Buddhism in Brunei

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Buddhism is the third largest religion in Brunei, after the majority state religion of Islam, and the slightly larger minority religion Christianity.[1] Estimates vary, but some reports place the number of Buddhists in Brunei around 30,000,[1] and the estimated percentage of Buddhists in Brunei around 7-8% of the total population.[1][2][3] According to Brunei's official 2016 data, 7% (29,495) of the population practices Buddhism.[3]


Buddhism is thought to have had some presence in Brunei beginning in the 6th Century CE, with Brunei and China have a known trading relationship since this time period. This continued alongside the influence of Hinduism with the Majapahit Empire, between the 13th to 16th Century CE, with this influence decreasing drastically with the spread of Islam into Brunei and into the region.[4] The modern Buddhist population of Brunei is mainly derived from Chinese migrants arriving between the 19th and 20th century, especially following a 1929 Chinese law allowing for dual nationality.[5][6]

Statistics on Buddhist Population[edit]

Historical Population of Bruneian Buddhists
Source: Bruneian Department of Statistics [7]

A large percentage of the Buddhist population is from the ethnically Chinese population of Brunei, which comprise 10.2% of the total population,[8] and which are about 65% Buddhist.[6] The percentage of Buddhists has fallen over time since the 1990s, in conjunction with the falling percentage of the ethnically Chinese population.[6] Around one-third of Buddhists in Brunei are citizens, with the rest being permanent or temporary residents.[9] Mahayana Buddhism is the most common subsect of Buddhism practiced, as this is the most common form of Buddhism practiced in China and surrounding states.[10] Buddhism is commonly practiced alongside other religions or philosophical practices, particularly Taoism and Confucianism.[10]

Distribution of Buddhists by District[9]
Brunei Muara Belait Tutong Temburong
19,134 8,814 1,415 132

Religious Freedom for Buddhists[edit]

Brunei is a sultanate, and has Islam as the official state religion. All other religions in Brunei have limited but guaranteed religious freedom, including Buddhists. Restrictions include limitations in building new places of worship, due to a fatwa discouraging support for the expansion of non-Islamic religions preventing permits from being granted, importation or distribution of non-Islamic religious literature, and strict laws against proselytizing to Muslim or religiously unaffiliated people.[11] One particular case of restriction in relation to Buddhism is the continual limiting of festivities for the Chinese Lunar New Year, which placed a three-day time frame on all related revents, and limited events to venues such as Brunei's sole Chinese Buddhist temple.[11]

Beyond limitations on religious freedom, non-Muslim groups including Buddhists also must adhere to many aspects of Brunei's sharia law, including the Sharia Penal Code introduced in 2013, and expanded upon in 2019.[12] However, following the recent implementation of these laws, Buddhist and other minority religion populations have reported no difference in legal treatment from the state, and the state has put a moratorium on use of the death penalty intended to be implemented under this law.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Religions in Brunei | PEW-GRF". www.globalreligiousfutures.org. Archived from the original on 2019-03-22. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  2. ^ "CIA FactBook - Brunei". Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2021-01-24.
  3. ^ a b ""Population by Religion, Sex and Census Year"". www.deps.gov.bn. Archived from the original on 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  4. ^ Damit, Mohamad Yusop , Bee, Ooi Jin and Thambipillai, Pushpa (18 October 2021). "Brunei". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2021-10-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Kim, Suan Lim (2020). "Multiplicity of Membership in Brunei: The Ethnic Chinese as a Collective of Denizens". Journal of the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies. No.40: 23–37 – via Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University.
  6. ^ a b c "Chinese: Brunei Darussalam". Minority Rights Group International. May 2020. Archived from the original on 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-06-24. Retrieved 2021-10-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Report of the Mid-Year Population Estimates: 2020" (PDF). Department of Economic Planning and Statistics, Brunei Darussalam. 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-04-10. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  9. ^ a b "Population and Housing Census Update Final Report: 2016" (PDF). Department of Economic Planning and Development, Brunei Darussalam. December 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-06-24. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  10. ^ a b Perkins, McKenzie (25 June 2019). "Religions of Brunei". Learn Religions. Archived from the original on 2020-09-25. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  11. ^ a b c "2020 Report on International Religious Freedom: Brunei". U.S. Department of State. 5 May 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-05-13. Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  12. ^ Magra, Iliana (3 April 2019). "Brunei Stoning Punishment for Gay Sex and Adultery Takes Effect Despite International Outcry". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-04-03. Retrieved 2021-10-22.