A Chinese temple is a worship place of the Chinese folk religion/Shenism, where people revere ethnic Chinese gods and ancestors. They can be distinguished into:
- miao (庙), simply meaning "temple" and mostly enshrining nature gods or national gods;
- ci (祠), citang (祠堂) or zongci (宗祠), referring to ancestral temples, mostly enshrining the ancestral gods of a family or clan.
These temples are different from:
Gong (宫), meaning "palace" is a term often used for large temples, especially Taoist, while yuan (院) is a generic term meaning "sanctuary" or "shrine".
Chinese indigenous religion's temples are established and administered by local managers, associations and worship communities; they don't have professional clergy, though Taoist clergy can be invited to perform certain rites. Shenist temples are usually small, very colourful (by contrast with Taoist temples which by tradition should be black and white in color, and Buddhist temples which are characterised by a prevalence of yellow and red tonalities), and decorated with traditional figures on their roofs (dragons and deities), although some evolve into significant structures.
Chinese temples can be found throughout Mainland China, Taiwan and also where Chinese expatriate communities settled over centuries. An old name in English, often perceived as derogatory today, for Chinese traditional temples is "joss house". "Joss" is a corrupted version of the Portuguese word for "god", deus. "Joss house" was in common use in English in western North America during frontier times, when joss houses were a common feature of Chinatowns. The name "joss house" describes the environment of worship. Joss sticks, a kind of incense, are burned inside and outside of the house.
- Examples of family patriarchs temples networks
- Examples of deities temples networks