#64 – The Souls of China – The Return of Religion after Mao


event #64 – Tuesday, December 5th, 2017



Ian JOHNSON, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, writing for the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, the New Yorker

CHEN Xia 陈霞, Research Fellow, Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences


The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (2017) tells the story of one of the world’s great spiritual revivals. Following a century of violent anti-religious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches and mosques–as well as cults, sects and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty — over what it means to be Chinese, and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is still searching for new guideposts.


This book is the culmination of a six-year project following an underground Protestant church in Chengdu, pilgrims in Beijing, rural Daoist priests in Shanxi, and meditation groups in caves in the country’s south.



Along the way, Ian Johnson learned esoteric meditation techniques, visited a nonagenarian Confucian sage, and befriended government propagandists as they fashioned a remarkable embrace of traditional values. These experiences are distilled into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle–a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world’s newest superpower.


Join ThinkIN China for a new discussion about Johnson’s recently released book, together with Dr. Chen Xia, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, where she studies religions in China and Chinese philosophy.


Watch the book trailer on YouTube

Read the reviews about the book






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