Magazine article Geographical

The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao

Magazine article Geographical

The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao

Article excerpt

THE SOULS OF CHINA: The Return of Religion After Mao

by Ian Johnson; Allen Lane; [pounds sterling]25 (hardback)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

China is currently undergoing 'one of the great religious revivals of our time', writes Johnson, with hundreds of new places of worship - temples, mosques, churches - opening each year, and millions of new worshippers using them. It seems contrary to accepted wisdom about the country, usually thought of as a place where faith is marginalised, but indicates growing levels of doubt among the population about the society in which they live. In traditional Chinese society, the role of religion was 'diffused' - there was little theology and few fixed places of worship; instead, religion was spread over life, making its presence felt through the shared values it implemented. Work was sacred, with most professions boasting a god, and there was little sense of religion being separate: 'It was how you lived. It was what you did.'

When Christianity arrived in the country all that changed, and a divide between 'real religion' and superstition appeared, but Christianity was purged in its turn, come the Cultural Revolution. …

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