Ian Johnson

China’s big cities are developing a new city life, including new identities, writes journalist Ian Johnson, author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, at the opening chapter of, Shanghai Sacred: The Religious Landscape of a Global City, by photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley, quoted in a review of the photo exhibition in Liverpool at Creative Boom.

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With around 26 million inhabitants, the megalopolis is home to a multitude of religions from Buddhism and Islam, to Christianity and Baha’ism, to Hinduism and Daoism and many other alternative faiths, which are constantly growing and evolving.

In the book’s introduction, Ian Johnson, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and specialist in Chinese religion, adds: “Freed from being defined by where they were born, China’s urbanites have created new identities, discovering for themselves what they truly believe with the aid of new technologies, social media and convergence of faiths and cultures.

“Some of this religious life takes place in skyscrapers and apartment blocks, but also in the pockets of the past that still dot Shanghai: a traditional New Year’s dinner, the persistence of burning paper houses, cars, and money for the dead, or a rambunctious music group announcing a wedding, birth, or funeral. Faith in China may be vulnerable, yet its unwavering importance is beyond doubt. Its very presence in people’s hearts makes it impossible to eradicate. More than economics or politics, it is these moments that are the new heart of China.”

More in Creative Boom.

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