinese religions, Buddhism, non religious, atheist: 94%

Christian: 4%

Muslim: 2%



Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  17,300,000

Seventh-Day Adventists  370,317  1,079

Latter-Day Saints  less than 10,000  34+



A 2007 survey found that 31% of Chinese citizens over 16 years old were religious believers.  In 2007, a public opinion polling firm based in China concluded 11-16% of adults identify as Buddhists and less than one percent consider themselves Taoist.  Most religiously active Chinese follow an agglomeration of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.  Muslims primarily consist of the Hui and Uighurs, which reside in north and northwestern China in the Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regions.  The largest Protestant denomination is Baptist, followed by Lutheran.  In recent years, many religious groups report rapid increases in followers.[2] 


Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects the freedom of religious belief but restricts religious activity and expression.  There is no state religion. Traditional Chinese religion consists of a mix of Confucian ideals, Buddhism, Taoism or Daoism, and folk traditions.  Five state-sanctioned religious groups (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) are registered as patriotic religious organizations which may register individual congregations and operate places of worship or assembly.  Proselytism may occur in a private setting or registered place of worship.  Foreigners are banned from proselytism and face many restrictions interacting with local citizens.  Many Christians meet in unregistered house churches.  According to the constitution and law, religiously active Chinese are not to be under any foreign religious authority, resulting in religious groups such as Catholics having many underground clergy.  The government has targeted many Protestant groups who hold home meetings and are not registered with the government.  Muslims in some areas are restricted in their ability to perform pilgrimages and some individuals are not permitted to enter local mosques.  The distribution of religious literature is controlled by the government.  Registered religious groups may produce and gather materials for the use of their members.  Members of many religious groups have been imprisoned by government authorities for failing to comply with local laws and regulations pertaining to religious practice and generally serve prison sentences in labor camps.  In recent years, the government has permitted the public greater access to religious writers and granted NGOs permission to conduct humanitarian work.  The degree of religious freedom varies by location, with Tibet and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions experiencing the lowest levels of religious freedom.[3] 


Largest Cities

Urban: 43%

Shanghai, Beijing, Nanchong, Tai'an, Kaifeng, Wuhan, Chongqing, Chengdu, Tianjin, Puyang, Shenyang, Shiyan, Harbin, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Taiyuan, Yunfu, Changchun, Changsha, Jinan, Dalian, Zhengzhou, Shijiazhuang, Jilin, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Qingdao, Tangshan, Xinyang, Ürümqi, Fushun, Luoyang, Hefei, Liuyang, Handan, Suzhou, Shantou, Baotou, Anshan, Xuzhou, Fuzhou, Guiyang, Dayan, Wuxi, Datong, Xianyang, Huainan, Kunming, Shenzhen, Jieyang.

Cities listed in bold do not have an LDS congregation. 


Nine of the 52 largest cities have an English-speaking LDS congregation.  10% of the national population resides in the 52 largest cities.  Nearly 400 cities have over 100,000 inhabitants which accounts for 18% of the national population. 


LDS History

President Brigham Young first considered sending missionaries to China in 1849. Three years later three missionaries were called to preach in China.  The missionaries arrived in Hong Kong in 1853 and only remained for two months as they were unable to learn the language, the English-speaking population was unreceptive, and political instability was too great for travel outside of Hong Kong.  Church leaders visited China a few times during the first half of the 20th century to assess conditions for missionary work but no missionaries were called.  In 1949, the Church opened the Chinese Mission with headquarters in Hong Kong.  A Church presence was established also in Macau, but the Church had little contact with the People’s Republic of China until the late 1970s.  Since 1989, the Church has sent members to work as English teachers in universities.  In 1986, branches were organized in Beijing and Xi’an as non-Chinese members moved to China temporarily for work and Chinese joined the Church elsewhere and returned to their homeland.[4]  In 1996, President Hinckley briefly visited China by invitation to Shenzhen to visit Chinese folk villages modeled after the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.[5]  No proselytism has occurred in the People’s Republic of China.  In recent years, non-Chinese members have moved to China for employment in greater numbers.  Greater freedom has also been granted to Chinese members who now may meet in segregated congregations from the foreign members and also may join the Church through family connections. 


Membership Growth

LDS Membership: less than 10,000 (2009)

By year-end 2000, there were likely over 1,000 Church members.  In 2010, membership was approaching 10,000.  Growth has occurred from foreigners – primarily Westerners – moving for temporary employment, Chinese who joined the Church abroad and return, and converts from part-member families.  


Congregational Growth

Branches: 34+

The Beijing China International (English) District was organized in 1998 and administered the entire country.  In the early 2000s, only two congregations functioned for foreigners and no independent branches appear to have been established for Chinese members.  In 2008, a second district international (English) district was organized in Shanghai.  In 2010, 14 branches functioned for English-speaking non-mainland Chinese and were based in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Tianjin, and Xi’an.  Two district branches met administrative needs for members living in remote cities with too few members to justify the creation of a branch.  In late 2009, the Beijing China International (English) District Branch had 11 organized groups.  In 2010, the district based in Beijing had eight branches and the district in Shanghai had six branches.  The most recently created branch was the Hangzhou branch in mid-2010.


In 2008, Elder Russell M. Ballard reported that there were approximately 20 small branches for Chinese members in mainland China which had government authorization to meet.[6]  Many Chinese members meet in groups throughout the country. 


Activity and Retention

Activity rates appear moderate or slightly higher than in most nations, but membership experiences high turnover due to the transient presence of most foreigners, such as English teachers and families temporarily employed in China.  Unknown inactive or less active members may greatly exceed the number on congregational roles due to the lack of any mechanism to track those who lose contact with the church.


Each of the international branches in Beijing appears to have over 100 active members.  Some branches like the Xi’an Branch had fewer than 30 active members in 2009.  The total number of active foreign members appears to be around 1,000.


Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Chinese (traditional), Chinese (simplified), Mongolian, Korean

All LDS scriptures are available in Chinese (both traditional and simplified characters), Mongolian, and Korean.  Most Church materials are available in Chinese.  Only a few materials are available in simplified characters, such as Gospel Principles and The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony.   A large selection of audio-visual materials is available in Mandarin and Cantonese.  LDS Church materials in Kazakh are limited to sacrament prayer translations, the Articles of Faith, and selected hymns and children’s songs. 



The Church has not built any meetinghouses in mainland China.  Congregations meet in government-approved locations.  Some members worship in the privacy of their homes. 


Health and Safety

Strict obedience to government policies pertaining to religious conduct is required for the perpetuation of positive relations between the Church and the government.  Deviation from government approved activities jeopardizes the legitimacy of any Church activity among Chinese citizens and foreigners, is against Church policy, and poses risks to individual members.  Other religious groups that have disregarded local laws or suffer poor relations with the government have had many members arrested and sentenced to labor camps for charges of disrupting public order. 


Pollution and the negative environmental impact of rapid industrialization over the past few decades have deteriorated the health for many Chinese.  Most of the largest cities have poor air quality.  The leading cause of death is respiratory and health diseases resulting from air pollution.   Approximately 300 million are estimated to drink contaminated water. 


Humanitarian and Development Work

As of 2009, the Church had conducted at least 26 humanitarian or development projects in China.  These projects primarily consisted of book donations to school libraries, English and educational training, clean water projects, emergency relief, and wheelchairs.[7]  In 1998, the Church donated $15,000 for humanitarian assistance for flood victims.[8] 


Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects


Religious Freedom

The amount of religious freedom and tolerance for both local and foreign members to worship – albeit always separately – is a major opportunity the Church has gained in the past decade which has been essential for current and future church growth.  Chinese officials have permitted local members to share the gospel with family members.  Non-natives do not appear to face proselytism restrictions among foreigners.  Many Chinese members join the Church abroad in nations with greater religious freedom and later return to China.  Foreign members may receive training and visits from international Church leadership.  Government does not permit international Church leaders to train and meet with local Chinese members.  The Church will likely find opportunities for humanitarian and development work in rural areas, which may one day help lay the foundation for mission outreach. 


Cultural Issues

In addition to increasing materialism and consumer-oriented culture in many of the largest cities, most Chinese are not religious due to the communist legacy.  Many of the urban areas in which the Church would be most likely to receive permission to begin mission outreach work have highly secularized populations which have little exposure to religion.  The high percentage of non-religious does the potential for difficulties with traditions that may interfere with LDS teachings, but the Church will likely face challenges in motivating potential converts to fully embrace the gospel and make necessary changes in lifestyle to not only remain active in the Church but also serve as leaders and teachers for others.  Most Chinese find Christianity peculiar and are very surprised when they encounter someone who attends a church regularly.  Latter-day Saints emphasis on the family resonates well with many Chinese and is of central importance to current and future outreach.  The One Child Policy has created many demographic challenges regarding the male-female gender ratio.  In the long term, this may lead some male members unable to marry due to a shortage of Chinese women in some areas. 


The drinking of green tea is a cultural practice prohibited by LDS Church teachings and can be source of tension as well as a testimony building issue for investigators, new converts, and less active members.  High smoking rates and moderate alcohol use pose challenges for many to who habitually engaged in these practices prohibited by the Church.


Traditional Chinese religion is a syncretic mix of Confucian philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism, and folk traditions.  All of these religions are primarily individual and meditative, with little emphasis on organized worship.  Many Christian principles, such as the existence of an all-powerful God instead of a nebulous harmony of the universe, need for a Savior, and  even the existence of sin, are foreign to many Chinese. In particular, the break of Christianity from the tradition of ancestors, the concept of a caring God who can hear and answer prayers, the need for organized worship and service in the church, principles of divine authority, and the idea of one true church as opposed to the development of personal worldview from syncretic elements of competing faiths and philosophies, all pose challenges for many LDS investigators.  Chinese have their own strong sense of ethics and morality, although the need for such behaviors tends to be explained by the need for societal order, achieving harmony, maintaining order, and following the pattern of the heavens, in contrast to Judeo-Christian concepts of obedience, sin, repentance, and judgment, although considerable commonality exists when semantic barriers are bridged.


While historically very family-oriented, secularization in China has led to an increasing gap between traditional values and contemporary behaviors.  In China, 70 percent of Beijing residents reported sex before marriage in 2005, compared to just 15 percent in 1989.[9]  A poll of 900 female university graduates in Shanghai conducted by journalism professor Liao Shengqing and reported in the People's Daily Newspaper found that 70% think that one-night stands are not immoral.[10]  The information age has resulted in greater exposure for the Church and greater opportunities for sharing the gospel, even as some problematic behaviors contrary to church teachings have become more prevalent.


National Outreach

With the exception of personal contacts of members, the entire population of 1.33 billion remains unreached by mission outreach.  Only one percent of the population would be LDS if the Church’s entire membership of 14 million lived in China.  If missionary work occurred in cities with an established LDS English-speaking branch, just three percent of the national population would have access to mission outreach.  The Church has made considerable progress among natives in cities with English-speaking branches also have congregations designated for Chinese members.  Some large cities without English-speaking congregations have Chinese-designated congregations, such as Kunming in Yunnan Province.  


The Church will face major mission logistic challenges once full-time missionaries serve in China as China’s population exceeds that of North and South America combined by half a billion.  Current international mission resources could not efficiently administer to such as large population even if they were all entirely dedicated to China.  If the average of one LDS mission per four million people in North and South America were applied to China, the Church would need to create 333 missions; just seven shy of the worldwide total in 2010.  Even if there was one LDS mission per 20 million people (the mission-population ratio in Japan), the Church would need to operate 67 Chinese missions. 


Traditional LDS paradigms of missions staffed primarily by full-time proselyting missionaries are unlikely to be implemented in China for two reasons. First, the strong preference given to native Chinese and the heavy restrictions on foreigners, especially as relates to proselytism, will require that outreach efforts be conducted primarily, and likely exclusively, through native leaders and native member-missionaries.  Second, the LDS missionary force has plateaued in recent years due to declining LDS birth rates and slower growth, and the Church has the lacked the free resources and manpower to assign missionaries even to some unreached nations which allow proselyting, like Senegal at present or Kyrgyzstan in the 1990s.  The limited LDS mission resources which could potentially be mobilized are wholly inadequate to the serve China's vast population.  For both legal and practical reasons, future LDS outreach in China will inevitably depend primarily upon the outreach of local members.  Denominations like the Seventh-day Adventists which grow primarily through local member outreach have therefore experienced considerable outreach advantages over Latter-day Saints due to the traditional LDS dependence on full-time foreign missionaries and the lack of comparably well-organized member-missionary programs and resources.


Effective future LDS mission outreach will require wise appropriation of limited native missionary manpower, effective and independent congregational member-missionary programs, and the development of a self-sustaining native Chinese missionary force. 


Although China ranks the fourth largest among nations in geographic size, many regions are sparsely populated.  The western half of China accounts for about 10% of the population as the southwest is mountainous and the northwest is primarily desert. 90% of the population lives in the eastern half of China.  The most densely populated areas include the Sichuan Basin, coastal areas between Beijing and Hong Kong, and interior areas between Shanghai, Beijing, and Zhengzhou.  Half the national population resides in eight of the 22 mainland provinces which include Guangdong (113 million), Henan (99 million), Shandong (92 million), Sichuan (87 million), Jiangsu (75.5 million), Hebei (68 million), Hunan (67 million), and Anhui (65 million).  Mission planners can maximize the scope of potential mission outreach by allocating resources and development work to these most populous provinces. 


Large Chinese communities exist in most nations around the world and currently provide a portal to mission outreach to mainland China within the confines of Chinese law.  Several nations with only a few hundred Latter-day Saints have many Chinese LDS members, such as Greece and Cyprus.  Chinese-speaking congregations have been organized in the United States (12 Chinese, 2 Mandarin), Canada (3 Mandarin, 2 Chinese, 1 Cantonese), Australia (2 Chinese), Malaysia (1 Mandarin), and Singapore (1 Chinese).  One Mandarin-speaking branch operates in Hong Kong.   Missionaries over the past decade have been called in increasing numbers to serve Mandarin-speaking missions in areas throughout the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia.  Chinese-speaking congregations outside of China and Chinese mission outreach worldwide help coordinate efforts for members returning to mainland China and provide outreach among the large Chinese population living abroad. 


Ethnic minority groups with significant LDS memberships outside China may be more receptive to future mission outreach initiatives even if they tend to reside in less-densely populated areas which would ordinarily not receive outreach for decades following the initial start of proselytism.   The Church has well-developed leadership and mission outreach capabilities in South Korea and Mongolia.  Korean and Mongolian Chinese number in the millions and sometimes travel to these two nations.  These individuals may join the Church outside the country and return home and help prepare to establish the Church in rural or isolated locations in Inner Mongolia or along the North Korean border.  In 2009, South Korea alone had over 600,000 Chinese foreign residents. 71% were ethnic Koreans; most of whom resided in the Seoul area.[11]  Some mission outreach among this group has occurred through both member referrals and missionary proselytism. 


Member Activity and Convert Retention

The source of converts from the relatives of members appears to have produced high convert retention and strong member activity.  Members baptized abroad who return to China are the most likely to go inactive as many live in areas where there is no congregation or only a handful of members to provide fellowshipping.  Furthermore, many are unaware of any Church presence in China and do not have contact information for congregations. 


Ethnic Issues and Integration

Government policy prohibiting the assembly of citizens and foreigners in the same congregation has reduced potential ethnic integration issues.  Ethnic issues may be somewhat present in international branches as members come from many nations.  For example, many Korean, Filipino, and American families attend the international branches. 


Non-Han Chinese comprise 8.5% of the national population and most of these ethnic groups have no known LDS members and have received no mission outreach.  Potential ethnic integration issues will may arise in remote provinces with high ethnic diversity and an increasing percentage of Han Chinese.  Xinjiang and Tibet have at times experienced  violence between these Uighurs, Tibetans, and Han Chinese .  Ethnic minority groups in eastern China may be prone to marginalization by outreach efforts targeting Han Chinese who primarily populate urban centers.   


Language Issues

Chinese is the oldest continuously used writing system in the world.  Modern Chinese employs a logographic script with over 47,000 monosyllabic characters, although many are variants, and full literacy requires knowledge of only 3,000-4,000 characters.  The first printing press was designed in China long before its invention in the West, although the vast number of characters made the press much less practical for Chinese than for alphabetic scripts. Written Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and scripts of some other small East Asian languages have borrowed heavily from Chinese characters.


The Chinese languages constitute a set of languages using the same writing system but different speech. The same text can generally be understood by both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, although the spoken languages are mutually unintelligible.  Government efforts for nationwide use of Mandarin Chinese reduce the initial need for a wide range of language resources for mission outreach efforts, as well as the much greater homogeneity of the Chinese population compared to that of India.  The Church possesses a large body of previously translated Chinese ecclesiastical materials in traditional characters.  The Church has recently begun to invest in increasing the scope of materials in simplified characters, and completed the full translation of the Book of Mormon in 2001.  The demand for traditional character materials from the more numerous Chinese Church memberships found in Taiwan and elsewhere has reduced and impetus resources needed for translating additional materials into the simplified script.  High literacy rates maximize the efficiency and application of church literature. 


The use of Chinese characters among many of China’s minority languages greatly reduces the demand for translating Church materials.  If non-native missionaries were allowed to proselyte in China, the Church would face major challenges in accommodating to regional dialects of the Chinese language and may standardize missionary work in Mandarin until missionaries began speaking and teaching in regional Chinese dialects.  Audio-visual materials are only available in Mandarin and Cantonese.  Language materials already translated into Mongolian, Korean, and Kazakh allow for greater potential outreach among these groups within the confines of Chinese law. 


No LDS materials have been translated into Zhuang, Miao, Uighur, Tibetan, Buyei, Nuosu, Dong, Bai, and about 200 additional languages; many of which have hundreds of thousands of speakers.  Most of these languages have adopted their own unique writing script or utilize a modified Latin script.  Proficiency and use in Mandarin Chinese as a second language varies by linguistic group. 


Missionary Service

No proselytism occurs in the People’s Republic of China.  The first full-time missionary to serve from China completed his mission in 2006.  As of 2010, fewer than 100 members from China are returned missionaries.  By the end of March 2010, 42 missionaries from mainland China were serving full-time missions, many in the United States and Canada.  



Elder Chu-Jen Chia became an Area Authority Seventy in the late 1990s and has directed the affairs of the Church in China for most of the past 15 years.  Church leaders in Hong Kong have provided assistance developing local leadership.  Chinese members in leadership positions require high levels in independency and stewardship over their congregations.  International branches benefit from many members who have lived in areas where the Church runs administrative functions smoothly.  Inadequate local leadership for foreign members becomes only an issue in areas where total foreign members is extremely limited. 



China belongs to the Hong Kong China Temple district.  Although many aspects of religious freedom are suppressed and the few members live long distances apart and in too few quantities to create stakes, the nearby temple which is easily accessed by train throughout much of eastern China provides unique opportunities for new members to participate in temple ordinances.   Detailed family histories and records provide an ample supply of family history names of Church members to perform temple ordinances in behalf of in the Hong Kong China Temple.  


Comparative Growth

Due to its large geographic size, enormous population, and government restrictions, China remains one of the least reached nations.  Hong Kong has had an official Church presence for 60 years and had over 24,000 members in 2009.  One in 294 in Hong Kong is nominally LDS.  If China experienced the same ratio there would be 4.5 million members nationwide.  The number of Church members in China is comparable to India.  Membership growth in China during the 2000s has been among the most rapid over the past decade among nations with fewer than 10,000 members.  China is perhaps the only nation in which the Church's rapid growth in recent years has been significantly influenced by natives joining the Church outside the country and returning in large numbers.


Larger Christian denominations tend to have had a presence for several decades or were first established prior to the communist takeover.  Many of these groups enjoy government registration and can operate under fewer restrictions than the LDS Church.  Seventh-day Adventists in particular have achieved significant breakthroughs in legal status and outreach and have reported rapid growth.  An underground Protestant "house church" movement claims between 40 and 100 million participants, although reliable figures are not available, as many of these groups operate outside of the la.  The LDS Church maintains one of the most positive and respectful relationships with the Chinese government and is careful to observe all government regulations and restrictions, while remaining one of the smallest Christian groups in China. 


Future Prospects

Government policy and law currently forbid proselytism by foreign or native missionaries and restricts the communication between Chinese nationals and international Church leaders.  One of the greatest limitations for future growth is an insufficient supply of local leadership, limited opportunities for mentoring and training from regional and worldwide LDS leadership, and restrictions on the importation and distribution of scriptures and church literature. 


Prospects for full recognition of the LDS Church and permissions for foreign missionaries in the medium term appear to be slim to none.  However, there is an excellent outlook for continued and growth through legal means of members sharing their beliefs with friends and family members and the resultant increase in authorized LDS congregations.  The quiet, rapid growth of LDS membership in China over the past decade has occurred principally through the relatives of current LDS members, and provides an excellent outlook for future long term growth and sustainability.  Furthermore outreach to Han Chinese outside mainland China continues to expand in vision with the calling of Chinese-speaking missionaries to serve in many nations around the world in addition to the creation of Chinese-speaking congregations abroad.   The rapid increase in full-time missionaries in the late 2000s is a major success which will promote long-term growth, increase future leadership manpower, and provides returned missionaries with valuable experience in Church administration in areas where the Church is most established in the United States and other nations in which they may serve.


In contrast to the entry of the LDS Church into Russia following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a basic LDS administrative infrastructure is in place in many regions of China.  The Church overall was not fully prepared to meet the needs and opportunities presented when Russia opened to missionary work and consequently experienced low retention, limited national outreach expansion following the first decade of formal missionary activity, and poor local leadership development.  The Church has learned many lessons from Russia and has placed a stronger emphasis on member-missionary work in a family setting in accordance with government policy and local laws. 


Regional Profiles

Although there are no prospects at present for the organization of formal full-time proselytizing missions in China, the continued growth through member-missionary outreach to relatives and the proselytism of Chinese residents overseas has resulted in the creation of some new congregations over the past decade.  As Chinese continue to accept the gospel in their homeland or abroad, it is likely that LDS congregations may eventually be organized in new provinces in coming years. 


This section explores potential issues for church growth in different provinces of China through continued member-missionary efforts, although many provinces currently have no church presence.  It also considers issues that may arise if more formal missionary work were one day permitted, although such prospects are presently remote.  There is no formal missionary activity and no  proposed plans from Church leadership for outreach in mainland China; local growth has resulted solely from the self-directed efforts of native members.  The authors are solely responsible for any opinions expressed.  All Church affairs are segregated between Chinese nationals and foreigners. 



Population: 61,350,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (99%), Hui (0.6%), other (0.4%)


Located in east central China south of Beijing, Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese constitute almost the entire population.  Very few members have lived in this province.  The homogeneous population reduces the potential for language and ethnic integration issues, but distance from church centers and few members in the province may make Anhui a lower priority for future outreach. 



Population: 22,000,000 (2010)

Peoples: Han (95.7%), Manchu (1.8%), Hui (1.7%), Mongol (0.3%), other (0.5%)


The capital of China, Beijing is one of the largest cities and is central to future mission outreach nationwide.  Beijing is one of only two cities in China with at least two English speaking congregations.  Chinese natives also meet in Beijing in organized congregations.  Due to its small geographical area and high population density, the Church fewer outreach centers will be needed if formal missionary work occurs one day. 



Population: 31,442,300 (2007)

Peoples: Han (91%), Tujia (5%), Miao (2%), other (2%)


Located in the Sichuan Basin near the Three Gorges Dam, Chongqing has a Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese Majority with Tujia and Maio minorities.  Chongqing had no branches organized for non-Chinese members in 2010.  However its small geographic size and large population will likely make it a target for future mission outreach one day.  Together with nearby Chengdu, Chongqing may oneday serve as a center for Church operations in the Sichuan Basin.



Population: 36,270,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (98%), She (1%), Hui (0.3%), other (0.7%)


Located between Hong Kong and Shanghai bordering the East China Sea, Fujian is primarily Min-speaking Han Chinese.  The She are a small minority and speak She and Hakka Chinese.  Few members appear to currently reside in the province.  LDS missionaries serving in New York City report that they frequently work with Fujian natives.  Short-term growth may be achieved by Fujian locals joining the Church abroad and returning to their home province.  Local full-time missionaries will likely be needed for initial outreach due to the widespread use of Min Chinese. 



Population: 26,350,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (91%), Hui (5%), Dongxiang (2%), Tibetan (2%)


Located in north central China, Gansu is a large, sparsely populated province which is primarily Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese.  Chinese Muslim peoples such as the Hui and Dongxiang account for seven percent of the population.  Gansu has one of the lowest standards of living in China and may be a suitable location for future humanitarian and development work.  Few if any members live in the province today. 



Population: 113,000,000 (2010)

Peoples: Han (99%), Zhuang (0.7%), Yao (0.2%), other (0.1%)


China’s most populated province, Guangdong has a population greater than all but the ten largest nations worldwide.  Located in southern China, Guangdong surrounds Hong Kong and Macao and is home to Guangzhou – one of the largest cities in China.  The population is almost completely Han Chinese speaking Min, Hakka, Mandarin, and Cantonese.  The Church organized an English branch in Guangzhou in the past decade which has a large active membership.  Guangzhou also appears to be a center of strength among native Chinese membership and may oneday administer missionary activity in South China.  The Church has many international members who claim ancestry from Guangdong and speak Cantonese. 



Population: 48,670,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (62%), Zhuang (32%), Yao (3%), Miao (1%), Dong (0.7%), Gelao (0.4%), other (0.9%)


Guangxi is an autonomous region in southern China bordering Vietnam and home of the Zhuang people.  Han Chinese have a smaller presence than in most provinces or regions, but constitute the majority and speak Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hakka Chinese.  Zhuang account for a third of the population and have no LDS materials available in their language.  Other ethnic minorities constitute about six percent of the population.  The Church appears to have never had a presence in Guangxi and has had few if any converts outside China among non-Han Chinese ethnic groups found in the region.  Guangxi is also among the least Christian Chinese provinces.  Nanning will be central to the establishment of any future outreach due to its large population and central location. 



Population: 37,960,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (62%), Miao (12%), Buyi (8%), Dong (5%), Tujia (4%), Yi (2%), Gelao (2%), Shui (1%), other (4%)


A mountainous province in southern China, Guizhou a population which is less than two-thirds Han Chinese.   Non-Han ethnic groups in Guizhou with over one million people include Miao, Buyi, Dong, and Tujia; the eponymous languages have no LDS materials available.  Due to ethnic diversity, remote location, and few LDS members, outreach in Guizhou will likely occur among the last for Chinese provinces. 



Population: 8,640,700 (2009)

Peoples: Han (82%), Li (16%), Miao (0.8%), Zhuang (0.7%), other (0.5%)


Hainan is a large island located in the South China Sea just off the mainland.  Han Chinese form the majority and primarily speak Min Chinese.  Li are a large minority that speak their own language which has no LDS materials translated.  Due to Hainan’s separation from the mainland and comparatively small population and few members, outreach may not occur for many years.



Population: 69,890,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (95%), Manchu (3%), Hui (0.8%), Mongol (0.3%), other (0.9%)


Surrounding much of Beijing Municipality, Hebei has a Mandarin-speaking population which is almost entirely Han with small Manchu, Hui, and Mongol minorities.  Hebei provides excellent future mission outreach opportunities as the province contains many large cities, a large population, and close proximity to Beijing.  Local Chinese Latter-day Saints are established in some of the largest cities.  In 2010, a missionary from Baoding was serving in the Salt Lake City area. 



Population: 38,300,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (95%), Manchu (3%), Korean (1%), Mongol (0.4%), Hui (0.3%), other (0.3%)


Occupying the northeastern most area of China, Heilongjiang borders Russia and has a predominantly Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese population.  The largest ethnic minority groups are Manchu and Korean.  Heilongjiang is among the most remote provinces in eastern China, but the presence of several major cities will likely facilitate the growth and development of the Church in the future.  Little language diversity will assist in mission efforts and reduce ethnic integration challenges.  Christians are most commonly found among Han Chinese. 



Population: 98,690,000 (2007)

Peoples: Han (98.8%), Hui (1%), other (0.2%)


The second most populous province in China, Henan is Mandarin Chinese speaking has a homogenous Han Chinese population and a small Hui minority.  Henan is in the heartland of China yet has a minimal LDS presence and no English-speaking branches.  Distance from Beijing and Shanghai may reduce initial outreach, but Henan’s large population will likely require at least half a dozen LDS missions to reach most of the urban population.  Henan has one of the largest percentages of Christians among Chinese provinces, which may increase receptivity to prospective LDS missionary activity. 



Population: 59,490,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (95.6%), Tujia (3.7%), Miao (0.4%), other (0.3%)


Hubei is in central China and is predominantly Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese.  Tujia account for the largest minority group which has no LDS materials translated in their native language.  Capital of Hubei, Wuhan is one of the largest cities in China and is the most populous city without an English branch.  Outreach efforts in Wuhan alone will require a large amount of mission resources and local member participation and will likely influence the expansion of mission outreach in the large region between Shanghai and Chengdu. 



Population: 63,930,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (90%), Tujia (4%), Miao (3%), Dong (1%), Yao (1%), other (1%)


Located in southern China north of Guangzhou and home province of Mao Zedong, most of the population is Han Chinese speaking Xiang Chinese and Mandarin Chinese.  The largest ethnic minorities include Tujia, Miao, Dong, and Yao.  The Church has no materials translated in any of these ethnic minority languages.  Due to distance from established Church centers elsewhere in the country, the LDS mission efforts may be limited to the capital Changsha for many years.  The large Xiang Chinese-speaking population will most likely require the use of native missionaries in any prospective proselytism in Hunan. 


Inner Mongolia

Population: 23,840,000 (2004)

Peoples: Han (79%), Mongol (17%), Manchu (2%), Hui (0.9%), Daur (0.3%), other (0.8%)


Consisting of a large, sparsely populated region along the Mongolian border, Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region which is predominantly populated by Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese.  Chinese settled the region in the past few centuries whereas Mongolians have populated Inner Mongolia for millennia.  Mongolians in Inner Mongolian tend to use the traditional Mongolian script and constitute the largest concentration of Mongolians in any area of the world. Only 2.6 million Mongolians live in the nation of Mongolia, sometimes referred to as Outer Mongolia, compared to at least four million in China's Inner Mongolia province.  The Church has translated all LDS scriptures and a wide range of materials into Mongolian as written in the Cyrillic script used since Soviet times in Mongolia proper, but has no materials in the traditional Mongolian script used in Inner Mongolia.


With the largest percentage of Mongolians of any region or province, Inner Mongolia may one day experience considerable church growth, as Mongolians have been uniquely receptive to the Church.  Familial ties and the strong LDS presence in neighboring Mongolia may facilitate greater outreach and growth than in other areas of China. The Trans-Mongolian Railway links Mongolian peoples between Ulan-Ude in Russia, Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and Jining, Inner Mongolia, China, and a mutual agreement between China and Mongolia allows visa-free travel to citizens of each.However, ties between Inner Mongolia and the nation of Mongolia have been attenuated by separation since the 1920s under Chinese and Russian spheres of influence, respectively, and family relationships between Mongolians in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia proper are now fairly remote after decades of separation.  Mongolian trains run on the wider Russian gauge, whereas the Chinese side uses a smaller Russian gauge; the entire chassis must be changed at border crossings, which can take several hours.  Furthermore, most of the population in Mongolia is concentrated in the north.  The Gobi Desert and rugged mountains occupy much of the south of Mongolia and the northern portions of Inner Mongolia. Mongolian settlements on the Mongolian side and on the Chinese side are generally not in close proximity, and natural barriers as well as logistical difficulties serve to enforce the separation.  The large LDS membership in Mongolia proper has to this date not resulted in any known church growth in Inner Mongolia, notwithstanding kinship and a common language.


Due to its large population and central location, a congregation may eventually be organized in the capital, Hohhot.  Future ethnic integration issues between Han Chinese and Mongolians may occur. However, Mongolians appear to be relatively well integrated into China compared to some other groups due to longstanding ties and considerable Sinicization; China was ruled by the Mongolian Yuan dynasty founded by Kublai Khan from 1271 to 1368 AD.



Population: 77,245,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (99.6%), Hui (0.2%), other (0.2%)


North of Shanghai, Jiangsu is one of the most densely populated and homogenously Han Chinese provinces.  The Church established an English-speaking branch in the 2000s for foreign members in Nanjing.  Close proximity to Shanghai provide easy access.



Population: 44,000,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (99.7%), She (0.2%), other (0.1%)


One of the most homogenously Han Chinese provinces, Jiangxi is north of Guangzhou and west of Shanghai.  Gan and Mandarin Chinese are most commonly spoken.  Although Jiangxi is close to some of China’s largest cities, it remains a one of the poorer provinces.  Jiangxi has a large rural or small city dwelling population, which will one day require many outreach centers.  Initial efforts will most likely concentrate on the capital, Nanchang. 



Population: 27,400,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (91%), Korean (4%), Manchu (4%), Mongol (0.6%), Hui (0.4%)


Jilin consists of a Han population with visible Korean and Manchu minorities speaking Mandarin Chinese or Korean.  Koreans are concentrated in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture along North Korean.  Jilin shares many similarities with neighboring Manchurian provinces, yet has a smaller population.  Christians are especially visible among Koreans.  Outreach in Jilin will most likely occur from Heilongjiang or Liaoning Provinces and commence in the capital, Changchun. 



Population: 43,060,000 (2008)

Peoples: Han (84%), Manchu (13%), Mongol (2%), Hui (0.6%), Korean (0.6%), Xibe (0.3%), other (0.1%)


Located in southern Manchuria bordering North Korea, Liaoning has a Han Chinese majority population with a significant Manchu minority and few Mongols, Hui, and Koreans.  Mandarin Chinese is spoken by most.  Many large cities such as Shenyang, Dalian, and Anshan are industrial centers and Liaoning overall enjoys a higher standard of living than most other provinces.  Establishing mission outreach centers in the many large cities concentrated between Shenyang and the Yellow Sea allow for fewer mission resources to reach a large portion of the population.  Christians are particularly concentrated among Koreans.  All LDS scriptures and many church materials are available in Korean and Mongolian.  It is unclear how responsive Manchu will be to prospective outreach; Manchus are a distinct ethnic group distantly related to Mongolians and Turkic peoples, but most now speak Mandarin.  Prospects for future church growth in Liaoning appear high; Shenyang may one day become a church center for Manchuria. 



Population: 6,220,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (62%), Hui (34%), Manchu (0.4%), other (3.6%)


With a relatively small population, Ningxia is in central China south of Inner Mongolia and is the Chinese administrative division with the highest percentage of Hui.  The Han Chinese are the majority and have arrived in greater numbers through immigration.  The Hui comprise a third of the population and descended primarily from Chinese traders along the Silk Road during the Middle Ages.  Hui speak Chinese languages and do not require separate language materials for mission outreach.  Extending mission outreach among the Hui may be challenging due to their adherence to Islam and may include proselytizing restrictions, low receptivity, and ethnic integration challenges with Han Chinese in church congregations.  Christian groups report little success working with the Hui. 



Population: 5,570,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (53%), Tibetan (23%), Hui (16%), Tu (4%), Salar (1.8%), Mongol (1.8%), other (0.4%)


Qinghai is located in western China northeast of the Tibetan Plateau.  Han Chinese form a slight majority whereas the largest minority ethnic groups include Tibetans and Hui.  Few large cities and a small population concentrated in rural areas require a greater number of mission outreach centers to effectively preach the gospel to the majority of the population.  Prospects for future Church establishment appear highest for the largest city Xining.  No LDS materials are available in Tibetan, Tu, or  Salar, limiting outreach potential among these groups. 



Population: 37,720,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (99.5%), Hui (0.4%), other (0.1%)


Located in Central China, Shaanxi is a province with a fairly homogenous population of Han Chinese. The ancient Chinese capital of Xian is located in Shaanxi.  The Church organized an English branch in Xian in the mid to late 2000s. 



Population: 94,000,000 (2008)

Peoples: Han (99.3%), Hui (0.6%), other (0.1%)


Occupying densely population areas between Shanghai and Beijing, Shandong is one of the most populous Chinese provinces and among the most ethnically homogenous.  The Church established an English-speaking branch in the mid-2000s in Qingdao.  Close proximity to Beijing and Shanghai together with its large population will likely facilitate mission outreach in Shandong prior to many other areas in China. 



Population: 19,210,000 (2009)


China’s most populous city and center of finance, Shanghai is a municipality and enjoys the highest standard of living among all of China’s administrative divisions and is a major cultural influence for the rest of the country.  In addition to attracting many migrant workers from across China, Shanghai has a strong foreign community primarily consisting of Westerners, Koreans, and Taiwanese.  The most commonly spoken languages are Wu and Mandarin Chinese.  Shanghai’s large, centralized population allows for fewer outreach centers than many other areas of the country, but rising materialism and secularism may significantly reduce receptivity to the Church prior to any formal missionary activity.  The Church possesses some of its strongest foreign and native congregations in Shanghai, creating infrastructure of continued growth.  The Church organized the Shanghai China International (English) District in 2008, and in 2010 had two English-speaking branches in Shanghai.  Outreach among migrant workers in Shanghai may one day facilitate the introduction of the Church into other provinces. 



Population: 33,350,000 (2004)

Peoples: Han (99.7%), Hui (0.2%), other (0.1%)


Located between Beijing and Xian, Shanxi Province has a Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese population and few large cities.  Low ethnic diversity help simplify outreach efforts, but Shanxi will likely be a low priority due to its few large cities and distance from large cities in neighboring provinces.



Population: 81,620,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (95%), Yi (2.6%), Tibetan (1.5%), Qiang (0.4%), other (0.5%)


One of the most populous Chinese provinces, Sichuan is located in central China east of Tibet.  The Han Chinese speak the regional dialect of Mandarin Chinese and account for almost the entire population.  Yi and Tibetans constitute a small minority and speak their ethnic languages – both of which have no translated LDS materials.  Sichuan province is of major importance to future outreach in southern and central China due to its large population and location.  Chengdu and other large cities in the densely populated areas nearby Chongqing appear most likely for initial spread of church membership. 



Population: 12,281,600 (2009)

Peoples: Han (97%), Hui (2%), Manchu (0.6%), other (0.4%)


One of China’s largest cities nearby Beijing, Tianjin is a municipality with a homogenous Mandarin-speaking Han population and a small Hui minority.  The Church has had an English-speaking branch functioning in the city for several years and likely has a native Chinese LDS community.  Tianjin will likely require feweroutreach centers and has the potential for self-sustaining church growth due to its centralized population, lack of ethnic and linguistic diversity, and emerging LDS community.  


Tibet Autonomous Region

Population: 2,910,000 (2009)

Peoples: Tibetan (92.8%), Han (6.1%), Hui (0.3%), Monpa (0.3%), other (0.5%)


Occupying the Tibetan Plateau between the Indian subcontinent and central China, Tibet is geographically one of the largest administrative divisions in China but has one of the smallest populations.  Tibet is the administrative division in which there is the smallest percentage of Han Chinese.  The population is nearly all Tibetan but Han Chinese have been steadily immigrating.  Throughout most of history, Tibet has maintained its sovereignty and political affairs as a nation state but with significant influence from Mongolia, China, and Nepal.  Tibetans regard the Dalai Lama – the religious and nationalistic head of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism – as a perpetual reincarnation of previous Buddhist sages. 


Tibet’s rural and relatively religious population may become one of the more resistant to LDS mission outreach in China, along with the Uighur in the northwest.  Friction between Tibetans and recently immigrated Han Chinese present difficulties.  Ethnic and historic ties with Mongolians, who have been uniquely receptive to church teachings, may be a factor which will result in receptivity and interest.  There have been few if any Tibetan converts. Tibetans retain strong ties to their traditional culture and language. The government has also restricted access to Tibet since 2008 for security reasons. The LDS Church remains without Tibetan language resources, limiting outreach potential. 



Population: 21,590,000 (2009)

Peoples: Uighur (45%), Han (41%), Kazakh (7%), Hui (5%), Kyrgyz (0.9%), Mongol (0.8%), Dongxiang (0.3%), Tajiks (0.2%), Xibe (0.2%), other (0.2%)


Encompassing the far northwestern deserts, basins, and mountains of Western China, Xinjiang is an autonomous region with no ethnic majority populated primarily by Muslim Turkic and Chinese peoples.  Religious affiliation and ethnicity are highly correlated.  The government has encouraged the immigration of Han Chinese from eastern provinces in order to reduce Uighur separatist tendencies and increase national integration.  Significant conflict and civil unrest has occurred in recent years between these two groups in Xinjiang and elsewhere.  Today Uighurs and Han Chinese each account for over 40% of the population. The remainder of the population consists primarily of Turkic peoples or Muslim Chinese peoples, such as the Hui.  With the exception of the Hui, each people speak their respective ethnic languages.  Languages in Xinjiang which have LDS materials include Chinese, Kazakh, and Mongolian.  Future LDS mission efforts among the Muslim-majority will likely encounter the same issues experienced by the Church in other Muslim-majority areas such as proselytizing and conversion restrictions, restricted religious freedom for non-Muslims, and challenges establishing an LDS community consisting of former Muslim converts. Outreach conducted in Uighur and Mandarin Chinese can potentially reach 86% of the population in their native language.  Remote location, sparse population, and long distance from more populated areas, will challenge any future outreach.   Initial efforts will most likely focus on the largest city, Urumqi.  Missionary manpower and kin relationships from Mongolia and Kazakhstan may helpful in reaching non-Han Chinese ethnicities, although such relationships are generally remote.   In the late 2000s, there was at least one Uighur convert who resided in Utah.



Population: 45,710,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (67%), Yi (11%), Bai (3.6%), Hani (3.4%), Zhuang (2.7%), Dai (2.7%), Miao (2.5%), Hui (1.5%), Tibetan (0.3%), other (5.3%)


Located in southern China bordering Burma, Laos, and Vietnam, mountainous Yunnan Province is one of China’s most ethnically diverse provinces.  Han Chinese account for two-thirds of the population whereas one-third consists of about 25 ethnic groups.  The largest non-Han Chinese groups include the Yi, Bai, Han, Zhuang, Dai, and Miao.  The LDS Church has no materials translated in any languages spoken by non-Han Chinese and has had no past experience proselytizing these ethnic groups.  Many of these groups have active Christian adherents.  Remote location, lower standards of living than most provinces, and mountainous terrain will further limit future outreach in Yunnan.  The Church has a small presence among non-foreigners in Kunming and has had missionaries from the city serve in the United States in recent years.



Population: 51,800,000 (2009)

Peoples: Han (99.2%), She (0.4%), other (0.4%)


Zhejiang Province is just south of Shanghai and the homogeneous population consists of Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese.  Little ethnic and language diversity may facilitate future outreach efforts.  The Church organized an English-speaking branch for foreigners in 2010 in Hangzhou and may have a small native LDS community.  Close proximity to Shanghai, high standards of living, and a larger Christian community than many other provinces may facilitate future church growth. 


[1] Temple, Robert. The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention.  Inner Traditions International, Limited, 2007.

[2]  “China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau), International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[3]  “China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau), International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[4]  “China,” Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, p. 314

[5]  Avant, Gerry.  “President Hinckley visits China,” 1 June 1996.

[6]  “Elder Ballard speaks on future BYUH, PCC roles,” BYU Hawaii Newsroom, 11 June 2008.

[7]  “Projects – China,” Humanitarian Activities Worldwide, retrieved 12 July 2010.,13501,4607-1-2008-227,00.html

[8]  “Church gives aid to China,” LDS Church News, 5 September 1998.

[9] Beech, Hannah, "Sex Please -- We're Young and Chinese," Time Asia Magazine, January 23, 2006.

[10] "Porn unblocked for Chinese web users," 23 July 2010,, accessed 1 August 2010.

[11]  “More Than 1 Million Foreigners Live in Korea,” The Chosun Ilbo, 6 August 2009.