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Rajasthan: Land of Kings – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Rajasthan: Land of Kings – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Rājasthān is the largest state of the Republic of India in terms of area. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert (Thar Desert), which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with Pakistan. The region borders Pakistan to the west, Gujarat to the southwest, Madhya Pradesh to the southeast, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to the northeast and Punjab to the north. Rajasthan covers an area of 132,150 sq mi or 342,269 km².

The state capital is Jaipur. Geographical features include the Thar Desert along north-western Rajasthan and the termination of the Ghaggar River near the archaeological ruins at Kalibanga, which are the oldest in the subcontinent discovered so far.

Rajasthan is one of the most popular travel destinations in India. Rajasthan is well known for historical monuments; Rajasthan Tourism is benchmarked for the warm hospitality and internationally awarded hotels & resorts. The major Tourist Destinations like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur are well interconnected with all the major domestic and international cities.

One of the world’s oldest mountain ranges, the Aravalli Range, cradles the only hill station of Rajasthan, Mount Abu, and its world-famous Dilwara Temples, a sacred pilgrimage for Jains. Eastern Rajasthan has two national tiger reserves, Ranthambore and Sariska, as well as Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, once famous for its bird life.

Rajasthan was formed on 30 March 1949, when all erstwhile princely states ruled by Rajputs, known as Rajputana, merged into the Dominion of India. The only difference between erstwhile Rajputana and Rajasthan is that certain portions of what had been British India, in the former province of Ajmer-Merwara, were included. Portions lying geographically outside of Rajputana such as the Sumel-Tappa area were given to Madhya Pradesh.

Statistics

  • Population: 56.47 million (2001 Census, estimated at more than 58 million now)
  • Cities and Towns: 222
  • Major cities: Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Kota, Ajmer, Bikaner, Churu, Bharatpur, Bhilwara, Alwar, Sri Ganganagar ,Pali,Makrana, Bundi,chittorgarh, Didwana, Sujangarh, Nagaur, Sikar, Balotra
  • Roads: 61,520 km. ( 2,846 km National Highway)
  • National highways crossing Rajasthan: Delhi-Ahmedabad, Agra-Bikaner, Jaipur-Bhopal and Bhatinda-Kandla
  • Climate: Generally dry with monsoon during July-August
  • Districts: 33
  • Languages: English and Hindi commonly used, as well as indigenous Rajasthani languages
  • Literacy: 61.03%

Districts

Rajasthan is divided into 33 districts and seven divisions:

  • Ajmer Division: Ajmer, Bhilwara, Nagaur, Tonk.
  • Bharatpur Division: Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur.
  • Bikaner Division: Bikaner, Churu, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh.
  • Jaipur Division: Jaipur, Alwar, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Dausa.
  • Jodhpur Division: Barmer, Jaisalmer, Jalore, Jodhpur District, Pali, Sirohi.
  • Kota Division: Baran, Bundi, Jhalawar, Kota.
  • Udaipur Division: Banswara District, Chittorgarh District, Pratapgarh District, Dungarpur District, Udaipur, Rajsamand

Transport

Rajasthan is connected by many national highways. Most renowned being NH 8, which is India’s first 4-8 lane highway. Rajasthan also has a good inter city surface transport system both in terms of railways and bus network. All important and tourist cities are connected by air, rail and road.

By Air: There are three main airports at Rajasthan- Jaipur airport, Udaipur airport and Jodhpur airport. These airports connect Rajasthan with the major cities of India such as Delhi and Mumbai.

By Rail: Rajasthan is well connected with the main cities of India by rail. Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur and Jodhpur are the main railway stations in Rajasthan.

By Road: Rajasthan is well connected to the main cities of the country by State and National Highways.

Wildlife

Rajasthan is also famous for National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. There are four national park and wildlife sanctuaries named the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary, Ranthambore National Park, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and Desert National Park.

Ranthambore National Park and Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary both are known worldwide for their tiger population and considered by both wild lovers and photographers as the best places in India to spot tigers. Besides, it houses several small wildlife sanctuaries and eco-tourism parks . Prominent among them are Mount Abu Sanctuary, Bhensrod Garh Sanctuary, Darrah Sanctuary, Jaisamand Sanctuary, Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary, and Jawahar Sagar sanctuary etc.

Demographics

Rajasthan has a mainly Rajasthani population. Hindus account for 88.8% of the population. Muslims make up 8.5%, Sikhs 1.4% and Jains 1.2% of the population.[5] The state of Rajasthan is also populated by Sindhis, who came to Rajasthan from Sindh province (now in Pakistan) during the India-Pakistan separation in 1947.

The mother tongue of the majority of people in Rajasthan is Rajasthani. Rajasthani and Hindi are the most widely used languages in Rajasthan. After independence, Rajasthani was used as a medium of instruction, along with Hindi and English, in some schools. Some other languages used in Rajasthan are Gujarati, Sindhi and Punjabi.


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Bali – Indonesian Island

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Bali – Indonesian Island

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Bali is an Indonesian island located at the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is one of the country’s 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island.

With a population recorded as 3,551,000 in 2009, the island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia’s small Hindu minority. About 93.18% of Bali’s population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, while most of the remainder follow Islam. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.

History :

Bali was inhabited by Austronesian peoples by about 2000 BC who migrated originally from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia.[3] Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are thus closely related to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Oceania. Stone tools dating from this time have been found near the village of Cekik in the island’s west.

Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, in a process beginning around the 1st century AD. The name Bali dwipa (“Bali island”) has been discovered from various inscriptions, including the Blanjong pillar inscription written by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 914 AD and mentioning “Walidwipa”. It was during this time that the complex irrigation system subak was developed to grow rice. Some religious and cultural traditions still in existence today can be traced back to this period. The Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293–1520 AD) on eastern Java founded a Balinese colony in 1343. When the empire declined, there was an exodus of intellectuals, artists, priests and musicians from Java to Bali in the 15th century.

The first European contact with Bali is thought to have been made by Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman who arrived in 1597, though a Portuguese ship had foundered off the Bukit Peninsula as early as 1585 and left a few Portuguese in the service of Dewa Agung. Dutch colonial control expanded across the Indonesian archipelago in the nineteenth century (see Dutch East Indies). Their political and economic control over Bali began in the 1840s on the island’s north coast by pitting various distrustful Balinese realms against each other. In the late 1890s, struggles between Balinese kingdoms in the island’s south were exploited by the Dutch to increase their control.

The Dutch mounted large naval and ground assaults at the Sanur region in 1906 and were met by the thousands of members of the royal family and their followers who fought against the superior Dutch force in a suicidal puputan defensive assault rather than face the humiliation of surrender.Despite Dutch demands for surrender, an estimated 1,000 Balinese marched to their death against the invaders. In the Dutch intervention in Bali (1908), a similar massacre occurred in the face of a Dutch assault in Klungkung. Afterwards the Dutch governors were able to exercise administrative control over the island, but local control over religion and culture generally remained intact. Dutch rule over Bali had come later and was never as well established as in other parts of Indonesia such as Java and Maluku.

In the 1930s, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and artists Miguel Covarrubias and Walter Spies, and musicologist Colin McPhee created a western image of Bali as “an enchanted land of aesthetes at peace with themselves and nature”, and western tourism first developed on the island.

Imperial Japan occupied Bali during World War II during which time a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed a Balinese ‘freedom army’. The lack of institutional changes from the time of Dutch rule however, and the harshness of war requisitions made Japanese rule little better than the Dutch one.Following Japan’s Pacific surrender in August 1945, the Dutch promptly returned to Indonesia, including Bali, immediately to reinstate their pre-war colonial administration. This was resisted by the Balinese rebels now using Japanese weapons. On 20 November 1946, the Battle of Marga was fought in Tabanan in central Bali. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai, by then 29 years old, finally rallied his forces in east Bali at Marga Rana, where they made a suicide attack on the heavily armed Dutch. The Balinese battalion was entirely wiped out, breaking the last thread of Balinese military resistance. In 1946 the Dutch constituted Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the newly-proclaimed State of East Indonesia, a rival state to the Republic of Indonesia which was proclaimed and headed by Sukarno and Hatta. Bali was included in the “Republic of the United States of Indonesia” when the Netherlands recognised Indonesian independence on 29 December 1949.

The 1963 eruption of Mount Agung killed thousands, created economic havoc and forced many displaced Balinese to be transmigrated to other parts of Indonesia. Mirroring the widening of social divisions across Indonesia in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bali saw conflict between supporters of the traditional caste system, and those rejecting these traditional values. Politically, this was represented by opposing supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI), with tensions and ill-feeling further increased by the PKI’s land reform programs. An attempted coup in Jakarta was put down by forces led by General Suharto. The army became the dominant power as it instigated a violent anti-communist purge, in which the army blamed the PKI for the coup. Most estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people were killed across Indonesia, with an estimated 80,000 killed in Bali, equivalent to 5% of the island’s population. With no Islamic forces involved as in Java and Sumatra, upper-caste PNI landlords led the extermination of PKI members.

As a result of the 1965/66 upheavals, Suharto was able to maneuver Sukarno out of the presidency, and his “New Order” government reestablished relations with western countries. The pre-War Bali as “paradise” was revived in a modern form, and the resulting large growth in tourism has led to a dramatic increase in Balinese standards of living and significant foreign exchange earned for the country.A bombing in 2002 by militant Islamists in the tourist area of Kuta killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. This attack, and another in 2005, severely affected tourism, bringing much economic hardship to the island.

Geography :

he island of Bali lies 3.2 km (2 mi) east of Java, and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. Bali and Java are separated by Bali Strait. East to west, the island is approximately 153 km (95 mi) wide and spans approximately 112 km (69 mi) north to south; its land area is 5,632 km².

The highest point is Mount Agung at 3,142 m (9,426 feet) high, an active volcano that last erupted in March 1963. Mountains range from centre to the eastern side, with Mount Agung the easternmost peak. Mount Batur (1,717 m) is also still active; an eruption 30,000 years ago was one of the largest known volcanic events on Earth.[citation needed] In the south the land descends to form an alluvial plain, watered by shallow, north-south flowing rivers, drier in the dry season and overflowing during periods of heavy rain. The longest of these rivers, Ayung River, flows approximately 75 km.

The island is surrounded by coral reefs. Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. The beach town of Padangbai in the south east has both. Bali has no major waterways, although the Ho River is navigable by small sampan boats. Black sand beaches between Pasut and Klatingdukuh are being developed for tourism, but apart from the seaside temple of Tanah Lot, they are not yet used for significant tourism.

The largest city is the provincial capital, Denpasar, near the southern coast. Its population is around 300,000. Bali’s second-largest city is the old colonial capital, Singaraja, which is located on the north coast and is home to around 100,000 people. Other important cities include the beach resort, Kuta, which is practically part of Denpasar’s urban area; and Ubud, which is north of Denpasar, and is known as the island’s cultural centre.

Three small islands lie to the immediate south east and all are administratively part of the Klungkung regency of Bali: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. These islands are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait.

To the east, the Lombok Strait separates Bali from Lombok and marks the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia. The transition is known as the Wallace Line, named after Alfred Russel Wallace, who first proposed a transition zone between these two major biomes. When sea levels dropped during the Pleistocene ice age, Bali was connected to Java and Sumatra and to the mainland of Asia and shared the Asian fauna, but the deep water of the Lombok Strait continued to keep Lombok and the Lesser Sunda archipelago isolated.

Ecology : Bali Island is situated on the border of the Wallace Line, where transition from the Asian wildlife and flora is made into the Pacific Islands biotope. Bali is virtually the southernmost island with specific Asian fauna and flora and with very few influences from the Pacific Islands like the Yellow-crested Cockatoo and other bird species occur. Bali has around 280 species of birds, including the critically endangered Bali Starling, one of the rarest birds in the world. Others are: Barn Swallow, Black-naped Oriole, Black Racket-tailed Treepie, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Treeswift, Dollarbird, Java Sparrow, Lesser Adjutant, Long-tailed Shrike, Milky Stork, Pacific Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Sacred Kingfisher, Sea Eagle, Woodswallow, Savanna Nightjar, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Yellow-vented Bulbul, White Heron, Great Egret.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Bali was home to some large animals such as the wild Banteng, Leopard and even the Bali tiger. The first still occurs in its domestic form, while leopards only in neighboring Java, but the Bali Tiger has completely disappeared, with last recorded one in 1937, when last known specimen was shot. Due to the relative small size of the island and clashes with humans, along with poaching and habitat reduction has driven this unique feline to extinction. It was the smallest and rarest of all tiger species and never caught on film or displayed in zoos, few skins and bones remain in museums around the world as a testimony of its undisputed existence. Today, the largest animals remain the Javan Rusa deer and the Wild Boar. The water monitor can grow to an impressive size and move surprisingly quickly. Two species of deer occur in the island the smaller Muntjak and the larger Javan Rusa deer.

Snakes are represented by green snakes and occasional king and pythons occurring around areas where mice and rats are present. Squirrels are quite commonly encountered, more rare the Asian Palm Civet grown also in coffee farms to produce the expensive and controversial Kopi Luwak. Chiropteras are well represented, perhaps the most famous place to encounter them remains the Goa Lawah (Temple of the Bats) where they are worshipped by the locals and also constitute a tourist attraction, and other cave temples like Gangga Beach ones. Two species of primates occur in the island: the Crab-eating Macaque, known locally as “kera” quite common around human settlements or temples, where they became accustomed to people feeding them, particularly in any of the three so called “monkey forest” temples, with the most popular one in Ubud area. They are also quite often being kept as pets by locals. The second primate, far more rare and elusive is the Silver Leaf Monkey known locally as “lutung”. They occur virtually only in Bali Barat National Park, though in decent numbers. Other, rarer mammals include the Leopard Cat, Sunda Pangolin and Black Giant Squirrel.

The rich coral reef around the coast Bali particularly around popular diving spots like Tulamben, Amed, Menjangan or neighboring Nusa Penida host a large amount of marine life, like Hawksbill Turtle, Giant Sunfish, Giant Manta Ray, Giant Moray Eel, Bumphead Parrotfish, Hammerhead Sharks, Reef Sharks, Barracudas, Sea Snakes and so on. Dolphins are commonly encountered on the north coast near Singaraja and Lovina.

Due to human influence many plants have been introduced by humans within the last centuries, particularly since 20th century, making it sometimes hard to distinguish what plants are really native. From the larger trees most common are: Banyan trees, Jackfruit, coconuts, bamboo species, acacia trees and also endless rows of coconuts and banana species. Numerous flowers can be seen: Hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, poinsettia, oleander, jasmine, water lily, roses, begonias, orchids and hydrangeas exist. On higher grounds that receive more moisture, like around Kintamani, certain species of fern trees, mushrooms and even pine trees thrive well. Rice comes in many varieties. Other plants with agricultural value include: salak, mangosteen, corn, Kintamani orange, coffee and water spinach.

Administrative divisions :

The province is divided into 8 regencies (kabupaten) and 1 city (kota). Unless otherwise stated, the regency’s capital

  • Badung, capital Denpasar

  • Bangli, capital Bangli

  • Buleleng, capital Singaraja

  • Gianyar, capital Gianyar

  • Jembrana, capital Negara

  • Karangasem, capital Amlapura

  • Klungkung, capital Semarapura

  • Tabanan, capital Tabanan

Culture :

Bali is renowned for its diverse and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts. Balinese percussion orchestra music, known as gamelan, is highly developed and varied. Balinese performing arts often portray stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana but with heavy Balinese influence. Famous Balinese dances include pendet, legong, baris, topeng, barong, gong keybar, and kecak (the monkey dance). Bali boasts one of the most diverse and innovative performing arts cultures in the world, with paid performances at thousands of temple festivals, private ceremonies, or public shows.

The Hindu New Year, Nyepi, is celebrated in the spring by a day of silence. On this day everyone stays at home and tourists are encouraged to remain in their hotels. But the day before that large, colourful sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters are paraded and finally burned in the evening to drive away evil spirits. Other festivals throughout the year are specified by the Balinese pawukon calendrical system.

Celebrations are held for many occasions such as a tooth-filing (coming-of-age ritual), cremation or odalan (temple festival). One of the most important concepts that Balinese ceremonies have in common is that of désa kala patra, which refers to how ritual performances must be appropriate in both the specific and general social context. Many of the ceremonial art forms such as wayang kulit and topeng are highly improvisatory, providing flexibility for the performer to adapt the performance to the current situation. Many celebrations call for a loud, boisterous atmosphere with lots of activity and the resulting aesthetic, ramé, is distinctively Balinese. Oftentimes two or more gamelan ensembles will be performing well within earshot, and sometimes compete with each other in order to be heard. Likewise, the audience members talk amongst themselves, get up and walk around, or even cheer on the performance, which adds to the many layers of activity and the liveliness typical of ramé.

Kaja and kelod are the Balinese equivalents of North and South, which refer to ones orientation between the island’s largest mountain Gunung Agung (kaja), and the sea (kelod). In addition to spatial orientation, kaja and kelod have the connotation of good and evil; gods and ancestors are believed to live on the mountain whereas demons live in the sea. Buildings such as temples and residential homes are spatially oriented by having the most sacred spaces closest to the mountain and the unclean places nearest to the sea.

Most temples have an inner courtyard and an outer courtyard which are arranged with the inner courtyard furthest kaja. These spaces serve as performance venues since most Balinese rituals are accompanied by any combination of music, dance and drama. The performances that take place in the inner courtyard are classified as wali, the most sacred rituals which are offerings exclusively for the gods, while the outer courtyard is where bebali ceremonies are held, which are intended for gods and people. Lastly, performances meant solely for the entertainment of humans take place outside the walls of the temple and are called bali-balihan. This three-tiered system of classification was standardized in 1971 by a committee of Balinese officials and artists in order to better protect the sanctity of the oldest and most sacred Balinese rituals from being performed for a paying audience.

Tourism, Bali’s chief industry, has provided the island with a foreign audience that is eager to pay for entertainment, thus creating new performance opportunities and more demand for performers. The impact of tourism is controversial since before it became integrated into the economy, the Balinese performing arts did not exist as a capitalist venture, and were not performed for entertainment outside of their respective ritual context. Since the 1930s sacred rituals such as the barong dance have been performed both in their original contexts, as well as exclusively for paying tourists. This has led to new versions of many of these performances which have developed according to the preferences of foreign audiences; some villages have a barong mask specifically for non-ritual performances as well as an older mask which is only used for sacred performances.

The Balinese eat with their right hand, as the left is impure, a common belief throughout Indonesia. The Balinese do not hand or receive things with their left hand and would not wave at anyone with their left hand.

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Shanghai, China

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Shanghai, China

Shanghai is the largest city in China, and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, with over 20 million people. Located on China’s central eastern coast at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the city is administered as a municipality of the People’s Republic of China with province-level status.

Originally a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew to importance in the 19th century due to its favourable port location and as one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. The city flourished as a center of commerce between east and west, and became a multinational hub of finance and business by the 1930s.

However, Shanghai’s prosperity was interrupted after the 1949 Communist takeover and the subsequent cessation of foreign investment. Economic reforms in 1990 resulted in intense development and financing in Shanghai, and in 2005 Shanghai became the world’s largest cargo port.

The city is a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as the Bund and City God Temple, its modern and ever-expanding Pudong skyline including the Oriental Pearl Tower, and its new reputation as a cosmopolitan center of culture and design. Today, Shanghai is the largest center of commerce and finance in mainland China, and has been described as the “showpiece” of the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Languages

Most Shanghainese residents are descendants of immigrants from the two adjacent provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang who moved to Shanghai in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, regions that generally also speak Wu Chinese. In the past decades, many migrants from other areas of China come to Shanghai for work. They often cannot speak the local dialect and therefore use Mandarin as a lingua franca.

The vernacular language is Shanghainese, a dialect of Wu Chinese, while the official language is Standard Mandarin. The local dialect is mutually unintelligible with Mandarin, and is an inseparable part of the Shanghainese identity.

The modern Shanghainese dialect is based on the Suzhou dialect of Wu, the prestige dialect of Wu spoken within the Chinese city of Shanghai prior to the modern expansion of the city, the Ningbo dialect of Wu, and the dialect of Shanghai’s surrounding rural areas now within the Hongkou, Baoshan and Pudong districts, which is simply called “Bendihua”, or “the local dialect”. It is influenced to a lesser extent by the dialects of other nearby regions from which large numbers of people have have migrated to Shanghai since the 20th Century.

Nearly all Shanghainese under the age of 40 can speak Mandarin fluently. Fluency in foreign languages is unevenly distributed. Most senior residents who received a university education before the revolution, and those who worked in foreign enterprises, can speak English. Those under the age of 26 have had contact with English since primary school, as English is taught as a mandatory course starting at Grade four.

Religion

Due to its cosmopolitan history, Shanghai has a rich blend of religious heritage as shown by the religious buildings and institutions still scattered around the city. Taoism has a presence in Shanghai in the form of several temples, including the City God Temple, at the heart of the old city, and a temple dedicated to the Three Kingdoms general Guan Yu.

The Wenmiao is a temple dedicated to Confucius. Buddhism has had a presence in Shanghai since ancient times. Longhua temple, the largest temple in Shanghai, and Jing’an Temple, were first founded in the Three Kingdoms period. Another important temple is the Jade Buddha Temple, which is named after a large statue of Buddha carved out of jade in the temple. In recent decades, dozens of modern temples have been built throughout the city.

Shanghai is also an important center of Christianity in China. Churches belonging to various denominations are found throughout Shanghai and maintain significant congregations. Among Catholic churches, St Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui is one of the largest, while She Shan Basilica is the only active pilgrimage site in China.

Shanghai has the highest catholic percentage in Mainland China (2003). The city is also home to Muslim, Jewish, and Eastern Orthodox communities. A predominant religion in Shanghai is Mahayana Buddhism, and Taoism is also followed by many Shanghai residents.


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