Min Zhiting, 80; Leader of Officially Approved Taoist Group in China

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Min Zhiting, 80, leader of China's government-authorized body for the Taoist faith, died Saturday in Beijing, the official New China News Agency said. It did not give a cause of death.

Min was president of the China Taoist Assn., the government-monitored body to which all Taoist temples in China are required to belong.

Similar official groups exist for China's Buddhists, Muslims, Roman Catholics and Protestants. Believers who worship in unofficial settings are often harassed or arrested.

Taoism, an indigenous Chinese faith that began at least 25 centuries ago, is based on a belief in the Tao -- Chinese for "the way" -- an unseen force that envelops the universe.

The association says there are 30,000 to 40,000 Taoist priests in China, though the number of believers is unclear.

Min was born in Henan province in central China in 1924.

He served as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a high-level government advisory body of noncommunist figures.

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