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.
To recommend that your library subscribe to RRCS, you can complete and send this recommendation form to your librarian.

Editorial Board

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

André Laliberté, Professor of Political Science
University of Ottawa, Canada
David Palmer, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology
The University of Hong Kong
Jonathan E. Pettit, Assistant Professor of Chinese Religion
University of Hawaii, USA
Book Review Editor:
Chris White, Assistant Director of Center on Religion and Chinese Society
Purdue University, USA
Editorial Board:
Daniel Bays
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 6, Issue 2 (2019)

Folk, Popular, or Minjian Religion? / David A. Palmer
Research Articles

Cosmology, Gender, Structure, and Rhythm / David A. Plamer
This article interrogates the near-complete absence of China as a source of materials and inspiration for constructing theoretical concepts and models in mainstream sociology and anthropology. I outline the story of the largely forgotten mutual engagements, influences, and missed connections between the work of the French sociologist and sinologist Marcel Granet (1884–1940), whose work revolved around Chinese religion, and key figures in the history of sociological and anthropological theory, exemplified by Durkheim, Mauss, and Lévi-Strauss. My purpose is to restore Granet—and, through Granet, China—in the genealogy of classical anthropological and social theory. This involves showing how Granet’s work was informed by the theoretical debates that animated his mentors and colleagues in the French sociological school, and how he, in turn, directly or indirectly influenced subsequent theoretical developments. It also involves raising questions about the implications of connections that were missed, or only briefly evoked, by theoreticians in subsequent generations. These questions open bridges for advancing a mutually productive dialogue between the study of Chinese cosmology, religion, and society, and theory construction in sociology and anthropology.
The Continent of the Gods / John Lagerwey
It first occurred to me some thirty years ago that Shenzhou 神州, translated “continent of the gods,” was a perfect way of talking about “China in the Daoist mirror.” It made it possible to think of China as a series of concentric spaces, going from the self to the cosmos, all structured in the same away around nodal points occupied by gods. Because it revealed a dense organization at every level, this space-based approach led me as well to call into question the classic distinction between “diffused” and “organized” religion. Subsequent work, both historical and in the field, gradually enabled me to see this as a long evolutionary history which begins with elite attacks on spirit-medium religion in the Warring States and culminates with the emergence of popular religion in the Song. This religion includes popular versions of the Three Teachings, but it is built around the local, anthropomorphic gods whose primary task was the protection of bounded territory and whose natural servants were the ever-maligned spirit-mediums.
The “Redemption” of Redemptive Societies / David Ownby
“Redemptive societies” is a term often used to refer to the organized expression of salvationist religious activity in Republican period China. These groups were a major part of Chinese social and cultural life in the decades preceding the Communist revolution, and are related, in ways that remain unclear, to the “White Lotus” sectarian traditions under the dynasties, and to the qigong boom of the 1980s and 1990s. This article assesses the state of the field of studies on redemptive societies, and offers suggestions for its future development.
Rethinking Mediumship in Contemporary Wenzhou / PAN Junliang
The study of spirit mediums has drawn the attention of international scholars from the 1960s onward, and the topic continues to thrive. Yet little work has been done on spirit mediums in mainland China, which have mainly been glimpsed through studies of mediumship in Taiwan. This article draws on ethnographic research to explore the diverse traditions of spirit mediums in Wenzhou. While spirit mediums are viewed with ambivalence, they play a significant role within broader Chinese folk religions. It is crucial to understand spirit mediums through the appropriate cultural context in order to understand their diverse practices and roles in local society. I discuss why Wenzhou’s mediumship should be regarded as a form of shamanism in spite of differences between its discourse and practices and those of Minnan mediumship, as well as those of Siberian or Korean shamanism.
Funerals and Religious Modernity in China / Andrew B. Kipnis
Modernity in China has involved the establishment of religion as a separate sphere of life, rapid urbanization, and the rise of the profession of funerary work. This paper examines the intersection of these three trends. On the one hand, the professionalization of funerary work takes place outside of religious institutions. It involves the commercialization of funerary work, the separation of the spaces for funerary ritual from the spaces of everyday life, and the need for professionals in a context where death itself is separated from the dynamics of living. On the other hand, because life itself is sacred and death vividly poses questions of the meaning of life, funerary ritual takes on a sacred tone and religious elements enter the proceedings no matter how nonreligious the professionals and the bereaved claim to be. The dynamics of religious modernity, or “the religious question in China,” involves the simultaneous compartmentalization of religion and the breaking of the boundaries between the religious and the nonreligious. These dynamics are at the heart of contemporary, urban Chinese funerals.
Book Reviews
The Varieties of Confucian Experience: Documenting a Grassroots Revival of Tradition, edited by Sebastian Billioud / Yong Chen
For Love of My People I Will Not Remain Silent: On the Situation of the Church in China, written by Cardinal Joseph Zen / Calida Chu
Missionary Primitivism and Chinese Modernity: The Brethren in Twentieth-Century China, written by David Woodbridge / Jiayin Hu
Encountering China: The Evolution of Timothy Richard’s Missionary Thought (1870–1891), written by Andrew T. Kaiser / Lauren F. Pfister


Volume 6, Issue 1 (2019)

Negotiations and Diversifications of China’s Christianities / Carsten Vala
Research Articles

The Chinese Catholic Church: Between Rome and Beijing and Sinicization from Above and Below / Richard Madsen
Both the Chinese state and the Vatican have an interest in maintaining more regular control over local Catholic community life. Their interests partially converge in seeking a regularized process for selecting Catholic bishops in the officially recognized part of the Chinese Church. This overlapping of interests is the basis for the “provisional agreement” between the Vatican and China on the selection of bishops signed on September 22, 2018. The agreement fails to address the area where Sino-Vatican interests diverge, i.e., the status of the thirty-six “underground” bishops, recognized by the Vatican but not by the Chinese government. Meanwhile, grassroots Catholic communities in China are deeply embedded in local social structures and their leaders have long exercised a considerable degree of agency in managing local affairs and adapting Catholic practices to local culture. The interaction between local communities and the long-term development of the Chinese Catholic church will depend, on the one hand, on the complex cooperative and competitive arrangements between the Vatican and the Chinese state and, on the other hand, on the interaction between the agency of local communities and the forces of control from above.
The Rise of the “Underground” Catholic Church in Early Reform-Era China / Paul Marian
This essay aims to present a detailed account of the restoration of the Catholic Church in Shanghai during 1979–1981 and then to explain how the arrests and suppression of Catholic leaders in late 1981 solidified the division between the official and underground Catholic churches. Two of the major factors that lead to the reemergence of the Shanghai Catholic underground community were the release and rehabilitation of veteran priests and other Catholic leaders and the dissemination of a 1978 Vatican decree that gave great latitude to the church, which was functioning in “difficult circumstances.” The essay ends with a discussion of current prospects of the Catholic Church in China.
Trends and Reflections: A Review of Empirical Studies of Christianity in Mainland China since 2000 / Jianbo Huang and Mengyin Hu
Christianity in China has achieved a rapid growth in population since the 1980s. This article mainly reviews empirical studies on Christianity from 2000 to the present. Drawing on statistics from the China Academic Journal Network Publishing Database (cajd), this article begins with an analysis of the trends in both quantity and research interests of large-scale empirical studies. Categories of churches are defined and applied to the analysis of various topics related to Christianity in China and to academic questions addressed by Chinese scholars. The article also discusses theoretical frameworks used to explain the dynamics behind the revival of Christianity and studies of the social functions of Christian churches. In addition, the article reviews investigations of Christianity in social life in contemporary China, studies of religious boundaries and civil society, the causal relationship between Christianity and economic development, its functions in urbanization, and other related subjects. It ends with discussions of Christianity’s global dimension, its identity as a global religion, and its relation to the emergence of a global China.
Official Protestantism in China / Karrie J. Koesel, Yizhi Hu and Joshua Pine
What do we know about Protestant Christianity in contemporary China? How is it organized; where, why, and how is it growing; and how do we understand its evolving relationship with the party-state? The purpose of this article is to evaluate the state of official Protestantism in China and take stock of what we have learned. We do so in three ways. One is to identify the origins of state-sanctioned Protestantism; another is to evaluate conflicting claims about church size, growth, and demographics; and the third is to suggest directions for future study.
Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Sketch of the Field of Christianity in China Studies and Possible Future Directions / Carsten Vala
This essay sketches the current state of fieldwork-based studies of Christianity in China, focusing on monographs published from 2008 to 2018. It discusses strengths and gaps in research paradigms (religious economy or market theory; rational-actor bargaining; institutional theory; religious ecology), levels of analysis (macro- or national level; meso- or regional level; micro- or congregational level), and modes of interaction (resistance-domination; negotiation; cooperation) in an effort to point out areas rich for future research: the impact of theologies and denominations, the existence of regional models of Christianity, and the study of money, real estate, social service, syncretism, and religious decline.
History Lessons: Uncovering China’s Protestant Past Today / Chris White
This article contends that Chinese Protestant history is increasingly produced and consumed by various interest groups in China today. Protestant families, church congregations, and local state actors are all involved in reassessing and promoting local Protestant history. These processes reveal vibrant, organic forms of acculturation of Christianity into Chinese society. This article further argues that it would be prudent for scholars of contemporary Chinese Protestantism to focus greater analytical attention on Chinese Protestant history.
Book Reviews
Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab, written by Kristian Petersen / Tristan G. Brown
Shanghai Sacred: The Religious Landscape of a Global City, written by Benoȋt Vermander, Liz Hingley, and Liang Zhang / Mark McLeister

Volume 5, Issue 2 (2018)

Reimagining Chinese Islam and Muslims in Transregional Spaces / Yuting Wang
Research Articles

Chinese Muslims in Transregional Spaces of Mainland China, Taiwan, and Beyond in the Twentieth Century / Wlodzimierz Cieciura
This article examines the modern social history of Chinese Hui Muslims in the context of transregional connections within and beyond the borders of the two modern Chinese nation-states, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan. The article applies Engseng Ho’s concepts for the study of Inter-Asia to the biographical study of several prominent Hui religious professionals and intellectuals. The experiences and personal contributions to the development of modern Chinese Muslim culture of people like Imam Ma Songting are scrutinized, along with political and ideological conflicts over different visions of Chineseness and “Huiness” during the turbulent twentieth century. It is argued that when studying the social history of Chinese Muslims, researchers should not limit themselves to the religious activities of Hui elites that occurred within the confines of the two Chinese nation-states, but should also take into consideration the expansion of those elites’ religious activities abroad and the intensive circulation of knowledge across Inter-Asian spaces in which they participated.
The Construction of Chinese Muslim Identities in Transnational Spaces / Yuting Wang
Since the beginning of the reform and opening up in China nearly four decades ago, China’s Muslim minorities have restored connections with the global Muslim ummah (community) through religious pilgrimages, business activities, and educational and cultural exchanges. Whether attracted by better economic prospects or for religious purposes, an increasing number of Chinese Muslims have found ways out of China, taking sojourns or eventually settling down in diverse locations across the globe. Drawing on the author’s field research in China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, combined with a review of key studies on Chinese Muslims in Southeast Asia, this paper traces the shape of Chinese Muslim transnational networks and examines the construction of “Chinese Muslim” identity in the diaspora. By locating the study of contemporary Chinese Muslims within the broader scholarship on transnational religion, this paper deepens our understanding of the impact of globalization on ethnoreligious minorities.
Religious Agency and Gender Complementarity: Women’s Mosques and Women’s Voices in Hui Muslim Communities in Central China / Maria Jaschok
The aim of the article is to probe the unique tradition in central China’s Hui Muslim community of women-only, female-led mosques and their enduring, expressive culture of chanted worship, learning, and celebration as trans/local translations of Western feminist core notions of “agency” and “gender equality.” Women’s agency—here understood as entailing the capacity for informed and purposeful choice from context-specific options and resources—is framed by a religious faith-infused subjectivity, by women’s aspirations to reach their full potential as Muslim women. A broad outline of the evolution of women’s mosques from inward-oriented and assigned facilities to outward-oriented institutions provides historical context for both the institutionalization of an intense gendered piety and for mosque-based facilitation of educational and development needs. Moreover, the popularity of rediscovered Islamic chants among Hui Muslim women has ignited heated debates surrounding the propriety in Islam of performed, publicly audible female sound. It is the contention of the article that global references and values, such as “gender equality,” continue to matter as references for local translations. The changing nature of “gender complementarity” as a vernacular version of “gender equality” is seen by Hui Muslim women as testifying to changing times and opportunities.
China and Transregional Halal Circuits / Michael Brose
Demand for halal food items is rising in China, and domestic producers are striving to meet it. But while the growth of China’s domestic halal market mirrors increasing demand around the world, it is difficult for Chinese producers to tap into the global market, due not least to the lack of internationally recognized halal certification processes. This problem was the focus of a recent halal trade fair and conference in Xi’an that featured Muslim religious leaders and halal industry specialists from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei, but not from China. The event was organized and supported by local government and business authorities, who worked with an international Muslim marketing firm that will assist local halal producers to obtain recognized halal certification. This paper examines the Xi’an conference and trade fair as an example of the commercialization and branding of halal in China and explores the ramifications of this process for Muslims in China and for China’s desire to participate in the growing transnational halal economy.
Book Reviews

A Late Sixteenth-Century Chinese Buddhist Fellowship: Spiritual Ambitions, Intellectual Debates, and Epistolary Connections. By Jennifer Eichman / Daniel Burton-Rose
The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao. By Ian Johnson / Courtney Bruntz
Chinese Theology: Text and Context. By Chloë Starr / Li Ma
Anarchy in the Pure Land: Reinventing the Cult of Maitreya in Modern Chinese Buddhism. By Justin Ritzinger /Erik Hammerstrom
Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China. By Li Ma and Jin Li /Zexi (Jesse) Sun
Chinese Public Theology: Generational Shifts and Confucian Imagination in Chinese Christianity. By Alexander Chow / Li Ma

Volume 5, Issue 1 (2018)

The Cross of Chinese Christians and Their Resistance to Suppression / Fenggang Yang
Research Articles

The Failure of the Campaign to Demolish Church Crosses in Zhejiang Province, 2013–2016, A Temporal and Spatial Analysis / Fenggang Yang
In 2013, the Zhejiang government initiated a campaign to demolish church crosses (DCC) throughout the province in the name of landscape improvement. In April 2016, the campaign was abruptly and quietly halted. The termination of the campaign was primarily due to unremitting resistance by Christians in Zhejiang. This article provides a temporal and spatial analysis of the DCC campaign that reveals multiple failures on the part of the Zhejiang authorities, including missing several self-imposed deadlines to remove all church crosses in the province, inconsistently implementing the campaign in various regions, and causing the breakdown of the bridging mechanism between Christian churches and the party-state. The failure of the DCC campaign is an important empirical case for studies of religion and Chinese society. It indicates that the church-state equilibrium in China may be approaching a tipping point.
Mutual Accommodation in the Church-State Relationship in China? A Case Study of the Sanjiang Church Demolition in Zhejiang / Zhidong Hao and Yan Liu
The campaign of church demolitions and cross removals in Zhejiang from 2013 to 2016 has revealed some uneasiness in the religion-state relationship in China. The party-state has had a policy of “mutual accommodation” since the 1990s, and the official churches are good examples of such accommodation. But the demolition of Sanjiang Church shows the limits of the policy. In this case study, we argue that mutual accommodation between the two sides is still possible but constrained by two factors: the broad political and policy structure, and the individuals involved in the interaction between church and state. This case study helps to shed some light on an issue that has a far-reaching effect on sociopolitical change in China
The Politics of Cross Demolition: A Religio-Political Analysis of the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” Campaign in Zhejiang Province / Fuk-Tsang Ying
From March to December 2014, various Wenzhou churches were affected by the unprecedented destruction wrought during the initial execution of the cross-demolition campaign. Subsequently, this campaign extended from Wenzhou to cities like Ningbo, Taizhou, Lishui, and Hangzhou before returning to Wenzhou in July 2015. This article centers on Wenzhou, where authorities removed at least four hundred crosses from churches. It investigates whether the reasons offered for demolishing illegal buildings justify cross demolition, examines the role of the religious factor in the overall campaign, and determines whether the Zhejiang provincial leader attempted to tackle religio-related problems under the guise of demolishing illegal buildings. This article places the cross-demolition campaign in the context of church-state relations and analyzes it from a religion-political perspective.
Chinese Protestant Reactions to the Zhejiang “Three Rectifications, One Demolition” Campaign / Mark McLeister
This paper analyzes the wider effects of church demolitions and cross removals in Zhejiang on another location within the Huadong region. Based on fieldwork conducted in 2014 and 2015, this paper argues that the demolition of churches and church crosses is a potential catalyst for millenarian beliefs within popular Christianity. Much of the research on millenarianism has focused on specific movements. However, this paper utilizes the concept of millenarianism as a “body of underground ideas and thought which circulates in a community” and argues that the Zhejiang events have heightened millenarian beliefs within the Huanghaicheng Protestant community and resulted in an interpretation of these events as indicating that the “Last Days” are imminent. This perception has been facilitated by other “signs.” This paper furthers our understanding of the potential impact that political campaigns can have on popular Christianity and what resources individual believers draw on for making sense of them.
“Double-Burdened Mothers”: A Narrative Inquiry Concerning Women Pastors in Contemporary Protestant Churches in Mainland China / Duan Hua
Since its reopening in the late 1970s, the Protestant Church (including both registered and unregistered churches) in mainland China has experienced rapid growth characterized by three conspicuous phenomena: extreme gender disproportion, increased numbers of young intellectual and white-collar converts, and growing numbers of women pastors. In this narrative study conducted between May 2016 and May 2017, the researcher interviewed eight women pastors in Protestant churches in W Province to understand their lives and experiences. This study found that the majority of the participating women pastors stated that they entered Christian ministry because of their mothers’ influence and prompting. On a deeper level, however, their decision can be attributed to the special political, economic, and social circumstances in mainland China during the 1950s–1970s. These women pastors see themselves as “double-burdened mothers” with respect to their families and the congregations. They face the challenges of dealing with complicated interpersonal relationships, a lack of male leaders and workers, and weak faith within their congregations.

Volume 4, Issue 2 (2017)

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.
Research Articles
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)

How Chinese are Chinese Christians Today? / Fenggang Yang
Research Articles

Reading Religion in China Today: Interviews with Chinese Christianity Researchers / Naomi Thurston
This article, based on qualitative fieldwork among Chinese scholars of Christianity whom I interviewed between 2011 and 2015, explores the nexus between scholarly inquiry, cross-disciplinary negotiation, and religious belonging, specifically among the first generation of scholars researching Christianity after the launch of Deng Xiaoping’s policy of reform and opening-up. The article presents a typology of the researchers that is informed by interviewees’ disciplinary, religious, and discursive alignments. It also addresses the question of how the academic discipline of theology might find new anchorage in the landscape of “Sino-Christian studies,” with its many voices and varied interests.
The Ecological Impact on Bonding and Religious Identity: A Case of Chinese Graduate Students in Two Sociocultural Contexts in the United States / Cynthia Baiqing Zhang
Linking concepts from networks, identities, and ecology, I draw on material collected during sixty interviews to show how a group of culturally homogeneous Chinese graduate students, when placed in two sociocultural environments in the United States, displayed different processes of religious identity network formation. In a large and heterogeneous community with more possible identities, students showed human agency by forming religious identities less constrained by networks. Human agency is also exemplified in the expansion of their religious circle of friends once they developed a religious identity. Religious identity often preceded networks. However, in a small and homogeneous community, students did emotion work to stay in pro-religious groups, presumably due to the limitations they had in choosing friends, particularly Chinese friends. The formation of networks more likely preceded the emergence of religious identities premised on the coexistence of multiple relationships in dyads and solidarity within primary groups. The narratives demonstrate how ecology matters for the formation of network ties and religious identity.
From “Children of the Devil” to “Sons of God” / Teresa Zimmerman-Liu
Guanxi is the Chinese system of ideas and practices constituting social relationships and can be considered the foundation of Chinese societies. Protestant Christianity spread over guanxi networks from its first introduction to China, changing both guanxi and Christianity in the process. This paper proposes a causal model of guanxi and then analyzes how it was reconstituted in the indigenous Chinese Protestant group, the Local Churches. It is based on published writings by Local Church founders and members and on the author’s thirty years of experience with the group. This case contributes to the academic understanding of guanxi and Chinese Christianity, finding that extension of family, supply of resources, and social interaction are the core aspects of guanxi, but that specific practices change in the Christian context to preserve biblical commandments. Because guanxi networks are bonding rather than bridging, Chinese Christian groups will tend to diverge more than they converge.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Wenzhou Entrepreneurs in Milan and in Their Homeland / Ottavio Palombaro
Despite challenges from the government because of its large Protestant population, Wenzhou has come to be known as “the Jerusalem of China.” Many of the city’s entrepreneurial “boss Christians” (laoban jidutu 老板基督徒) have exported their successful businesses overseas. The empirical findings presented in this paper are part of an in-depth, comparative, qualitative study of Chinese entrepreneurs working in Milan, Italy. Treating the house churches as a sect and examining the nature of the “calling” (yi xiang 异象) described by boss Christians provides an opportunity to reconsider Max Weber’s discussion of the so-called Protestant ethic and the concept of Beruf (calling). The interviews were conducted among Protestant and non-Christian business owners active in Milan’s Chinatown and other areas in Italy, and also during fieldwork in their homeland in China. The study points out the connection between their business ethic and Protestantism.
“Culture Wars” in a Globalized East: How Taiwanese Conservative Christianity Turned Public during the Same-Sex Marriage Controversy and a Secularist Backlash / Ke-hsien Huang
An astonishingly large Christian coalition has emerged to protest the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, an alleged beacon for the promotion of gay rights in Asia. This article investigates how Taiwanese conservative Christianity, which had been politically inactive for decades, has publically mobilized itself since the early 2010s, particularly in reaction to the gay-rights movement. I examine how the shifting role of the state in Taiwan encouraged conservative Christians to stand up and speak against gay-rights issues. Transnational religious networks in East Asia facilitated Taiwanese conservative Christianity’s affiliation with a united and well-organized cross-denominational force targeting gay rights. Lately, religious entrepreneurs have emerged to integrate resources from business, politics, and academia that are necessary for political engagement. All these factors have contributed to this religious movement in the public sphere, a rarity in the Chinese world. I also analyze the ensuing secularist backlash: the anti-gay-rights movement is described as an anti-human-civilization movement in which charismatic leaders, portrayed as evil magicians, utilize a variety of strategies to deceive naive, ignorant believers.
Book Reviews

Mindscaping the Landscape of Tibet: Place, Memorability, Ecoaesthetics. By Dan Smyer Yü / Nicole Willock
The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future. By Prasenjit Duara. / Ting Guo
Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China. By Stuart H. Young. / Alexander O. Hsu

Volume 3, Issue 2 (2016)

Research Articles

<a href=”javascript:Toggle(‘Volume 3, Issue 2 (2016)’);” )<a href=”javascript:Toggle(‘Volume 3, Issue 2 (2016)’);” )Mapping the Sacred: Geospatial Studies on Chinese Religions / J.E.E. Pettit and Jason Protass
Remapping Locust Temples of Historical China and the Use of GIS / Shih-pei Chen
Building temples in order to obtain relief from natural plagues was a common religious practice in premodern societies. In historical China, citizens built locust temples in hope of avoiding locust infestations. There were no centrally collected records in historical China of such plagues or other natural disasters. In order to discern patterns in the distribution of locust plagues over time and geographical space throughout historical China, this paper replicates the work of Chinese geographer Chen Cheng-siang, who used local gazetteers as major sources for collecting such data. The results of this paper include a modern GIS map of locust temples based on digital editions of local gazetteers, a GIS dataset, and a procedural method for constructing GIS maps on other topics mentioned in local gazetteers.
Toward a Spatial History of Chan: Lineages, Networks, and the Lamp Records / Jason Protass
This paper lays a foundation for spatial religious histories of Chan Buddhism in the Northern and Southern Song dynasties (960–1279). The Lamp Records (denglu 燈錄) texts are genealogically organized hagiographic records of members of the Chan lineages. Scholarly consensus holds that these records are primarily religious texts and of questionable historicity, but with a critical methodology it is possible to discover patterns in these documents which can be amplified and visualized using digital techniques. This paper blends GIS geospatial analysis and traditional close reading of sectarian Buddhist sources and nonsectarian historical sources (such as “gazetteers” 地方誌). The author assembled a GIS dataset to study the Chan abbots named in the Song-era Lamp Records texts, including each abbot’s lineage identity, temple location, and the number of full-fledged disciples recorded in a Lamp Records text. The results suggest that Chan lineages during the Northern Song as presented in the Lamp Records correspond to regional networks and were not necessarily doctrinal opponents. This paper concludes with a series of critiques regarding the power and limits of computational methods like GIS. The author proposes that the task of the digital humanist is to go beyond building infrastructure and to engage in critical interpretation.
Knowing the Paths of Pilgrimage: The Network of Pilgrimage Routes in Nineteenth-Century China / Marcus Bingenheimer
In the early nineteenth century the monk Ruhai Xiancheng 如海顯承 traveled through China and wrote a route book recording China’s most famous pilgrimage routes. Knowing the Paths of Pilgrimage (Canxue zhijin 參學知津) describes, station by station, fifty-six pilgrimage routes, many converging on famous mountains and urban centers. It is the only known route book that was authored by a monk and, besides the descriptions of the routes themselves, Knowing the Paths contains information about why and how Buddhists went on pilgrimage in late imperial China. Knowing the Paths was published without maps, but by geo-referencing the main stations for each route we are now able to map an extensive network of monastic pilgrimage routes in the nineteenth century. Though most of the places mentioned are Buddhist sites, Knowing the Paths also guides travelers to the five marchmounts, popular Daoist sites such as Mount Wudang, Confucian places of worship such as Qufu, and other famous places. The routes in Knowing the Paths traverse not only the whole of the country’s geography, but also the whole spectrum of sacred places in China.
Spatial Study of Mosques: Xinjiang and Ningxia as Case Studies / Zhaohui Hong and Jianfeng Jin
Different from conventional research methods, spatial study applies GIS to study space, time, and mapping, all of which are valuable in analyzing religious institutions, sites, and locations. Supported by multiple spatial, digital, and statistical methods, this study selects eight cities and prefectures in China and examines their Islamic mosques based on accessible government data. Following a discussion of methodologies and data, the article focuses on the density of the Muslim population in the selected cities by calculating the average number of Muslims attending one mosque. In addition, this study applies a spatial method, the location analysis method (LAM), to scrutinize the availability of Islamic mosques by measuring the average distance between Chinese Muslim residential areas and the nearest mosque. Furthermore, this study employs two additional spatial methods, the two-step floating catchment area method (2SFCA) and the network analysis method (NAM), to investigate the accessibility of mosques by estimating the average driving time required for Muslims to reach the nearest mosque. After comparing the average rankings of density, availability, and accessibility of mosques in the eight cities and prefectures, this study proposes three criteria for determining mosque accessibility in Xinjiang and Ningxia, two areas in China with a large concentration of Muslims.
Book Reviews

Christian Values in Communist China, written by Gerda Wielander / Carsten Vala
Practicing Scripture: A Lay Buddhist Movement in Late Imperial China, written byBarend J. ter Haar / Jiang Wu
Christianity. Edited by Zhuo Xinping. Religious Studies in Contemporary China Collection 3 / Fredrik Fällman
Demonic Warfare: Daoism, Territorial Networks, and the History of a Ming Novel, written by Mark R. E. Meulenbeld / Richard G. Wang
The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism. By Paul F. Copp / Geoffrey Goble
Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China, edited by Thomas Jansen, Thoralf Klein, and Christian Meyer / Joey Marshall

Volume 3, Issue 1 (2016)

Does Chinese Civilization Hinge on Ancestor Worship?/ Fenggang Yang (杨凤岗)
Research Articles

Ancestor Worship and the Longevity of Chinese Civilization / Kathryn Coe and Ryan O. Begley
Although an impressive body of literature is devoted to the practice of venerating ancestors in China and other places, there is little agreement on what ancestor worship is, where it is practiced, and whether it is an ancient and persistent trait. Ancestor worship, we argue, is an ancient trait that has persisted in China, as in other parts of the world, since prehistoric times. We also discuss its universal aspects, including those associated with teaching it and with encouraging its persistence across generations. We end by discussing the function of ancestor worship in China. Has it been an impediment to progress, as Christian missionaries and communists insisted, or, as Ping-Ti Ho claimed, has it promoted the “longevity of Chinese civilization”? We argue that both claims may be correct, depending on the definition of progress and the characteristics associated with China’s two forms of ancestor worship.
Protestant Funerals in Contemporary Xiamen:Change, Resistance, and Proselytizing in Urban China / Bram Colijn
Following its designation as a Special Economic Zone in 1980, the Chinese island city of Xiamen has once again become an affluent urban center. This paper explores recent changes in discourse and practice in Xiamen’s historic Protestant community, focusing on funerals and how they could become major platforms for proselytizing. Based on data derived from interviews, participant observation, and documents issued by secular or religious authorities, four key processes are identified. First, urban modernization policies of the local state have outlawed—but not quite eradicated—cherished funeral rites like lighting firecrackers and holding funeral marches accompanied by brass bands. Second, modernization efforts by Xiamen’s church leadership have reduced the prevalence of sackcloth and led to changes in services in funeral parlors. Third, large-scale immigration established Mandarin as the dominant language and gave rise to so-called Protestant funeral groups, whose charity work is focused on proselytizing among bereaved families. Fourth, the increasing human and financial resources of Protestants in Xiamen facilitate the mobility of large funeral groups and their use of items such as decorative crosses, musical instruments, and songbooks. The paper concludes that change, resistance to change, and proselytizing at funerals can provide insights for the study of Protestant Christians and their ritual events in China’s burgeoning urban societies.
The Role of Social Capital in the Transformation of Cultural Values and Practices: A Case Study on the Chinese Community in Taiwan / Kamila Kolpashnikova; Matthew Galway and Osamu Sudoh
This study explores the traditional views of assimilationists and cultural retentionists on the outcome of an encounter between two heterogeneous groups. Proponents of contact theory along with social capital theorists argue that greater contact and social capital between two groups result in more similarity between them. Other scholars predict that social contact fosters distinction. This study compares the effects of social capital on religious values and practices among the socially connected Taiwanese (benshengren) and Chinese (waishengren) in Taiwan. Data from the 2006 Asia Barometer and repeated cross-sections (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011) of the Taiwan Social Change Survey indicate that the Chinese are significantly different from the Taiwanese in terms of the effects of social capital on religious values and practices. The Chinese in Taiwan are also distinct from the Taiwanese in terms of the effects of gender norms on religious values and practices. These findings provide additional evidence for cultural retention rather than assimilation among Chinese in Taiwan.
Religion und Gesellschaft: A Summary of German Research on Religion in Chinese Society: A Summary of German Research on Religion in Chinese Society / Nikolas Broy
The present article summarizes “German” research on religion and society in China, defined here as research conducted by scholars who have been trained in academic institutions of the German-speaking countries Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, or who have published at least some of their work in German. I focus on research that is related to religion and society in their broadest senses in order to introduce a diverse array of studies that are dedicated to the social, political, and economic aspects of religion in China. Drawing on the methods of sociology, political sciences, and anthropology, recent German scholarship has addressed themes and problems that are not only important for the study of religion in China but also applicable to the comparative study of religion, culture, society, and politics. As a point of departure, I begin with a discussion of Max Weber’s analysis of premodern Chinese religion and Confucian worldviews.
Book Reviews

Islam and China’s Hong Kong: Ethnic Identity, Muslim Networks, and the New Silk Road, written by Wai-Yip Ho / Yuting Wang
New Confucianism in Twenty-first Century China: The Construction of a Discourse written by Jesús Solé-Farràs / John Makeham
Materializing Magic Power: Chinese Popular Religion in Villages and Cities written by Wei-ping Lin / Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky
From Comrades to Bodhisattvas: Moral Dimensions of Lay Buddhist Practice in Contemporary China written by Gareth Fisher / Eyal Aviv
Teaching the I Ching (Book of Changes) written by Geoffrey Redmond and Tze-ki Hon / David Bratt
The Ming Prince and Daoism: Institutional Patronage of an Elite written by Richard G. Wang / Tyler Beezell
Rethinking Pluralism: Ritual, Experience, and Ambiguity written by Adam B. Seligman and Robert P. Weller / Andrew Stuart Abel

Volume 2, Issue 2 (2015)

Sects, Rituals, and Property Problems / Fenggang Yang
Research Articles

Syncretic Sects and Redemptive Societies: Toward a New Understanding of “Sectarianism” in the Study of Chinese Religions / Nikolas Broy
Recent scholarship has demonstrated that “sectarian religion” can be regarded as one of the most important strands in China’s religious landscape. Notwithstanding the consensus about the religious, political, and social significance of sectarian religion in Chinese history, academics disagree sharply over questions of both definition and terminology. Building on the theories of Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu, this article defines a new approach for the understanding of sectarian religion in imperial and modern China. In the first part, I discuss four primary assumptions that have led to many misunderstandings and distortions in previous research. In the second part, I demonstrate the shortcomings of the recently introduced concept of “redemptive societies,” which implies a discontinuity between premodern sects and modern redemptive societies. In the last part, I construct a novel approach that aims to understand the workings of sectarian religion in sociological terms.
Messianism and Politics in Contemporary China: The Church of Almighty God / Junliang Pan
The present paper discusses the structure of the Church of Almighty God, which enables its leader to control the church from a distance, and reconsiders the relationship between politics and religion. Although the church has a Christian identity, its adoption of a rigidly hierarchical structure has its roots in Maoist political culture and in a Chinese messianic tradition as well. The encounter of these traditions and cultures in the context of contemporary China shows us how new religious groups absorb different symbolic resources to nurture their own organization, and to what extent Christianity is sinicized. Through this case study, we see how an old tradition can remain alive today, as well as the ease with which discourses and practices may be shared between social and political organizations. Not only do religious groups draw inspiration from the government when creating their own administrative structures, government measures also influence religious groups’ practices.
Chinese Rituals for Muslim Ancestors: Southeast China’s Lineages of Muslim Descent: Southeast China’s Lineages of Muslim Descent / Abt Oded
This paper explores unique ritual traditions of descendants of Song-Yuan Muslim sojourners in Southeast China, and the mechanisms they apply to shape their own identity. Today, members of the lineages examined here are not practicing Muslims. Though they resemble their Han neighbors almost completely, many still preserve distinct traditions of ancestral worship, aimed at commemorating their forefathers’ foreign origin. So far scholars have tended to address these communities in ethnic terms. Under current government policies, some Muslims’ descendants were granted Chinese-Muslim minority (Hui) status. Therefore, the widely accepted approach interprets their unique traditions as evidencing an affinity with Islam. The present paper offers an alternative approach to the one focused on contemporary ethnic classification by studying the self-perceived identity of Muslims’ descendants as part of the Chinese environment. Focusing on the worship system into which their “Islamic” traits were incorporated, it demonstrates that Muslim faith has marginal significance for establishing their identity, and that Chinese religion and culture actually play the central role.
Property of Religious Organizations in the People’s Republic of China: History and Contemporary Problems / Liubov Afonina
This study reviews the changing conditions of religious organizations in Chinese society. Legislative action regarding religious property is an important indicator of the state’s disposition toward religious organizations. A study of the changes in the status of property owned by religious communities allows us to deepen our understanding of policy in the sphere of religion in China and to trace its transformation at various stages. Throughout the history of the People’s Republic of China, the religious policy of the Communist Party has undergone powerful transformations that reflect changes in the regime’s attitude toward religion. Tracing the status of religious property at various stages in the development of religious policy vividly demonstrates these changes. As a rule, transformations during these stages took place upon the adoption by party-state organizations of a landmark document. While the issue of religious property in China is quite delicate, the policy and methods applied in practice are very chaotic. The study sheds light on the poorly understood problems surrounding religious property in the history of modern China.
Book Reviews

Confucianism as Religion: Controversies and Consequences, written by Yong Chen / Christian Jochim
Christianity in Contemporary China: Socio-cultural Perspectives, written by Francis Khek Gee / Steven Hu
Living Karma: The Religious Practices of Ouyi Zhixu, written by Beverley Foulks McGuire / Jimmy Yu
Religion in China and Its Modern Fate, written by Paul R. Katz / André Laliberté
The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India, written by Peter van der Veer / Erik Hammerstrom
Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth-Century Monk, written by James Carter / Brian J. Nichols
Spells, Images, and Maṇḍalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals, written by Koichi Shinohara / Joshua Capitanio
The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: Charisma, Money, Enlightenment, written by Dan Smyer Yü / Joshua Esler

Volume 2, Issue 1 (2015)

Spiritual Resources and Challenges in Modernizing China / Fenggang Yang
Ensouling the Nation through Fiction: Liang Qichao’s Applied Buddhism / Dan Smyer Yu
Liang Qichao’s applied Buddhism played an important role in his political imagination and his social advocacy of building a modern China. Undertaking a case study of his political fiction, this article makes three interconnected arguments. First, the nationalism expressed in Liang’s promotion of political fiction was a type of Romantic nationalism originating from Europe but exercised in the context of the late Qing and early Republican China. Second, Liang’s applied Buddhism was an integral part of Chinese Buddhist secularization, which was not intended to separate religion from the state as in the case of its European counterpart but was directed toward the dissemination of Buddhist values into the broader popular realm of the Chinese society. Third, Liang’s applied Buddhism deserves retroactive recognition as one of the precursors of contemporary socially engaged Buddhism.
The Impact of Politics on the Minnan Buddhist Institute: sanmin zhuyi and aiguo zhuyi in the Context of Sangha Education / Stefania Travagnin
This article analyzes patterns in the direct and indirect influence of the Chinese government on the redefinition of Sangha education during the twentieth century. My research examines three moments in the history of the Minnan Buddhist Institute (minnan foxueyuan 闽南佛学院, hereafter mbi): the foundation years (1927–1933), the reopening in 1985, and its new mission and structure since 1997. I investigate the different ways in which political ideologies were incorporated into the curricula and training seminars for monastics. Specifically, this study addresses the effects of the Nationalist ideology of the Three Principles of the People (sanmin zhuyi 三民主义) and Communist Party patriotism (aiguo zhuyi 爱国主义) on the Sangha learning systems. The final section will consider the mbi as a case study of Buddhist cross-strait relations, and will map the exchanges between Buddhist education programs that developed in different political contexts by examining the values shared by Buddhists on Taiwan and on the mainland.
Shamanism and Spirit Possession in Chinese Modernity: Some Preliminary Reflections on a Gendered Religiosity of the Body / Mayfair Yang
Recent fieldwork in rural and small-town Wenzhou reveals that shamans, ritual healers, and spirit mediums have reemerged in the post-Mao era, slowing a long decline that may have started with the ascendancy of Neo-Confucianism in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and that was exacerbated by Maoist-era suppressions. Unlike the shamanistic cultures of contemporary Taiwan, Fujian, and Chinese ethnic enclaves in Southeast Asia, and what we know of China in late imperial times, most spirit mediums in Wenzhou today are women who do not engage in the bloody and violent public ritual performances found in those areas where male shamans predominate. This article reflects upon four possible explanations for the modern animosity toward shamanism and spirit possession by Chinese officialdom and mainstream Chinese society today. It suggests that the fourth possible explanation, one focusing on the bodily performances and gender of shamans, has not been adequately explored in the study of Chinese shamanism. This fourth explanation deserves attention in any future studies of spirit possession in contemporary China, as it does not treat China as an isolated case of shamanism in the world, but places Chinese shamanism in the larger global context of a shared reconfiguration of the human body in global modernity.
Glossolalia and Church Identity: The Role of Sound in the Making of a Chinese Pentecostal-charismatic Church / Yen-zen Tsai
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues has been one of the prominent features that characterize Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity. Some linguists, however, regard it phonologically illogical and semantically meaningless and thus invalid as a communicative tool. Orthodox Christianity frowns on it because of its uncouth ritual manifestations or disruptive effect on the church order. Against these perspectives, I argue that glossolalia plays a very crucial role in shaping the identity of a Pentecostal-charismatic community. “Tongue sound,” acoustically jarring to the outsider but soothing and harmonious to the believer, functions to confer on the glossolalists a particular mode of existence and consolidate them as a homogeneous group. For this argument, I draw on Lawrence E. Sullivan’s interpretation of sound in contrast to language, and on Alfred Schütz’s theory about “tuning in” and “inner time.” For illustration, I take the glossolalic manifestation of the True Jesus Church as a concrete example.
Under the Umbrella: Grounded Christian Theologies and Democratic Working Alliances in Hong Kong / Justin K. H. Tse
Taking the geographies of the 2014 Umbrella Movement as its point of departure, this paper provides a geographical reading of democratic landscapes in Hong Kong. Using a new cultural geography approach, this study unpacks the grounded theologies that undergird the participation of Christians in democratic movements in Hong Kong. The central argument is that two Christian grounded theologies in Hong Kong—collaborative and critical—have been generated according to how Christians acting within two different working alliances have positioned themselves vis-à-vis the Hong Kong government. Drawing from both ethnographic and public archival research, I trace the origins of a democratic working alliance back to the 1978 Golden Jubilee Incident, after which a democratic consensus was developed in Hong Kong. Following this thread through the 1997 handover, I demonstrate that this consensus bifurcated into two groups of Christians who disagreed theologically as to whether collaborating or critiquing the government was the ideal way to implement democratic reform. This paper contributes to the study of religion in Chinese societies by providing a geographical approach that can be used for comparative work in the social scientific study of religion and democracy.

Volume 1, Issue 2 (2014)

Editorial / Fenggang Yang
China’s Patriotic Pentecostals / Karrie J. Koesel
How do Pentecostal and charismatic churches navigate the political terrain in countries where politics can be repressive, religious freedoms are not well protected, and pentecostalized forms of Christianity are viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility, by those in power? Drawing on fieldwork in China, this article explores how unregistered Pentecostal and charismatic-leaning churches negotiate restrictive environments and attempt to make inroads into the public arena. I suggest that although these religious communities operate on the margins of the religious marketplace, they can nonetheless be considered patriotic. Such patriotism is demonstrated most readily through prayer and worship services, but also indirectly through the development of charitable and social work programs. This repertoire of patriotic action has two important implications for our understanding of religious groups in China. One is that it helps demonstrate that even unregistered religious communities are made up of patriotic and productive citizens who do not necessarily seek to challenge the authority of the party-state. The other is that religious leaders advocate patriotism, believing that it both strengthens and grows their churches, while combating negative images across the state and society.
Pentecostal-Style Christians in the “Galilee of China” / Yi Liu
This article is based on fieldwork research in Nanyang Prefecture of Henan Province. Using the concept of “lived religion” and a life history approach, the author describes a kind of Pentecostal-style Christian life practiced in a particular locality. Through an analysis of charismatic leaders of healing, confession and the born-again experience, and the role of spiritual songs in celebrations, the author found that the local Christians are shuling 属灵 (spiritual) or Ling’en 灵恩 (Pentecostal) to a great extent, but they are not necessarily aligned with a particular Pentecostal denomination in terms of theology or church organization. In addition, the author emphasizes the importance of focusing on the local sphere as the proper unit of analysis when studying Christianity in China, rather than discussing Christianity in China on a national level.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Mainland China / Rachel Xiaohong Zhu
Compared with Protestant Pentecostalism, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (ccr) movement in mainland China has had a much shorter history; it appeared independently in 1994 and has spread slowly during the last two decades. As an alternative spiritual exercise, ccr emphasizes the role of speaking in tongues, which is regarded as receiving the Holy Spirit through a new experience. Because the China Catholic Bishops’ Conference has promulgated no official guidelines, the attitude of the local bishop plays a decisive role. ccr communities have become part of church growth and have contributed to the revival of diocesan life. Besides the training seminar, regular prayer meetings, and bible studies in groups, most ccr members actively participate in the local parish’s ministry and become more diligent in observing the church’s traditional rituals or devotions, such as adoration of the Eucharist, the stations of the cross, the rosary, and vespers. Moreover, the ccr movement has never been a community independent of church authority. Instead, supervision by a bishop or priests is a crucial element.
The Femininity of Chinese Christianity: A Study of a Chinese Charismatic Church and Its Female Leadership / Joy K. C. Tong and Fenggang Yang
This study intends to answer the question of why charismatic faith appeals to Chinese Christians. Through a study of an influential Chinese charismatic church, the California-based Forerunner Christian Church (frcc), and its senior pastor, Rev. Grace Chiang (Xiuqin), we suggest that charismatic faith provides a platform for an alternative and more liberating expression of faith through challenging the male dominance and the authoritative and suppressive aspects of Confucianism and Christian fundamentalism. Further, it endorses characteristics such as passionate behavior, emotional expressiveness, and authenticity, which are seen as feminine in nature. It opens up an accepting arena where men and women can feel the liberating power of faith and freely express themselves. In doing so, charismatic Christianity unwittingly plays a role similar to that of Daoism in Chinese tradition by providing notions of the divine that have both masculine and feminine characteristics; the two religions also resemble each other in their treatment of women and their attitude toward the status quo and gender roles. As Daoism is deeply embedded in Chinese tradition and minds, and as it still plays an important role in contemporary folk religion, this resemblance partly explains why charismatic faith resonates with the Chinese consciousness and appeals to Chinese Christians.
Buddhist Groups among Chinese Immigrants in France: Three Patterns of Religious Globalization / Zhe Ji
Based on fieldwork conducted in the Île-de-France, this article distinguishes three patterns in the organization of Buddhist-themed collective practices in the Chinese diaspora in France. Each of these patterns prioritizes a particular globalization linkage, which are respectively an ethnolinguistic immigrant group, a transnational organizational system, and information technology. The author argues that religious globalization is a multilayered trans-boundary process through which communities, organizations, and individuals reconstitute relations between religious practice and sociogeographic space. In this process, various clergy-laity relationships and diverse manners of authority legitimization are integrated into a complex topology, which is at the same time shaped by global, national, and local factors.
Church and State in Spanish Formosa / Joel Fetzer and J. Christopher Soper
How did Spanish missionaries and local Christian converts interact with the colonial government in Taiwan during the Spanish era (1626–1642)? Did the largely Dominican and Franciscan clerics and their followers play a mainly priestly or prophetic role relative to the Spanish Crown and its representatives in Taiwan? Did Spanish authorities allow full religious freedom for Spaniards and indigenous converts, and did they even actively support the missionary effort in Formosa? This essay tests Anthony Gill’s political-economic model of church-state interaction by analyzing published collections of primary Spanish- and Dutch-language documents on this topic and by examining related secondary works. The essay concludes that, although a few priests tried to soften the edges of colonial dominance of Taiwanese aborigines, most missionaries largely acquiesced in Spain’s imperial experiment in northern Taiwan. The government, meanwhile, appears to have tolerated and partially funded Catholic activities on the island on the assumption that religious conversion would help dampen indigenous resistance to Spanish conquest.

Volume 1, Issue 1 (2014)

Inaugural Editorial for Review of Religion and Chinese Society
An Interview with Robert N. Bellah, July 8, 2013 / Fenggang Yang and Anna Sun
In this interview, the late Robert Bellah outlines his thoughts on and academic contributions to the study of religion in Chinese Society. Drawing on his extensive experience and knowledge, Dr. Bellah answers a wide range of questions from the role China played in his intellectual endeavors to the role of Confucianism in China, to Sheilaism and civil religion as universal phenomena.
Secular Belief, Religious Belonging in China / Richard Madsen
A recent Gallup poll found that almost half of China’s people are atheists. However, surveys conducted by Fenggang Yang and others show that as much as 85 percent of the population periodically engages in religious practices. How can we reconcile reports of widespread atheism with those of widespread religious practice?An answer is to be found in the social nature of Chinese religion—it is more about belonging than belief. Rituals and sacred myths meaningfully anchor persons to families and communities. The collapse of the commune and danwei systems has made the search for non-state-controlled community forms more pressing than ever. These alternative forms are typically established through myth and ritual. This is true as much for Christian forms of community as for traditional Chinese folk forms. Belonging in China is religious even though, as a result of sixty years of Communist indoctrination, belief is secular. The contradiction between secular belief and religious belonging creates tensions, and in the long run it is unclear how they will be resolved.
Pluralism and Chinese Religions: Constructing Social Worlds through Memory, Mimesis, and Metaphor / Robert P. Weller and Adam B. Seligman
What counts as the same? Judgments of sameness and difference are fundamental to how social groups create and define themselves over time and across space. This is never a purely objective decision because no two things, people, or groups are ever identical. Group identity thus depends in part on interpretive decisions about similarity and difference. This paper examines three primary mechanisms for such interpretation: (1) memory, in which we identify similarities that continue over time and are shared only with certain other people (e.g., memories of an ancestor or a local miracle); (2) mimesis, in which we create similarity by repeating actions over time (as in the performance of periodic rituals); and (3) metaphor, in which we come to see new similarities that had not been obvious before (typical of much conversion, for instance). Each of these modes of sameness and difference creates an alternative social dynamic, with different consequences for how people can live together socially. This presentation will analyze a range of Chinese religious behavior, from ancestor worship to Christian conversion. The approach suggests that theological considerations (as a form of memory) alone never fully determine the social importance of religion, that we need to understand the ability to impose particular interpretive frames, and that pluralism needs to be examined over time as well as space.
Catholicism and Its Civic Engagement: Case Studies of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, and Shanghai / Zhidong Hao; Shun Hing Chan; Wen-ban Kuo; Yik Fai Tam; Ming Jing
The levels of civic engagement in terms of social services and civic activism in the Catholic churches of Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, and Shanghai are very different. While the former three churches have a higher level of social services, Shanghai does not. Hong Kong has a higher level of civic activism than the other three dioceses. This paper explains the similarities and differences among these cities by using an analytical model of political, cultural, and individual opportunity structures. Our findings and analysis are derived from a collaborative research project on the Catholic Church’s civic engagement in the four cities using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. In a time of rapid political, economic, and social transformation in China, religion is beginning to play an increasingly important role. Our study sheds light on what roles Catholicism or other religions might play in this process, and it has important implications for church-state relations in greater China.
Striving to Build Civic Communities: Four Types of Protestant Churches in Beijing / Fuk-tsang Ying; Hao Yuan; Siu-lun Lau
This study examines whether and to what extent Protestant churches contribute to the building of civic communities within China. Four types of Protestant churches in Beijing (the Three-Self, Migrant Workers, Wenzhou Businesspeople, and Urban Professionals churches) are compared in terms of their organizational structures, believer participation, missions, and conflict resolution methods. This empirical study proposes that Shouwang Church, as a representative of the Urban Professionals Church, exhibits the character of civic community in many ways. Meanwhile, the Migrant Workers, Wenzhou Businesspeople, and Three-Self churches, constrained as they are by various factors, are relatively removed from civic community in different respects. The roles that Christian churches could play in the building of civil society in China deserve a great deal of attention.
Religion and Society: A Summary of French Studies on Chinese Religion / Nengchang Wu
As is well known, France has always been the center of European sinology. The study of Chinese religion has always been an important part of French sinology. Scholars outside of sinology are beginning to study Chinese religion, from various disciplinary perspectives. The importance of religion for Chinese society has also been recognized in recent years. In this context, focusing on the relations between religion and society, this article attempts to offer a brief summary of French studies on Chinese religion.


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