The practice of Buddhism started in Asia. And, today the majority of the population who practice Buddhism are still living in Asia. The percentage of which is up to 89.7 percent (as of 2010 population census). On the other hand, Buddhism is fast rising across the other continents. For example, North America and Europe.

The countries that have the largest population practicing Buddhism include:

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • Sri Lanka
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • South Korea
  • India, and
  • Malaysia

These are the top ten places where the practice of Buddhism is prevalent. And, all these places are within the Asia-Pacific region.

This page covers:

  • The Branches Of Buddhism And Where They Are Prevalent
  • Significant Places In The Practice Of Buddhism

It is important to know that about 9% of the population of the world practice Buddhism. As a result, Buddhism is a significant practice in the society of today.

The Branches Of Buddhism And Where They Are Prevalent

In modern society, there are 3 three main branches of Buddhism. These include the Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism. However, they are all under one umbrella when referring to Buddhism. The difference comes from the regions where the practice of each is dominant.

Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism is the branch of Buddhism popular in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. These countries have a very large number of people practicing Buddhism. As a result, Mahayana Buddhism is commonly accepted as the branch of Buddhism with the largest population. Although, most surveys and census do not cover this assertion. The reason is that all branches of Buddhism count as one in the population census.

Theravada Buddhism

The practice of Theravada Buddhism cuts across countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos. This branch of Buddhism appears to be the second-largest. That is to say, it comes after the Mahayana Buddhism.

Vajrayana Buddhism

This branch of Buddhism is common in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and Mongolia. Vajrayana Buddhism is the smallest among the three major branches of Buddhism. In addition, it can also be referred to as Tibetan Buddhism.


In some classification, there are only two major branches of Buddhism. And, they are Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. As a result, Vajrayana Buddhism is just a school under the Mahayana traditions. Other schools that make up the Mahayana Buddhism includes Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Nichiren Buddhism.

Significant Places In The Practice Of Buddhism

You can find people who practice Buddhism in many places across the world today. However, there are places recognized for the marks they made in Buddhism. And, sometimes Buddhists around the world visit these places for pilgrimage. Thus, these places include:


Buddhism originated in India. This was possible through the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha). However, though India is the place where Buddhism started, it is only but 0.8% of the population of the country that practices Buddhism.

Initially, Buddhism was popular in India. This was because the Buddha stood against casteism. As a result, most people took interest in the practice. However, later on, the practice of Hinduism overtook the country.

In addition, Buddhism started particularly in the kingdom of Magadha, which is now in Bihar, India. The major regions in India practicing Buddhism includes Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Tripura. These make up the largest population of Buddhists in India. However, there are other minor Buddhist regions.

India is home to many Buddhist monuments. For example, the Mahabodhi temple, the rock-cut Buddha statue, ancient monasteries, Buddhist caves, and other holy sites. Consequently, Buddhists travel to India in order to witness the relics of the Buddha.


China is the country with the largest population that practice Buddhism. As a result, 18.2% of the population of China present themselves as Buddhists. Although Buddhism is foreign to China, it is one of the oldest external practices in China. And, Buddhism shaped the culture of China in many ways.

It was not easy for Buddhism to establish in China. This is mostly because Buddhism came with the concept of monasticism and what looks like reluctance in social affairs. And, these appear contradicting to the already existing tradition and standards of the Chinese society.

However, Buddhism managed to survive and began to thrive. This became much easier since the people linked Buddhism to Daoism. Especially, in the area of ascetic meditative practices. As a result, the Buddhist ideas became adapted into the Daoist ideas. This was done using concepts matching technique. And, this technique was popular among the Indian translators.

Among the known Buddhist monumental sites in China is the White Horse Temple (the first Buddhist temple in China). Others include the Shaolin temple, Jokhang Temple, Famen Temple, Hanging Temple, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Wenshu Monastery, and Sertar Larung Gar. Above all, some of these monuments are among the wonders of the world. Moreover, there are many other holy Buddhist sites across China.


Buddhism is a popular practice in Thailand. As a result, 93.2% of the total population of Thailand practice Buddhism. On the other hand, Buddhism in Thailand is on a whole different level. That is to say, the belief is that Buddhism saved Thailand from various wars that could have brought destruction. Most of all, Buddhism prevented colonial rule in the country.

The Buddhist tradition spreads across the whole of Thailand. In fact, the major cities of the country have areas belonging entirely to the Buddhist monasteries.

Tourists from all over the world visit Thailand today. This is because the country is rich in temples decorated in beautiful mandalas and wall murals. For example, the Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha), Wat Arun, the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), and others.

It is a common fact that Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation. As a result, it is no wonder that there are thousands of Buddhist temples situated across the country. And, most of these temples beautifully designed serve as tourist attractions. Also, adherents of Buddhism across the world pay a visit to these sites for communal worship.


The country Japan has the third largest Buddhist population in the world. As a result, the percentage of Buddhists to the entire population of the country is 36.2%. Buddhism was able to spread across Japan in the early times. That is to say, in ancient Japan the country ruled by emperors saw the rise of various schools of Buddhism. Therefore, private schools of Buddhism such as Zen Buddhism became popular.

And, the rise of Buddhism in Japan links to the popularity of these private Buddhist schools. Some of these schools were able to integrate their philosophy with the practice of martial arts. Consequently, they could defend unarmed monks.

Subsequently, Buddhism in Japan passed through government persecution. This was during the development of Japan in the likes of western countries. However, the Buddhist Sutras translated in Japanese held so much cultural value. As a result, it was difficult for the government’s political system to destroy Buddhism. As Buddhism survived, the population of Buddhists in Japan also grew.

Japan also has many monumental Buddhist sites. For instance, the statue of Buddha in Kamakura. Others include the Kyomizu-Dera Temple, Nikko Toshogu, Senso Ji, Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion Temple), Todaiji Temple, and many others.

These Buddhist sites attract tourists to Japan. And, Japan is a great masterpiece of Buddhist arts.

Burma (Myanmar)

People who practice Buddhism in Myanmar make up 80.1% of the country’s total population. Most of all, the predominant branch of Buddhism in Myanmar is Theravada Buddhism.

Buddhism in Myanmar is common among the people of Bamar, Rakhine, Shan, Karen, Mon, and Zo. And, among these ethnic groups, some practice Buddhism together with the worship of nat. This involves the appeasing of spirits that may mediate on the affairs of the world. The Bamar and Shan ethnic groups practice this.

Although, the educated Burmese may distinguish Buddhism as Theravada tradition. But, to a common Burmese, what they practice is boda batha, which means the way of Buddha.

The practice of Buddhism in Myanmar touches every aspect of their lives. In fact, they have the highest community of monks in terms of numbers. Moreover, there are a lot of temples and monasteries in Burma. As a result, they spend a good proportion of their income in the maintenance of these temples and the monks.

Some Buddhist monuments in Myanmar include the Shwedagon Pagoda, Maha Muni Pagoda, Bodhi Tataung, Shwemawdaw Pagoda, and the Golden Rock Pagoda. These and many other monumental sites attract tourists to Myanmar on daily basis.


Cambodia is another country with a widespread practice of Buddhism. As a matter of fact, 96.9% of the country’s population practice Buddhism. It further appeared in the constitution of Cambodia as the country’s official religion.

Buddhism came to Cambodia in the early days. It existed as early as the 5th century. Initially, the practice started in the form of Mahayana Buddhism. However, recently the common form of Buddhism in Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism.

As Buddhism is a predominant practice in Cambodia, there are many holy Buddhist sites in the country. Some of these sites include the Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Banteay Srei, Preah Khan, and other sites.

These sites attract tourists all over the globe to Cambodia. Also, some of these sites are ancient with beautiful relief carvings on the walls. These are really sights to behold.

Sri Lanka

Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE. And, since then Sri Lanka practiced Buddhism traditionally. This made Sri Lanka the oldest country that kept the Buddhist culture continuously. As a result, the country’s population that practice Buddhism is 69.3 percent.

The constitution of Sri Lanka recognized Buddhism as the official religion of the country. Thereby giving the practice certain advantages.

Through the history of Sri Lanka, the rulers always protected and maintained Buddhist institutions. Consequently, the country became the center of Buddhism learning and scholarships. Further, they produced notable scholars. And, also preserved the Pali Canon.

There is a recent Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka. This took place in the 19th century. As a result, the practice and learning of Buddhism grew in strength. Today, there are thousands of Buddhists monasteries in Sri Lanka. And, additionally, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks.

Special Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka includes the Gangaramaya Temple, Mihintale, Gal Vihara, Kelaniya Temple, and the Mulkirigala Rock Monastery. There are many other sacred Buddhist sites all over the country. As a result, Sri Lanka is one of the Buddhist strongholds in the world.


This is another country with a recognized practice of Buddhism. However, in Vietnam, only 16.4% of the population identified as Buddhists. The major form of Buddhism in the country is Mahayana Buddhism. And, this includes the various schools under the Mahayana tradition. For example, Zen Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism.

Most people believe that Buddhism arrived in Vietnam around the 2nd century BCE. And, could have entered through China or India. However, it is, Vietnam had a developed Mahayana Buddhist tradition by the end of the second century.

Buddhism suffered a crisis in Vietnam. This took place in 1963 when a Catholic president ruled the country. Ngo Dinh Diem wanted to rule the country in the Catholic principles. As a result, restricted the Buddhists in many ways. However, this brought opposition and protest. Soon, Diem died from a coup.

Popular Buddhist monuments in Vietnam include the One Pillar Pagoda, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Quan Am Pagoda, Giac Lam Pagoda, and many others. These are Buddhist sites of attraction in Vietnam.

South Korea

Buddhism arrived in South Korea through China. And, it met the indigenous Korean Shamanism. However, Buddhism was able to blend with the Shamanism. As a result, the Koreans adopted the teachings of the Buddha. And, as well kept their indigenous practice.

The population of Buddhists in South Korea is 22.9% of the country’s population. Therefore, Buddhism is a recognized practice in South Korea.

Some of the monumental Buddhist sites in South Korea includes the Jogyesa Temple, Haedong Yonggung Temple, and Seokguram Grotto. Others are the Naksansa, Hwaeom-sa, Golgulsa Temple, and the Beopjusa Temple.


After Islam, Buddhism is the next largest religious practice in Malaysia. As a result, Buddhists in Malaysia make up 17.7% of the entire country’s population. And, Buddhism came to the Malay archipelago through the Indians.

Malaysians practice Buddhism in various forms. And, these include both the Mahayana tradition and the Theravada tradition.

Malaysia is not a predominantly Buddhist country. But, it contributed to the growth of Buddhism around the world. As a result, there are notable Buddhist temples and learning institutions in the country. For example, the Kek Lok Si Temple, located in Penang. And, the Buddhist Maha Vihara, the largest monastery in Malaysia.

In addition, Malaysia is among the top ten countries with the largest Buddhist population. Therefore, the country is significant in the practice of Buddhism across the globe.

The Keynote

This page contains the places that one cannot overlook when you talk about Buddhism. Most of all, these places experienced an early touch of Buddhism traditions. As a result, they contributed in many ways to the rise of Buddhism worldwide. They did this through the building and maintenance of popular Buddhist sites.

In addition, the temples and Buddhist schools in these places foster the growth of Buddhism. However, they are not the only places that practice Buddhism.