From the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, a portrait of religion in China today—its history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which it is influencing China’s future.
In his fascinating odyssey through contemporary Chinese religion, Ian Johnson uncovers the roots of these tensions, and the contradictory, complex face of religion in China today ... The book is full of moving encounters with Chinese citizens struggling to find the 'lost middle' of the country known as Middle Kingdom ... Johnson succeeds in having produced a nuanced group portrait of Chinese citizens striving for non-material answers in an era of frenetic materialism.
...[a] compelling new book ... Johnson’s fundamental aim in this book is to make sense of this great spiritual awakening, which he does with compassion and insight. He also wisely avoids offering any facile or sweeping explanations for a phenomenon that is clearly not unique to China. Rather, by focusing on four different religious groups that cut across regional and socioeconomic divides — and by following them all through a full lunar year — he is able to situate the particular Chinese experience within larger realities that define our current world ... it is precisely Marx’s notion of how religion serves a purpose for several different Chinese communities that Ian Johnson’s wonderful book captures so well.
...[an] absorbing and often surprising book ... The question that remains at the end of The Souls of China is how long the devout and the party-state can maintain this precarious balance. The party has granted religions that play by the rules a considerable amount of leeway, but will that be enough to satisfy those in search of a fulfilling spiritual life? If the population of believers continues to grow, will the party remain content with the rules of engagement as set out in Document 19, or will it want to take a greater role in directing the interior lives of its citizens?