Ian Johnson

An upsurge in  folk religions, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and other forms of spirituality is caused by China’s development into an industrial superpower, argued journalist Ian Johnson, author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao earlier this week at a speech at , according to the Yale Daily.

Yale Daily:

Johnson spoke before a crowd of about 50 students and faculty Monday about this six-year venture.

“I’ve been thinking about writing this book for over 30 years, since I first went to China in 1984,” Johnson said. “I had gone to China to learn Chinese and look at this country that was just opening up.”

During China’s period of economic reform, foreign media mostly focused on the nation’s rise as it joined the World Trade Organization, hosted the Olympics and came into the world as an economic superpower, Johnson said.

However, he explained that these global perceptions failed to accurately represent the national sentiment at the time.

“For many Chinese people, I think China was already entering a newer era, an era of uncertainty and anxiety,” he continued.

At the start of the 21st century, Chinese citizens’ excitement about their massive gains in material wealth began to fade, Johnson noted. As scandals about tainted food and political corruption hit the country, Chinese people began to question cultural values, he said.

At the same time, China’s economy was soaring and rates of urbanization were picking up. Racked with uncertainty about the grounding of their society, moving from agrarian lives with familial and community support to big cities, some Chinese citizens began to see religion as a means of adjusting to a more complex world.

“What religion is for a lot of people in China is a way to recreate community,” he said. “People are moving to these big, anonymous cities, and they feel that they lack something. These religious communities, whether they’re Christian or Daoist or Buddhist, in some way help recreate structure.”

More at the Yale Daily.

Ian Johnson is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

Are you looking for more experts on cultural change at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.

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