Leader of China's Taoist Group Dies

Min Zhiting, leader of China's government-authorized body for the Taoist faith, has died at 80, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Min died Saturday in Beijing, the agency said. It didn't give a cause of death or any details of survivors or funeral plans.

Min was president of the China Taoist Association, the government-monitored body to which the communist government requires all Taoist temples in China 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. Foreign estimates say there are about 20 million Taoists worldwide.

Min was born in Henan province in central China in 1924, Xinhua said.

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

Xinhua didn't say who might succeed Min as leader of the Taoist association.