Nichiren Buddhism is a Japanese Buddhist movement in the Mahayana tradition. It is the second largest Buddhist sect in Japan with 11 million followers. By some reckonings It was the largest sect in Japan in 1991, with 24,450,257 members. It is also popular in the West with a significant number of followers in the U.S. and the U.K. [Source: 2021 statistics on religion by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan, Library of Congress]

The Nichiren School is based on belief in the Lotus Sutra and its doctrine of universal salvation. It differs from other schools of Buddhism in focusing on this world, and in its view that it is the only correct tradition. It also emphasises the importance of individuals taking responsibility for improving themselves. According to the BBC: “Although it can be seen as a highly self-focused religion, followers of Nichiren Buddhism believe that individual empowerment and inner transformation contribute, in turn, to a better and more peaceful world.”

Nichiren Buddhism — one of the earliest sects that remains active today — was founded in the 13th century by Nichiren (1222-82), a Japanese monk who promoted the Lotus sutra as the "right" teaching, and believed that violence was sometimes justifiable. His main claim to fame was predicting the Mongol invasions. Nichiren Buddhism grew in influence over the centuries. It was based in an interpretation of the “Lotus Sutra”, the central text of text of Tendai and became linked with samurai and the unity of the state and religion. Many present-day Buddhist sects have their roots in Nichiren Buddhism.

Today there are many schools of Nichiren Buddhism. The largest are the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu and Nichiren Shu. The singer Tina Turner was one of its most famous modern followers of Nichiren Buddhism. She began her day by chanting the Nichiren Buddhist Nam Myoho Renge Kyo mantra.


Nichiren Buddhism has its roots in the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282), a 13th century Japanese monk who tried to reform Buddhism and Japanese society. According to the BBC In many ways he was a Buddhist Martin Luther who lived centuries before the great Protestant reformer. His teaching was based on the Mahayana sutra (scripture) known as the Lotus Sutra. The book of 28 chapters of poems and stories is the main scripture of Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren came to regard the Lotus Sutra as a supremely authoritative scripture. Nichiren followed the Lotus Sutra in his teaching that all living beings could attain enlightenment on earth and could do this through chanting and 'human revolution'.He taught that it should always be read and applied to the contemporary context -- to the time and place in which the reader happened to be. The Lotus Sutra has influenced Japanese Buddhism in general, and not just Nichiren Buddhism.


“Nichiren believed that only the Lotus Sutra contained the truth, while all other religions were either false or marred by errors. He read Japanese history as a part of soteriological history in which he was destined to play a central role. Nichiren Buddhism was and is a militant evangelistic religion. The faithful repeatedly recite a nembutsu-like prayer, substituting the Lotus Sutra for Amida as the locus of salvation. [Source: Gary Ebersole, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, Thomson Gale, 2006]

Nichiren emphasised the Lotus Sutra to the extent that he taught that it was the only way that could lead to true Buddhahood, and create a truly good world.He taught that other Buddhist practices no longer provided a road to enlightenment, and that it was the neglect of the Lotus Sutra that was responsible for the evils of his time; including such things as earthquakes. Nichiren was not just a scripture scholar, he was an activist. Having worked out what was wrong with contemporary Buddhism he did something about it. He engaged in shakubuku. This Japanese word means "to break and subdue". [Source: BBC]

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Nichiren was a reformer Buddhist monk in Kamakura era Japan who established his own sect (the Nichiren sect) based on devotion to the Lotus Sūtra and chanting the title of the sūtra Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō. Nichiren was often controversial and criticized by government authorities because of his prophecies that social problems and natural disasters were based on a failure to adhere to his form of Buddhist practice. He considered himself a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Jōgyō. His last sermon, Risshō ankoku ron (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching and Pacifying the State”), ca. 1250, is one of his most important treatises.” [Source: Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, ]

Nichiren’s Early Life

There are different takes on Nichiren as a historical figure.According to the Soka Gakkai website, The son of a fishermen, Nichiren entered a monastery as a boy. He was born in Japan in the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), a time of clan warfare, social unrest, natural disasters, famine and epidemics. The common people, especially, suffered enormously. Nichiren wondered why the Buddhist teachings had lost their power to enable people to lead happy, empowered lives. While a young priest, he set out to find an answer to the suffering and chaos that surrounded him. His intensive study of the Buddhist sutras convinced him that the Lotus Sutra contained the essence of the Buddha's enlightenment and that it held the key to transforming people's suffering and enabling society to flourish.” [Source: Soka Gakkai website]

Nichiren began life with name Rencho (1222-1282). He later took the name of Nichiren, which means Sun Lotus. He began his career as a religious leader by taking issue with the Mt. Hiei Buddhist reverence of Amida (literally meaning “infinite light” or “infinite life”), the Buddha of the Western Paradise, and stress the universality of salvation. Jodo (Pure Land) and Tendai Buddhists believe that salvation is achieved through faith rather than good works and that Buddha and heaven are close at hand and everywhere rather in some far off place as Buddhists had been taught to believe.

Thomas Hoover wrote in “Zen Culture”: Nichiren took a different tack from the Amida teachers, deciding that all essential Buddhist truth was contained in the Lotus Sutra itself. Although the Tendai school had originally been founded on the study of the Lotus Sutra, he believed the school had strayed from the sutra’s precepts. Denouncing all sects impartially, he took a fundamentalist, back-to-the-Lotus text for his sermons. Sensing that most of his followers might have trouble actually reading a sutra, he produced a chanting formula of his own which he claimed would do just as well. This Lotus “nembutsu” was the phrase namu myoho renge-kyo, or Praise to the Lotus Sutra. The chanting Amidists had met their match.

Nichiren developed into a folk hero and there are many stories about him. On the tale of Nichiren and the Smooth Horned Turban Shells, Kevin Short wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: One day Nichiren, who was born in Chiba Prefecture on the opposite side of the Uraga Straits, was crossing over to Kanagawa by boat. On that day, the tide was out, and the boat ran aground in the shallows before reaching the beach. A kind fisherman waded out into the water and carried the priest the remaining way on his shoulders. On the way in, however, he stepped on a spiny sazae and cut open the bottom of his foot. Back on shore, Nichiren not only healed the wound, but uttered an enchantment that removed the dangerous spines from all the turban shells living in the area.[Source: Kevin Short, Daily Yomiuri, July 27, 2012]

This story is typical of a very common folklore genre featuring not only Nichiren, but also many other famous priests, especially Kukai, the great eighth to ninth century monk and founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect. Most of these didactic stories share a similar structure — the hero performs a useful miracle in return for some small kindness or unselfish deed rendered by the common people. Many Christian stories involving local saints fall in the same genre.

Nichiren and Mappo (the End of the World)

Nichiren going into exile on Sado Island

Nichiren Buddhism began in medieval Japan during a very turbulent time in its history. Nichiren came to believe that he was living in a degraded age, an age of mappo (very similar to the English term "end times") where Buddha's teachings were misinterpreted and as a consequence many bad things were happening.

On “Japan as the Centre of Buddhism's Regeneration”: Nichiren wrote: When, at a certain future time, the union of the state law and the Buddhist Truth shall be established, and the harmony between the two completed, both sovereign and subjects will faithfully adhere to the Great Mysteries. Then the golden age, such as were the ages under the reign of the sage kings of old, will be realized in these days of degeneration and corruption, in the time of the Latter Law. Then the establishment of the Holy See will be completed, by imperial grant and the edict of the Dictator, at a spot comparable in its excellence with the Paradise of Vulture Peak. [Source: Masahara Anesaki, Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet (Cambridge, Mass., 1916), p. 110, as quoted in Wm. Theodore de Bary (ed.), Sources of Japanese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), P. 230, Eliade Page]

We have only to wait for the coming of the time. Then the moral law (kaiho) will be achieved in the actual life of mankind. The Holy See will be the seat where all men of the three countries [India, China and Japan] and the whole jambudvipa [world] will be initiated into the mysteries of confession and expiation; and even the great deities, Brahma and Indra, will come down into the sanctuary and participate in the initiation.

Nichiren’s Exile and Persecution

Nichiren was exiled at age 31 for his militant views. Although he played a role in preparing Japan for the Mongol invasion, he was exiled twice for getting people riled up with doomsday predictions. In his memorial “Establishing Right and Making the Country More Secure” he insisted that there must be a national religion and all other sects should be suppressed. He called the Pure Land sect the Everlasting Hell and claimed Zen Buddhists were devils. Although he was condemned by the government and the traditional sects he was popular among ordinary people.

According to the BBC: Nichiren not only embarked on missionary work for his own cause, but also on energetic disparagement of rival Buddhist views, to the extent of warning that those who followed them were going to hell. This made him extremely unpopular with other Buddhist teachers. Nichiren also rebuked the rulers of Japan for allowing rival Buddhist schools of thought to promote "erroneous teaching". The job of the government, he said, was to promote the Lotus Sutra and look after the monks who taught it. Unless the government did this, Nichiren and his monks were duty bound to oppose the rulers of Japan. Loyalty to the Lotus Sutra was more important than loyalty to country or secular authority.

He was exiled twice by the government and some of his disciples were executed. He refused to compromise his principles and continued to challenge the established schools of Buddhism. During his second exile on Sado Island he wrote letters of encouragement to his disciples which later formed some of his most important works. In 1274, he was freed and the government cleared him of any wrongdoing. He died on October 13 1282, surrounded by his closest disciples.

According to Soka Gakkai: “Nichiren was critical of the established schools of Buddhism that relied on state patronage and merely served the interests of the powerful while encouraging passivity in the suffering masses. He called the feudal authorities to task, insisting that the leaders bear responsibility for the suffering of the population and act to remedy it. His stance, that the state exists for the sake of the people, was revolutionary for its time. Nichiren's claims invited an onslaught of often-violent persecutions from the military government and the established Buddhist schools. Throughout, he refused to compromise his principles to appease those in authority. Nichiren's legacy lies in his unrelenting struggle for people's happiness and the desire to transform society into one which respects the dignity and potential of each individual life.”

Persecution of the Nichiren sect continued after Nichiren’s death, reaching a high point in the mid-sixteenth century, when a band of rival Tendai monks burned twenty-one Nichiren temples in Kyoto, slaughtering all the priests, including a reputed three thousand in the last temple.

Nichiren: “Rectification for the Peace of the Nation”

Nichiren's Risshou Ankokuron

In “Rectification for the Peace of the Nation” (Risshō Ankoku Ron), Nichiren wrote: “The Sūtra of the Humane King (Ninnō kyō) states: “When a nation becomes disordered, it is the spirits which first show signs of rampancy. Because these spirits become rampant, all the people of the nation become disordered. Invaders come to plunder the country and the common people face annihilation. The ruler, the high ministers, the heir apparent, and the other princes and government officials all quarrel with each other over right and wrong. Heaven and earth manifest prodigies and strange occurrences; the twenty.eight constellations, the stars, the sun and the moon appear at irregular times and in irregular positions, and numerous outlaws rise up.” [Source: “Sources of Japanese Tradition”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Donald Keene, George Tanabe, and Paul Varley, 2nded., vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 296-298; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, ]

“But because of this book written by Hōnen, this "Senchakushū" the Lord Buddha Shākyamuni is forgotten and all honor is paid to Amida, the Buddha of the Western Land. The Lord Buddha’s transmission of the Law is ignored and Yakushi, the Buddha of the Eastern Region, is neglected. All attention is paid to the three works in four volumes of the Pure Land scriptures, and all other wonderful teachings that Shākyamuni proclaimed throughout the five periods of his preaching life are cast aside.:

“As a result, the halls of the Buddha fall into ruin, scarcely a wisp of smoke rises above their mossy tiles; and the monks’ quarters stand empty and dilapidated, the dew deep on the grasses in their courtyards. And in spite of such conditions, no one gives thought to protecting the Law or to restoring the temples. … If people favor perverse doctrines and forget what is correct, can the benevolent deities be anything but angry? If people cast aside doctrines that are all.encompassing and take up those that are incomplete, can the world escape the plots of demons? Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil doctrine that is the source of all the trouble!”

Nichiren Buddhism Beliefs

The Nichiren School is based on belief in the Lotus Sutra and its doctrine of universal salvation. Its wide appeal is based on the broad range of religious and social thought and lay activities it incorporates. [Source: Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The essence of enlightenment according to Nichiren Buddhists is opening a person's innate Buddha-nature in this world. Their belief that enlightenment is available to everybody has been described as a "shortcut to salvation". Triple refuge — meaning the Buddha, the dharma or law, and the sangha or community — are part of this belief. In Nichiren Buddhism, Nichiren himself is regarded as the Buddha, while the dharma is in the chant and the gohonzon (venerated religious object). [Source: BBC |::|]

Nichiren Buddhists believe in ten basic principles as fundamental to human make-up. These are:
1) Hell — a condition which appears when someone feels in despair or desperate.
2) Hunger — when someone constantly wants something, for example, to be like someone else rather than accept their own life.
3) Animality — is governed by instinct and may lead someone to prey on those more vulnerable. For example, a power hungry boss may abuse his position and treat his/her staff like slaves.
4) Anger — encompasses traits of selfishness, competitiveness, and arrogance.
5) Tranquillity — is a calm state of life.
6) Rapture — is the pleasures one feels when one's desires are fulfilled.
7) Learning — appears when someone seeks new skills.
8) Absorption is a condition based on knowledge and wisdom.
9) Bodhisattva — means 'disciple of the Buddha' and is a state where people have strong concern for others which ultimately helps them to overcome their challenges.
10) Buddhahood — is the ultimate state to be in as it includes compassion, wisdom, and humaneness.

Nichiren Buddhists and the Lotus Sutra

Nicheren urged people to chant “Namu myo ho ren ge kyo”—“adoration to the scripture of Lotus Sutra.” The Lotus Sutra affirms that all people, regardless of gender, capacity or social standing, inherently possess the qualities of a Buddha, and are therefore equally worthy of the utmost respect. The Nichiren central doctrine is “ Rissho Ankoku “ which means “spreading peace throughout the country by establishing the True Dharma and uniting society through the Lotus Sutra.”

The Lotus Sutra is an ancient Mahayana Buddhist text. It asserts that all beings can attain the state of Buddha and enlightenment through simple devotion. Based on his study of the sutra, Nichiren established the invocation (chant) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a universal practice to enable people to manifest the Buddhahood inherent in their lives and gain the strength and wisdom to challenge and overcome any adverse circumstances. Nichiren saw the Lotus Sutra as a vehicle for people's empowerment - stressing that everyone can attain enlightenment and enjoy happiness while they are alive.

The “Lotus of the Good Law Sutra,” or more simply “the Lotus Sutra,” is one of the most widely venerated and beautiful Buddhist scriptures. Followers often believe that salvation can be achieved by repeatedly chanting, "I take my refuge in the Lotus Sutra" and passages from the Lotus sutra in front of a small altar containing a scroll with Chinese characters representing the Lotus Sutra. Translations of it into English or other Western languages are not very good. The Lotus Sutra was probably compiled over 200 years and completed around A.D. 50-150.

Nicheren: Adoration to the Lotus of Perfect Truth

Nichiren held that the Lotus Sutra represents the final and supreme teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni, revealing the one and only way of salvation. While the prevailing schools of Japanese Buddhism emphasize one form of Buddha at the expense of the others, the Lotus Sutra alone upholds the truth of the triune Buddha (i.e., Dharmakdya, Sambhogakdya, and Nirmanakaya). For Nichiren, only in this trinity is the salvation of all assured. So it is the name of the Lotus Sutra, not the name of Amida Buddha, which should be on the lips of every Buddhist. [Source: Masaharu Anesaki, “Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet” (1916), PP. 46-7; as quoted in Wm. Theodore de Bary (ed.), Sources of Japanese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), pp 222-23, Eliade Page]

Nichiren said: If you desire to attain Buddhahood immediately, lay down the banner of pride, cast away the club of resentment, and trust yourselves to the unique,Truth. Fame and profit are nothing more than vanity of this life; pride and obstinacy are simply fetters to the coming life...When you fall into an abyss and some one has lowered a rope to pull you out, should you hesitate to grasp the rope because you doubt the power of the helper? Has not Buddha declared, 'I alone am the protector and saviour'? There is the power ! Is it not taught that faith is the only entrance [to salvation] ? There is the rope ! One who hesitates to seize it, and will not utter the Sacred Truth, will never be able to climb the precipice of Bodhi (Enlightenment).

Our hearts ache and our sleeves are wet [with tears], until we see face to face the tender figure of the One, who says to us, 'I -am thy Father.' At this thought our hearts beat, even as when we behold the brilliant clouds in the evening sky or the pale moonlight of the fast-falling night...Should any season be passed without thinking of the compassionate promise, 'Constantly I am thinking of you'? Should any month or day be spent without revering the teaching that there is none who cannot attain Buddhahood? . . . Devote yourself wholeheartedly to the 'Adoration to the Lotus of the Perfect Truth,' and utter it yourself_ as well as admonish others to do the same. Such is your task in this human life.

Nichiren Practices and the Gohonzon

Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists believe that personal enlightenment can be achieved in one lifetime through simple practices. The fundamental object of worship is the Gohonzon, believed to have been inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin himself on October 12, 1279. According to the BBC: Nichiren Shoshu practioners revere the Gohonzon as being at the heart of Nichiren's enlightenment. Each successive Nichiren Shoshu High Priest produces and consecrates a new Gohonzon. Every worshipper or Nichiren Shoshu household owns a smaller transcription of this scroll. New believers are issued with a copy at their initiation. [Source: BBC]

Every morning and evening, Nichiren Shoshu practioners renew their faith by performing Gongyo — the recitation of certain chapters of the Lotus Sutra and the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo — in front of the Gohonzon. Gohonzon is a Japanese word that means 'supreme object of devotion or worship'. In Nichiren Buddhism it is a paper replica of a scroll originally inscribed by Nichiren. The original was carved on camphor wood and is preserved in the Taisekiji temple. Followers keep their gohonzon in a small home altar, and face it during their daily chanting. There have been disputes between the Soka Gakkai and the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood over who has the power to create authentic gohonzons.

Study is an important part of Nichiren practice, as followers believe Buddhist study to be fundamental in illuminating one's path in life. Followers also read Nichiren's writing in a book called the 'Gosho', which expounds his beliefs and insights through letters and stories. A number of Nichiren Buddhist organisations are active in working for world peace. These include the monastic order Nipponzan Myohoji which has built over sixty 'Peace Pagodas' in Japan, and Soka Gakkai which has a major peace education initiative.

Nichiren Chanting

The main practice of Nichiren Buddhists is chanting, primarily the mantra “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” which means “I devote my life to the law itself”. A mantra is a powerful phrase repeated over and over again with profound faith, concentration and feeling. Nichiren chanters repeat their mantra to enter more deeply into the spiritual tradition of the Lotus Sutra. “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” is both the heart and title of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches the enlightenment of all living beings.

According to the BBC: Believers also recite sections of the Lotus Sutra as part of their daily practice. The chant is performed in front the Gohonzon. Chanting is usually performed for about 30 minutes night and morning and is believed to bring about changes in a person's life and reverse bad karma. Buddhists believe that our lives are conditioned by our past actions. Actions have consequences: good actions have positive consequences and selfish and unkind actions have negative consequences.

Nichiren Buddhists specifically believe that everyone can change their destiny and bring about the effects they desire. Followers are encouraged to write their personal goals down on a piece of paper and have it in front of them while chanting. The aim of the practice is to establish high states of self-development. Yukio Matsudo writes, it "works as a regular and constant inspiration to manifest the qualities of the Buddha in one's daily life." To chant “ means to activate the innate Buddha-nature. The activated Buddha-nature... will then appear in one's life as enforced life power and wisdom to live like a 'lotus flower in a muddy pond'. Yukio Matsudo, Protestant Character of Modern Buddhist Movements, Buddhist-Christian Studies, 2000

This chanting tradition is very different to the tradition of chanted prayer in many other religions. Those who practice it believe that the chant is "an influence at work in the metaphysical economy" and actually changes the force and action of karma. Practitioners also believe that chanting works not by inviting some supernatural being or power to intervene and change karma, but by affecting karma directly (almost mechanically).

Ruben L.F. Habito wrote in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (1999): The practice originated from Nichiren's teaching that the five characters that formed the title of the Sutra encompassed all the teachings of all the Buddhas. The Sutra itself tells the reader that reading it is sufficient to achieve enlightenment (and also earthly benefits) — and the character it uses for reading implies reading aloud. This simple recitation of the title in an act of homage is understood as opening the reciter to the infinite treasure house contained in the Lotus Sutra, and destines such a person to supreme enlightenment, not to mention assuring untold merit and worldly benefit.

Nichiren Sects

The main schools of Nichiren Buddhism are the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu and Nichiren Shu. Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists argue that Nichiren was the divine reincarnation of Buddha Sakaymuni (563-483 BCE). Nichiren Shu, however, teaches that Nichiren was not a Buddha but a priest. This is the main doctrinal difference between these two schools of Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai is based on Nichiren Shoshu teachings. The two organisations split in 1991 and now work as separate bodies.

Soka Gakkai is a distilled form of Nichiren Buddhism. Its name means “Value-Creating Society) One of the largest religious sects in Japan, it teaches that spiritual (and perhaps material) happiness for an individual are achievable in this world through a simple spiritual practice of chanting specific matras. Between 1951 and 1980 it grew from 51,000 to 16 million members. It now has around 8 million members. Tina Turner is one of the 300,000 Soka Gakkai members in the United States.

According to the BBC: Followers of Nichiren Shoshu believe that they belong to the true school of Nichiren Buddhism. This belief is disputed by other schools of Nichiren Buddhism. The dispute hinges on the interpretation of two documents Minobu sojo and Ikegmai sojo. These documents state that Nikko (1246-1333) is the successor of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism.

Nichiren Shu is one of the larger modern Nichern sects. It had 3.8 million members in the 2000s when it was led by Rev, Ryokou Koga. At that time the group was trying to spread itself more overseas and had temples in 12 countries, including Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, India and the United States and has 16 aid projects going Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Vietnam.

Nichiren Shu (or 'Nichiren Faith') is the oldest of the Nichiren Buddhism sects and is still seen as being the most mainstream of the Nichiren sects. This is because followers of Nichiren Shu have maintained links with non-Nichiren Buddhist traditions. Believers are allowed to take part in other Buddhist spiritual practices, such as silent meditation or Sho Daigyo. They also study the foundational concepts of Buddhism such as the Four Noble Truths and Taking Refuge. They do not accept Nichiren Shoshu teaching that Nikko was the sole successor of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism.

As the oldest Nichiren tradition, Nichiren Shu has access to Mount Minobu where Nichiren lived in seclusion and was buried. The Nichiren Shu also owns some of the founder's most important personal possessions. Unlike the Soka Gakkai, followers of the Nichiren Shu have not actively evangelised in the West. However its membership has grown in countries across the globe. The Nichiren Shu now ordains non-Japanese speaking priests and has expanded its temples throughout the western world.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons; Samurai websites, MIT visualizing history

Text Sources: Samurai Archives; Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University ~; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Library of Congress; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO); New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Daily Yomiuri; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek, Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated January 2024

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.