Review of Religion and Chinese Society



Launched in 2014, Review of Religion and Chinese Society is an international peer-reviewed journal publishes articles and book reviews in the social sciences and certain humanities disciplines. All articles will be in English, and Chinese titles and abstracts will also be provided. RRCS is published by Brill Publishers.


“Religion” is understood in the broadest sense, including various spiritual and meaning-making systems of beliefs and practices.
“Chinese society” includes those in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Chinese diaspora communities in Asia, North America, Europe, and elsewhere throughout the world. The journal also welcomes studies that compare religion in Chinese and other societies.


RRCS is multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary in its outlook and presents theoretical and empirical studies of religion in disciplines such as anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology, sociology, and history. Preferred articles are theory-driven, empirical studies, although the journal also publishes articles that are primarily empirical or theoretical.

The journal publishes reviews of books that have been published in English, Chinese, and other languages. It may also publish review essays of particular fields, symposia of particular topics, interviews with renowned scholars, and reports of academic conferences relevant to the journal’s themes.
Article submissions and proposals for special issues are welcome.

Editorial Board

Editor in Chief:
Fenggang Yang, Professor of Sociology and Director of Center on Religion and Chinese Society
Purdue University, USA


Associate Editors:
Ryan Dunch, Associate Professor and Chair of East Asian Studies
University of Alberta, Canada

André Laliberté, Professor of Political Science
University of Ottawa, Canada

David Palmer, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology
The University of Hong Kong
Book Review Editor:
Jonathan E. Pettit, Assistant Professor of Chinese Religion
University of Hawaii, USA
Editorial Board:
Hsing-kuang Chao (Tunghai University, Taiwan)
Adam Chau (Cambridge University, UK)
Kenneth Dean (McGill University, Canada)
Stephen Feuchtwang (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Shining Gao (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China)
Vincent Goossaert (CNRS-EPHE, France)
Zhe Ji (INALCO, France)
Xiangping Li (East China Normal University, Shanghai, China)
Xi Lian (Duke University, USA)
Richard Madsen (University of California, San Diego, USA)
Anna Sun (Kenyon College, Ohio, USA)
Michael Szonyi (Harvard University, USA)
Yen-zen Tsai (Chengchi University, Taiwan)
Carsten Vala (Loyola University Maryland, USA)
David Wank (Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan)
Robert Weller (Boston University, USA)
Mei-hui Mayfair Yang (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA)
Fuk-tsang Ying (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Volume 4, Issue 2 (2017)


Research Articles


Religion, Resistance, and Contentious Politics in China / André Laliberté
In this essay, I present the concepts of religious resistance and contentious politics, in which religions represent a source of inspiration, before moving to the issue of how these concepts apply to China. I note that there is little literature on this particular subject, which is always politically sensitive. As the Communist Party of China has increasingly recognized the relevance of religion in contemporary society, it has tried to keep it in check and thereby ensure that independent associations with a religious background will not become involved in contentious politics. This article then briefly introduces the four case studies in this special issue on the theme of religion and contentious politics in China: two cases of persecution of Christians and Catholics during the period of Mao, and two articles about Buddhism, which has a more complex relationship with the state.


Faith and Defiance:Christian Prisoners in Maoist China / Joseph Tse-Hei Lee
The persecution of Chinese Christians after the outbreak of the Korean War raised important questions about faith and politics in a state-centric society. This article examines the experience and memory of three Protestant religious prisoners in the Maoist era: Watchman Nee (Ni Tuosheng 倪柝声), who founded the Christian Assembly (jidutu juhuichu 基督徒聚会处) or Little Flock (xiaoqun 小群) in early twentieth-century China; Epaphras Wu (Wu Weizun 吳维僔), an active Little Flock member; and Robert Huang (Huang Zhaojian 黃兆坚), who organized Seventh-Day Adventist activities in 1950s Shanghai. The persecution stories of these religious leaders entered Chinese Christian hagiography, providing Chinese Christians with a shared cultural resource that transcended denominational and theological differences. Central to my investigation are questions about how Christians reacted to Maoism, how they came to terms with the traumatizing experience of incarceration as part of a broader life struggle, and how Chinese churches made sense of these persecution narratives to assert their faith and agency. A closer look at the history of these religious prisoners enables us to capture faith-based resistance at an individual level, and to contextualize the particularities of each persecution in the Maoist period.


Gender, Catholicism, and Communism in 1950s Shanghai / Paul P. Mariani
In the 1950s, Shanghai witnessed a conflict between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Shanghai Catholic community. The CCP wanted this community to break ties with the pope and form an “independent” Catholic Church that would fall under the authority of the Chinese government. Many Catholics in Shanghai soon resisted what they perceived to be the unjust religious policies of the CCP. One of the “backbone elements” of Catholic resistance in Shanghai was young women. This study investigates how three young Catholic women dealt with the CCP’s encroaching religious policies. All three came from similar backgrounds and they all initially formed part of the Catholic resistance to CCP religious policies during the early 1950s. Afterward their trajectories differed dramatically due to the particular way in which the Communist revolution intervened in the life of each woman. This study thus illuminates the contested area of religious faith, state power, and gender in the early years of the People’s Republic of China.


The Simultaneity of Compliance and Resistance: Buddhism, Xuyun, and the Early Communist Regime / Hung-yok Ip
To examine the history of Chinese Buddhism in the early Communist regime, I propose to study Xuyun (虛雲, 1840–1958), one of the pre-eminent monks in modern China. I will delineate the ways in which Xuyun brought his religion in line with Marxist politics. To help Buddhism secure a place in the early People’s Republic of China, he took part in the construction of a new Buddhism compatible with socialist ideology. However, I would venture to conceptualize as resistance some of Xuyun’s efforts to preserve Buddhism. This article examines his resistance at two levels. First, while working hard to prove the value of Buddhism to the state, Xuyun mounted what can be regarded as rightful resistance. When possible, he confronted policies and authorities that hurt the sangha, but did so without challenging the legitimacy of the CCP. Second, in the 1950s, Xuyun strove to instruct Chinese Buddhists in self-cultivation. As he shared his experience and knowledge about spiritual practice with fellow Buddhists, he showed them, especially monastics, how to uphold Buddhist ideals in a political context marked by hostility towards religions.


Lay Buddhists and Moral Activism in Contemporary China / Gareth Fisher
The last few decades have seen the rise of grassroots groups of lay Buddhists in post-Mao China who, through the composition, exchange, and discussion of Buddhist-themed media, foster moral discourses that critique what they perceive as the materialistic direction of contemporary Chinese society. Disseminated at legal but unregulated spaces within Buddhist temples, these discourses empower the economically marginalized lay practitioners who gather there and provide them with new purpose in life. Practitioners are also able to transmit these moral discourses through networks to other temple spaces. However, they do not yet possess the means to use them to influence the social direction of Chinese society at large. This is due to (1) political restrictions against the circulation of religious-themed materials outside of approved religious activity sites; (2) economic obstacles faced by the practitioners who seek to spread anti-materialistic messages; (3) a lack of organizational cohesiveness among the practitioners; and (4) the influence on practitioners of doctrines within Buddhism that caution against proselytizing to those who do not already possess a pre-fated bond with the Buddha and his teachings. As a result, lay Buddhists do not as yet constitute a social movement in the way the term is conventionally used by sociologists.


Book Reviews


Religious Publishing and Print Culture in Modern China: 1800–2012. Edited by Philip Clart and Gregory Adam Scott / Daniel Burton-Rose


Reconstructing the Confucian Dao: Zhu Xi’s Appropriation of Zhou Dunyi. By Joseph Alan Adler. SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture / Stephan N. Kory


The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka. By Tanya Storch / Alexander O. Hsu

Volume 4, Issue 1 (2017)

Volume 3, Issue 2 (2016)

Volume 3, Issue 1 (2016)

Volume 2, Issue 2 (2015)

Volume 2, Issue 1 (2015)

Volume 1, Issue 2 (2014)

Volume 1, Issue 1 (2014)



Online submission: Articles for publication in the Review of Religion and Chinese Society can be submitted online through Editorial Manager, please click here.

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Review of Religion and Chinese Society
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