Chinese Religious Life

Chinese Religious Life

Chinese Religious Life

Chinese Religious Life

Synopsis

Written by a team of internationally renowned scholars, this volume provides an in-depth introduction to religion in contemporary China. Instead of adopting the traditional focus on pre-modern religious history and doctrinal traditions,Chinese Religious Lifeexamines the social dimensions of religious life, with essays devoted to religion in urban, rural, and ethnic minority settings; to the religious dimensions of body, gender, environment, and civil society; and to the historical, sociological, economic, and political aspects of religion in contemporary Chinese society.

Excerpt

Philip L. Wickeri

Religious life is flourishing in China, and on many different levels. the growth of religion is evident not only on the mainland, but in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, and in overseas Chinese communities as well. On the mainland, in the People’s Republic of China, religious life has reemerged over the last thirty years. Despite official sanctions in some areas, there is a new openness in a society in the midst of rapid social, political, and economic change. Buddhists visit a popular temple in east China to burn incense or ask the monks to conduct special services for their families. Villagers gather at festival time to usher in the lunar New Year and perform a communal sacrifice to the local gods. Muslims in far Western China proceed to their neighborhood mosque five times a day for prayers. Buddhists in Taiwan discover a renewed interest in service to society. An elderly woman consults a fortune-teller to find out about the future prospects of her son and his family who are about to go overseas. Christians go to a newly opened or reopened church in the early morning to prepare for Sunday services. a cook places fruit, specially prepared food, and incense before a small altar at the back of his restaurant. a small group of women and men meet in a park to practice taijiquan, an exercise for the body as well as the spirit.

These are some of the popular images of Chinese religious life that have become increasingly familiar in the period of openness and reform that began in the late 1970s. On the mainland, Chinese people, as well as visitors or residents from overseas, can observe or participate in any number of public religious gatherings. But there are also less familiar expressions of belief, as well as aspects of religious life that are not as easily visible, and often far from open. a group of people gather in a restaurant to learn about new spiritual practices from a young monk. Tibetan monks demonstrate for religious freedom in a small city outside Lhasa. a local healer advises elderly pensioners about efficacious forms of meditation and Chinese medicine. a wealthy temple opens a factory that produces a variety of religious articles for private and public devotion. a Catholic church is forcibly closed by the . . .

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