In China, Mazu, a folk goddess of the sea, has an estimated 160 million followers and 4,000 temples devoted to her. Here, a statue of Mazu from a village temple is paraded around Meizhou Island in southern China's Fujian province during recent birthday celebrations. Ariana Lindquist for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ariana Lindquist for NPR

Crowds of tourists in Xiamen, China, visit the Buddhist Nanputuo Temple, which has more than a thousand years of history. Academics say that as Buddhist temples become popular tourist destinations, local governments are also getting a share of the entrance fees. Louisa Lim/NPR hide caption

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Du Shuzheng rebelled against her family more than 50 years ago to become a female imam. She has trained more than 70 women to become imams, but now there are few girls who want to enter the profession. Ariana Lindquist for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ariana Lindquist for NPR

Yao Hong worships at a Christian church in China's Protestant heartland. She's one of about 1,000 worshippers at the church. She believes it is patriotic to believe in God, and to pray for China's revival and well-being. Ariana Lindquist for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ariana Lindquist for NPR

Believers of the folk goddess Mazu on Meizhou Island off China's southeast coast carry a statue of her to the main square during a celebration of her 1,050th birthday. The goddess is believed to protect fishermen at sea and help the poor, and her popularity is growing. The Chinese government is now encouraging the worship of deities in the folk, Daoist and Buddhist pantheon. Ariana Lindquist for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ariana Lindquist for NPR