The rise of Christianity as a social force in China (unlike the decline of Christianity as a social force in the West) is an underreported story. Even well-informed analysts who look to China as a rising power sometimes ignore it. This month, Routledge releases the paperback version of what looks to be an interesting corrective, Christian Values in Communist China, by Gerda Wielander (University of Westminster). The publisher’s description follows:
This book argues that as new political and social values are formed in post-socialist China, Christian values are becoming increasingly embedded in the new post-socialist Chinese outlook. It shows how although Christianity is viewed in China as a foreign religion, promoted by Christian missionaries and as such at odds with the official position of the state, Christianity as a source of social and political values – rather than a faith requiring adherence to a church is in fact having a huge impact. The book shows how these values inform both official and dissident ideology and provide a key underpinning of morality and ethics in the post-socialist moral landscape. Adopting a variety of different angles, the book investigates the role Christian thought plays in the official discourse on morality and love and what contribution Chinese Christians make to charitable projects. It analyses key Christian publications and dedicates two chapters to Christian intellectuals and their impact on political liberal thinking in China. The concluding chapter highlights gender roles, the role of the Chinese diaspora, and the overlap of the government and Christian agenda in China today. The book challenges commonly held views on contemporary Chinese Christianity as a movement in opposition to the state by showing the diversity and complexity of Christian thinking and the many factors influencing it.
In March, Rowman & Littlefield released “Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion” by Henry Rosemont Jr. (Brown University). The publisher’s description follows:
The first part of Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion is devoted to showing how and why the vision of human beings as free, independent and autonomous individuals is and always was a mirage that has served liberatory functions in the past, but has now become pernicious for even thinking clearly about, much less achieving social and economic justice, maintaining democracy, or addressing the manifold environmental and other problems facing the world today.
In the second and larger part of the book Rosemont proffers a different vision of being human gleaned from the texts of classical Confucianism, namely, that we are first and foremost interrelated and thus interdependent persons whose uniqueness lies in the multiplicity of roles we each live throughout our lives. This leads to an ethics based on those mutual roles in sharp contrast to individualist moralities, but which nevertheless reflect the facts of our everyday lives very well. The book concludes by exploring briefly a number of implications of this vision for thinking differently about politics, family life, justice, and the development of a human-centered authentic religiousness. This book will be of value to all students and scholars of philosophy, political theory, and Religious, Chinese, and Family Studies, as well as everyone interested in the intersection of morality with their everyday and public lives.
In April, Columbia University Press will release “The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China: A Political History of the Tibetan Institution of Reincarnation” by Peter Schwieger (University of Bonn, Germany). The publisher’s description follows:
A major new work in modern Tibetan history, this book follows the evolution of Tibetan Buddhism’s trülku (reincarnation) tradition from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, along with the Emperor of China’s efforts to control its development. By illuminating the political aspects of the trülku institution, Schwieger shapes a broader history of the relationship between the Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China, as well as a richer understanding of the Qing Dynasty as an inner Asian empire, the modern fate of the Mongol empire, and current Sino-Tibetan relations.
Unlike other pre-twentieth century Tibetan histories, this volume rejects hagiographic texts in favor of diplomatic, legal, and social sources held in the private, monastic, and bureaucratic archives of old Tibet. This approach draws a unique portrait of Tibet’s rule by reincarnation while shading in peripheral tensions in the Himalayas, eastern Tibet, and China. Its perspective fully captures the extent to which the emperors of China controlled the institution of the Dalai Lamas, making a groundbreaking contribution to the past and present history of East Asia.
Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion and Authoritarianism by Karrie Koesel (University of Oregon). The publisher’s description follows.
This book provides a rare window into the micropolitics of contemporary authoritarian rule through a comparison of religious-state relations in Russia and China – two countries with long histories of religious repression, and even longer experiences with authoritarian politics. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in multiple sites in these countries, this book explores what religious and political authority want from one another, how they negotiate the terms of their relationship, and how cooperative or conflicting their interactions are. This comparison reveals that while tensions exist between the two sides, there is also ample room for mutually beneficial interaction. Religious communities and their authoritarian overseers are cooperating around the core issue of politics – namely, the struggle for money, power, and prestige – and becoming unexpected allies in the process.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fulfilled an oft-repeated wish to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine while in office. In Shinto belief, the shrine houses the souls of millions who died in the service of the Japanese Empire. Abe has expressed regret that he did not visit the shrine during his last stint as prime minister, from 2006 to 2007.
You’d think a visit to such a shrine by a sitting prime minister would be entirely proper, like an American president visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Abe’s visit has caused great controversy, however, as Abe surely knew it would. Among the souls commemorated at the shrine are a thousand convicted war criminals who fought for Japan in World War II, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. China and Korea, which both suffered greatly at Japan’s hands in that war, deeply resent official visits to Yasukuni and, naturally, objected to Abe’s visit. So, unusually, did the United States, which expressed disappointment “that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors.” Walter Russell Mead does a good job explaining the diplomatic implications.
For his part, Abe said he had not intended to offend Japan’s neighbors or send a crypto-imperialist signal. He did not visit Yasukuni to honor war criminals, he insisted, but to express to the souls housed there his determination “to create an age where no one will ever suffer from tragedies of wars.” In addition, Abe’s spokesman stressed that the prime minister had visited the shrine, and made a donation, strictly as a private citizen exercising his “religious freedom.” This last part is important for purposes of Japanese law. According to the Japanese Supreme Court, the constitutional “separation of state and religion” forbids officials from making financial contributions to Yasukuni for use in Shinto ceremonies.
So, is everything clear now? It was crucially important for Abe to visit Yasukuni while in office–but strictly in an unofficial capacity. A very lawyerly distinction, but one unlikely to persuade anyone in China or Korea. Maybe not even in Japan.
Next month, Princeton University Press will publish The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India by Peter van der Veer (Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows.
The Modern Spirit of Asia challenges the notion that modernity in China and India are derivative imitations of the West, arguing that these societies have transformed their ancient traditions in unique and distinctive ways. Peter van der Veer begins with nineteenth-century imperial history, exploring how Western concepts of spirituality, secularity, religion, and magic were used to translate the traditions of India and China. He traces how modern Western notions of religion and magic were incorporated into the respective nation-building projects of Chinese and Indian nationalist intellectuals, yet how modernity in China and India is by no means uniform. While religion is a centerpiece of Indian nationalism, it is viewed in China as an obstacle to progress that must be marginalized and controlled.
The Modern Spirit of Asia moves deftly from Kandinsky’s understanding of spirituality in art to Indian yoga and Chinese qi gong, from modern theories of secularism to histories of Christian conversion, from Orientalist constructions of religion to Chinese campaigns against magic and superstition, and from Muslim Kashmir to Muslim Xinjiang. Van der Veer, an outspoken proponent of the importance of comparative studies of religion and society, eloquently makes his case in this groundbreaking examination of the spiritual and the secular in China and India.
This month, Routledge published Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation edited by Adam Yuet Chau (University of Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows.
Before the modernist transformations of the twentieth century, China had one of the richest and most diverse religious cultures in the world. The radical anti-traditionalist policies of both the Republican and Communist regimes as well as other socio-historical factors posed formidable challenges to China’s religious traditions but, this book argues, these conditions also presented new opportunities for re-generation and innovation.
It shows that economic reforms and the concurrent relaxation of religious policies have provided fertile ground for the revitalization of a wide array of religious practices, including divination, ancestor worship, temple festivals, spirit mediumism, churchgoing, funeral rites, exorcism, pilgrimages, sectarianism, sutra chanting, and the printing and distribution of morality books. Equally new forms of religious practices have emerged such as lay Buddhist preachers, “Maoist shamans”, and a range of qigong sects/schools.
Written by an international, interdisciplinary team of experts who have all conducted in-depth fieldwork research in China, this book provides a wide-ranging survey of contemporary religious practices in China. It examines the different processes and mechanisms of religious revivals and innovations, and, more broadly, relates the Chinese example of religious revitalization to larger issues of social and cultural continuity and change.
This October, Macmillan Publishing has published Ruling, Resources and Religion in China by Elizabeth Van Wie Davis (Colorado School of Mines). The publisher’s description follows.
China is not an easy country to rule: it is experiencing rapid growth and with it rapid social change. Resources and religion are two of the most difficult of its challenges, and their combination with ethnicity is not unique to China. It may well be one of the major underlying currents of the 21st century, and is present throughout Asia—with the Baloch of Pakistan, the Kurds of Iraq and Turkey, and the Timorese of the former island of East Timor in Indonesia, now Timor-Lest. In all these nations, as in China, ethnic identity, often united with religious differences, is driven by the presence of valuable resources to create a nationalism with economic underpinnings. With China, however, the outcome is vital, as how it copes with the pressures for good governance with the Asian economic model, treats its ethnic minorities under scrutiny, and gathers resources to fuel its dynamic economy impacts us all.
An interesting looking history of the difficult relationship between the Catholic Church and China, The Catholic Church in China: 1978 to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) by Cindy Yik-yi Chu (Hong Kong Baptist University). The publisher’s description follows.
This book traces the history of the Catholic Church in China since the country opened up to the world in December 1978. It comprehensively studies the Chinese Catholic Church on various levels, including an analysis of Sino-Vatican relations, the control over the Catholic Church by the Beijing government, the supervision of local Church activities, and the consecration of government-approved bishops, the formation of priests, and the everyday lives of Chinese Catholics.
This November, Oxford University Press will publish The Future of Religious Freedom: Global Challenges edited by Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows.
What is the status of religious freedom in the world today? What barriers does it face? What are the realistic prospects for improvement, and why does this matter? The Future of Religious Freedom addresses these critical questions by assembling in one volume some of the best forward-thinking and empirical research on religious liberty, international legal trends, and societal dynamics. Top scholars from law, political science, diplomacy, sociology, and religion explore the status, value, and challenges of religious liberty around the world – with illustrations from a wide range of historical situations, contemporary contexts, and constitutional regimes. Continue reading