Buddhism is a major religion in Taiwan. More than 90 percent of Taiwan's people practice the Chinese folk religion which integrates Buddhist elements alongside a basically Taoist base (with a role for religious specialists from both traditions during special occasions such as funerals). Of these, a smaller number identify more specifically with Chinese Buddhist teachings and institutions, without necessarily divorcing themselves from the folk practices. One study proposes that 7 to 15 percent of Taiwanese are Buddhist in the strict sense. Vegetarianism is an important practice which distinguishes this "pure" form of Buddhism.
Government statistics insist on distinguishing Buddhism and Taoism, resulting in almost equal numbers for both (in 2005, 8 million and 7.6 million, respectively, out of a total population of 23 million). However, many of the self-declared "Buddhists" turn out to be merely applying the name "Buddhism" to the folk religion. Buddhism may also be confused with local syncretic faiths such as I-kuan Tao, since these tend to emphasize Buddhist figures like Kwan Yin or Maitreya, and also practice vegetarianism.
Statistics provided by the Interior Ministry show that Taiwan's Buddhist population grew from 800,000 in 1983 to 4.9 million in 1995, a 600 percent increase against an overall population rise of about twelve percent. Additionally, in the same period the number of registered Buddhist temples increased from 1,157 to 4,020, and the number of monks and nuns was up 9,300 monks and nuns, up from 3,470 in 1983.