For a long time after 1949, religion was banned in China, and churches, mosques and temples closed – many of them were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. While this is still an officially atheist state, there is considerably more scope for personal and public worship now. Minority peoples such as the Hui and Uighurs have been Muslim for centuries, Tibetans are of course Buddhist and Christianity in particular is seeing a renaissance among the majority Han, as young Chinese people perceive it as imparting a healthier message and lifestyle than the selfish consumerism that has taken hold in recent decades.

There are five officially recognised religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. Judaism and other religions are not banned and can also be observed.

The Chinese religious tradition has always entailed a mix-and-match approach, with Buddhism arriving from India 1500 years ago (taking on its own special form in Tibet) and adding certain aspects of Daoism as time went on. Animism and ancestor worship have been important for millennia, and continue to be. Just witness the huge traffic jams on Qingmingjie, an official holiday during which families sweep the tombs of their ancestors and burn fake money (and these days, intricate paper mobile phones or cars) as gifts for the departed in the next world.

Islam originally made landfall in China through Arab merchants in the south, but made most progress along the Silk Road in northwest China. The Uighurs in Xinjiang are predominantly Muslim, and the Chinese Hui minority numbers about ten million, practising a flexible form of Islam that, for instance, does not proscribe alcohol. Mosques in Shanghai cater to them as well as the foreign community.

Shanghai has a special place in Jewish history: thousands came here to escape the Russian Revolution, and then as persecution increased and the Holocaust loomed, a second wave came – Shanghai was one of the few ports in the world accepting Jewish refugees at the time. Tens of thousands of Jewish people settled here, many in Hongkou, playing a huge part in the dynamism of the city pre-war. With the Japanese occupation, while they were safe, life was unpleasant (there was a Shanghai Ghetto); and post-1949, the vast majority left.

Christanity found some purchase during the Ming Dynasty when celebrated scientist and gentleman Xu Guangqi converted to Catholicism – Xujiahui is named after him, and Xujiahui Cathedral is the most impressive church in the city. However, it only had a serious impact on the city and surrounding provinces with the advent of the Concession era and the spread of missionaries. This left Christianity with a serious image problem, as an aspect of the ‘century of humiliation’ taught in history books here. However, by now it’s generally associated with the admired aspects of Western culture and is increasingly popular among the sophisticated young looking for a different approach to spirituality.

See our listings below for places of worship that serve the foreign community here, or places that offer historical background or more information about observing your faith in Shanghai.


St Ignatius Cathedral (Xujiahui Cathedral)

English service 12pm Sun
158 Puxi Lu
6469 0930

Sacred Heart of Jesus

English service 5pm Sat, 10:30am Sun
151 Hongfeng Lu, Pudong

St Peter’s Church

English service 5pm Sat, 10:30am Sun
270 Chongqing Nan Lu
6474 4974


All Saints Church

Call for service times
425 Fuxing Zhong Lu
6385 0906

Christian Multi-demoninational

Hengshan Community Church

English service 2pm and 4pm Sun
53 Hengshan Lu
6437 6576


Pudong Mosque

Call for more information
375 Yuanshen Lu, Pudong
5093 3289

Fuyou Lu Mosque

Call for more information
378 Fuyou Lu
6328 2135


Shanghai Jewish Center

Call for more information
Shang-Mira Garden Villa 1, 1720 Hongqiao Lu
6278 0225

Chabad Jewish Centre of Pudong

Service 6:30pm Friday
Villa 69 Tomson Riviera Garden, 2255 Luoshan Lu, by Huamu Lu
5878 2008

Ohel Rachel Synagogue

Call for more information
500 Shaanxi Bei Lu

Ohel Moshe Synagogue

Call for more information
62 Changyang Lu
6512 6669

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Moving Overseas as an Expat