The South China Morning Post reviews Ian Johnson’s book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao and delves into the hearts and souls of the growing number of religious believers in China.
The South China Morning Post:
While religious practices have been allowed to return to the mainland, there is still a cautiousness, especially when it comes to foreign involvement in such activities (and the example of the Falun Gong is always there, for those religious groups who might consider growing too large or becoming too independent from the state).
Throughout the book, Johnson is by his subjects’ sides as they search for greater meaning or perform age-old rituals. He engages in Buddhist and Taoist meditation, seeking his own answers, and he attends a retreat with a 94-year-old Taoist, Nan Huai-chin, who is described as China’s most famous contemporary sage. He also attends a meditation course in caves in southern China.
The Chinese, in an effort to catch up with the West, have discarded many of their traditions and instead tried out new ideologies “like suits of clothes” – warlordism, fascism, communism and “authoritarian capitalism”. Many are now wondering what has been lost and who they really are.
Johnson writes, “Hundreds of millions of Chinese are consumed with doubt about their society and turning to religion and faith for answers that they do not find in the radically secular world constructed around them.”
Are you interested in more stories by Ian Johnson? Do check out this list