The Bai Lian Jiao religion (also known as the White Lotus), including its god, Lian Hoaniannian, and the treatment of its followers by the Chinese authorities [CHN42709.E]

Information on the White Lotus religion is scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to information posted on the Website of the San José University in California, the White Lotus religion was a Buddhist sect that began some time possibly during the 12th century and that encompassed aspects of Daoism and Chinese native religions (n.d.). In a 2001 report, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) identified the White Lotus as a secret society, one of several through which Daoism had survived (11). MRG noted that secret societies such as the White Lotus had evolved from Buddhist ideals and had political agendas (MRG 2001, 11).

It is difficult to trace the history of the White Lotus because apparently its groups and members did not always identify themselves under that name (San José University n.d.).

Regarding rituals, the information posted on the Website of the San José University in California indicates that White Lotus groups "engaged only in chanting or reciting Buddhist sutras...which were supposed to clear the adherents' souls and prepare them for entry into Nirvana or the Pure Land " (n.d). In 1999, Maclean's reported that the White Lotus combines meditation with breathing exercises (9 Aug. 1999).

In general the Chinese authorities did not trust the White Lotus groups and following

...centuries of persecution the White Lotus religion changed ... from being meditative to being messianic [and] [b]egan looking toward the arrival of someone who would save them from their persecution, [which made] the authorities considerably more apprehensive about the sect and [caused an] increase [in] the persecution (n.d.).

The MRG provided corroborating information by noting that the White Lotus embraced the Maitreya tradition, which is that of the Buddha "who is yet to come" (2001, 11).

The White Lotus sects successfully launched a rebellion against the Manchu Qing Dynasty government in 1976 that lasted for eight years (San José University n.d.; MRG 2001, 11; The Dictionary of Global Culture 1997). Although the government successfully extinguished the rebellion, it was unable to extinguish the White Lotus groups (San José University n.d.). In 1999, Maclean's reported that the White Lotus had almost beensuccessful in overthrowing the Manchu Dynasty in 1813 (9 Aug. 1999).

The information on the Website of San José University in California also mentions the Nien, which was established during the 1842 rebellion in Shandong, Henan and Jiangsu provinces, as an offshoot of the White Lotus (n.d.).

The Nien Rebellion lasted until 1868, but after 1864 it was doomed. In 1863 the stronghold of the rebellion, Chih-ho, and its leader, Chang Loxing, was killed. The Rebellion picked up remnants of the Taiping Rebellion after the Taipings were defeated in 1864, but with the defeat of the Taipings the government could bring the full strength of its army against the Niens. In 1868 the Nien Rebellion was contained (n.d.).

MRG notes that White Lotus ideas "remain influential in parts of rural China to this day" (2001, 11).

Neither information on Lian Hoaniannian, the supposed god of the White Lotus, nor references to the treatment of its followers by the Chinese authorities, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Dictionary of Global Culture. 1997. Edited by Kwame Appiah and Henry Gates, Jr. New York: Alfred Knopf. [Accessed 25 June 2004]

MacLean's. 9 August 1999. Tom Fennell and Paul Mooney. "A Perceived Threat in China." (NEXIS)

Minority Rights Group International (MRG). 2001. "Religious Minorities and China." [Accessed 25 June 2004]

San José University, California. n.d. Thayer Watkins. "The White Lotus Religion in China." [Accessed 25 June 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), BBC, China Daily, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, Dialog/WNC, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom in the World 2003, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), International Religious Freedom Report 2003, United Kingdom - Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Xinhua.