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A Summer Reading List from Our Contributors

You know what they say . . . summer is for reading. We reached out to some of our friends and contributors and asked for their recommendations on books to read this summer. Here’s the list!

Recommended by:

Andrew T. Kaiser

Under Red Skies: Three Generations of Life, Loss, and Hope in China by Karoline Kan

The pace of change in contemporary China is bewildering, and few books capture the resulting discontinuity more faithfully than Under Red Skies. This autobiography traces the lives of a young woman and her grandmother, mother, and cousins—all from a small village in rural China, highlighting the stark differences in experience, options, and expectations that have shaped different generations in China over the last half century. Very helpful reading for anyone who hopes to understand the way Chinese people today understand the world around them.

Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China's Great Firewall by Margaret E. Roberts

This book offers a fascinating examination of how censorship actually works in the age of social media, using China as test case and sample source. The book is to be commended not just for its insights into how the Chinese state polices thought, but more specifically for its illuminating taxonomy of the different kinds of censorship at work in China and elsewhere. 

Jackson Wu

Moral Psychology of Confucian Shame: Shame of Shamelessness, by Bongrae Seok

Bongrae Seok argues that shame is a genuine moral emotion and moral disposition. He explains that shame is a uniquely evolved form of moral emotion that is comparable to, but not identical with, guilt. The author goes on to develop an interpretation of Confucian shame that reveals the embodied, interactive, and transformative nature of the Confucian moral self.

Peregrine de Vigo

From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: A Guide to Chinese Deities, by Xueting Christine Ni

An interesting, light introduction to a variety of Chinese spirits and gods, primarily from a mythical past. Ni engages both historical and contemporary manifestations of the more than sixty deities described in seventeen chapters. Helpfully organized by category, the work is a non-scholar's compendium of spiritual beings identified with traditional China (so Christianity and Islam are excluded). It is not comprehensive of the entire Chinese pantheon, but it is an excellent start, particularly for temple wanderers trying to make sense of the many images in paint and plaster. Ni also helpfully provides many other details, such as appropriate days for worshiping each deity and how/what to offer, that will help make sense of what your Chinese neighbors might be doing when you see them drawing circles in chalk on the sidewalk to burn paper money or things on "random" days, as well as a good number of black and white photos of various deities to help with identification. 

(Watch for the ChinaSource review coming on this book)


The Tiananmen Papers, by Liang Jiang, Andrew J. Nathan, and Perry Link

The Tiananmen Papers is a fascinating read. It gives you an unusual and deeper look into the Chinese Communist Party using their own documents to see what really was happening around the time from April to June 1989. It is full of details and gives you a good chronological aspect of the situation, yet it is anything from boring. It is like turning a stone to see what is crawling underneath.

Mary Li Ma

Engaging Globalization: The Poor, Christian Mission, and Our Hyperconnected World, by Bryant L. Myers

This book is written as a general overview of how globalization came about, its social implications, and why the church should care about it. The author states with regret that “while Christians seem to be willing to use the technological tools of globalization for church and mission, there is little evidence that Christians and their churches are devoting much energy to understanding globalization, biblically assessing its values and promises to us, and preparing our people to respond” (p. 5). Although global economic integration is the primary reality of today’s world, churches seem to have less confidence in addressing this intricate and complicated issue which involves our knowledge of contemporary economics, finance, technology and many other aspects. The author explains how “the values and processes of globalization” fail in three areas: a reductionist and thin anthropology without a theology of sin, a flawed assumption about the role and purpose of power, and lack of a spiritual and ethical framework (p. 8). Does the Christian faith have anything to offer on this topic at the public table? This book answers with a definitive “yes.”

Myron Youngman

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins

This book was named one of the top religion books of 2002 by USA Today, and winner of the Christianity Today Book Award in the category of “Christianity and Culture.”  It is a work of research with tons of notes, and a bit of a wake-up call for Western-centric Christians.

Young China: How the Restless Generation will Change Their Country and the World, by Zak Dychtwald. 

This book, written by the founder of Young China Group, gives a ground level view of young people in China born after 1990 and how these young people are influencing China.

Wayne Ten Harmsel:

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

This is one of many great books by many great Chinese-American authors. It follows a young girl who returns to China to find her birth father. She returns to China at the height of the Great Leap Forward. It is page turner of a story coupled with a wrenching account of living through the Great Leap Forward.

Finally, I will add the following books written by a few of the above people. We are grateful and proud to have such skilled writers and prolific writers in our network.

Books Written by:

Encountering China: The Evolution of Timothy Richard’s Missionary Thought (1870-1891) by Andrew T. Kaiser

This published dissertation reads like a traditional missionary biography of one of the giants of Protestant mission to China. The book focuses on the ways in which Timothy Richard adapted his understanding and practice of mission as he became more familiar with Chinese people and their cultural world. Different chapters explore Richard’s use of scripture, his willingness to learn from Chinese religions, his participation in humanitarian aid, his focus on Chinese elites, and his conflicts with fellow missionaries.

Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China. Li Ma and Jin Li

This sociological portrait presents how Chinese Christians have coped with life under a hostile regime over a span of different historical periods, and how Christian churches as collective entities have been reshaped by ripples of social change. Relying mainly on an oral history method for data collection, the authors allow the narratives of Chinese Christians to speak for themselves. Identifying the formative cultural elements, a sociohistorical analysis also helps to lay out a coherent understanding of the complexity of religious experiences for Christians in the Chinese world. 

Reviewed in the ChinaSource Quarterly, “The Shaping of Christianity in China Today: A Book Review.”

Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission, Jackson Wu.

From the back cover:

[Wu] argues that some traditional East Asian cultural values are closer to those of the first-century biblical world than common Western cultural values. In addition, he adds his voice to the scholarship engaging the values of honor and shame in particular and their influence on biblical interpretation. As readers, we bring our own cultural fluencies and values to the text. Our biases and backgrounds influence what we observe―and what we overlook. This book helps us consider ways we sometimes miss valuable insights because of widespread cultural blind spots. In Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes, Jackson demonstrates how paying attention to East Asian culture provides a helpful lens for interpreting Paul's most complex letter. When read this way, we see how honor and shame shape so much of Paul's message and mission.

Watch for a review in the ChinaSource Blog.

Image credit: Photo by Jyotirmoy Gupta on Unsplash.
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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