Performers take part in a dragon dance on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year of the Snake, in China town in Manila on February 9, 2013. The Dragon Dance is usually performed during the Chinese New Year to bring in good luck and prosperity as billions of Chinese world wide celebrate Lunar New Year of the Snake on February 10.
Credit: Jay Directo

In a rare discussion of the Chinese government’s policies on religion, China’s top religious affairs official told a state-run newspaper that the government wants its citizens to stop believing in superstitions about birth, death and fortune, Reuters reported.

"For a ruling party which follows Marxism, we need to help people establish a correct worldview and to scientifically deal with birth, aging, sickness and death, as well as fortune and misfortune, via popularizing scientific knowledge," Wang Zuoan, head of China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs, told the Study Times, according to Reuters.

While the Chinese government regularly bans superstitious practices, belief in pseudo science like palm reading, horoscopes, feng shui and rhino horn potions persists.

For example, "ghost marriages," in which families marry dead women to their deceased single sons, uncles and divorced fathers so they are not alone in the afterlife, are growing in popularity in spite of being banned decades ago. Familes pay a few hundred dollars to upwards of $7,000 for the corpses of these women, often stolen, GlobalPost reported in January.

And last year, China banned kindergartens in the northern Shanxi province from offering palm-reading tests to predict children's intelligence and aptitude for music and languages.

Wang explained that religious belief in China had grown as people sought reassurance in a country that was changing rapidly, according to Reuters. He said that the number of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Daoists in China probably exceeds the official estimate of 100 million.

"Religion basically upholds peace, reconciliation and harmony ... and can play its role in society," Wang said, according to Reuters. "But due to various complex factors, religion can become a lure for unrest and antagonism.”

More from GlobalPost: Lunar new year: What is the year of the snake?


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