Longtime China journalist Ian Johnson will soon release his new book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao. In it he presents a picture of the richness and diversity of religious life in China through his stories of priests, pilgrims, fortune tellers, and Protestant house church members.
Here is how Johnson describes the book:
The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao (Pantheon/Knopf in the US and Penguin in the UK, both on April 11, 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, I 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.
This video trailer by Jonah Kessel is a great sneak peek.
Johnson’s entire collection of video clips related to the stories in the book can be found here.
It’s a must-read for those who want to deepen their understanding of Chinese culture and religious life.