Sichuan’s Catholic past

Source: Sixth Tone (11/7/18)
On the Trail of Sichuan’s Catholic Past
The remote southwestern province is home to some of China’s oldest and most well-preserved Catholic churches.
By Ma Te

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Dechang County, Sichuan province, Feb. 9, 2018. Courtesy of Ma Te.

The southwestern province of Sichuan is situated in one of China’s most culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse regions. Home to members of the Han, Tibetan, Hui, and Yi ethnic groups, among others, travelers to the area can find centuries-old Tibetan and Taoist temples standing alongside mosques and churches.

Of the various faiths practiced in Sichuan, Christianity stands out as a relative latecomer. The first Catholic missionary known to have reached the province was an Italian Jesuit named Lodovico Buglio, who spent much of the 1640s proselytizing there. Eventually, in 1753, the Paris Foreign Missions Society, a Catholic lay organization, took over responsibility for the Catholic missionary presence in Sichuan. By 1804, there was a small but growing community of Sichuanese Catholics, including 18 Chinese priests and four French missionaries. Continue reading

Xu Jilin, ‘The New Tianxia’

Source: Reading the China Dream (10/15/18)
Xu Jilin, “The New Tianxia: Rebuilding China’s Internal and External Order”[1]
Translation by Mark McConaghy, Tang Xiaobing, and David Ownby

Introduction by David Ownby

Although the major themes of this 2015 essay are found in many of Xu’s essays, they are woven together here in an imaginative way to address a topic that Xu does not often address—Chinese foreign policy.  He starts with a fairly familiar presentation of the traditional notion of tianxia 天下 (literally “all under heaven”) which, in Xu’s words, connoted both “an ideal civilizational order, and a world spatial imaginary with China’s central plains at the core.”  In one sense, then, China was tianxia, the embodiment, when the system functioned at its best, of the set of principles that justified imperial Confucian rule.  But tianxia was open, not closed; like the 20th century American dream,tianxia was understood, by the Chinese, as a kind of universalism to which other cultures could aspire.  Xu illustrates his point less through discussion of China’s traditional tribute system, and more through exploration of the historical relations between the Han people and the various non-Han “barbarian groups” on China’s peripheries, his point being that the processes of assimilation, borrowing, and integration were multiple, complex, and non-problematic at an ideological level.  In other words, prior to the arrival of the notion of the nation-state, “Chinese” and “barbarian” were not understood in racial terms but in civilizational terms.  An open, universal tianxia welcomed Asia’s “huddled masses” as long as they recognized tianxia’s brilliance. Continue reading

China Matters

On this day of June 4, China Matters Ltd in Australia saw fit to publish this mumbo-jumbo about the mysterious, and very pure, profundity of China. See below. The author recycles several falsities, notably the very old misunderstanding of Chinese writing as pure pictures:

“On a purely linguistic note, … Chinese language as a pure logogram and European languages which are all phonogram … ”

–But such theories have been debunked by all the linguists! For how long now? Centuries?

It goes on. Take this for example: “Classical Chinese does not operate under a set of grammatical rules,” (!!) … and so on.

But perhaps the fakery doesn’t matter, if one’s fantasy “China” matters more — as it seems to, at China Matters Ltd.?

One writer on Twitter labelled this “pure bullshit,” and there’s something to that. However, I think it is also an example of what Andrea Ghiselli in the latest China Quarterly called “Cherry-Picking” (see: “Revising China’s Strategic Culture: Contemporary Cherry-Picking of Ancient Strategic Thought,” China Quarterly, Volume 233, March 2018 , pp. 166-185.

This strategic “Cherry-Picking” is, I think, very closely related to Trumpian fakery, which also cares nothing for the facts except as the raw material with which to fashion a semi-plausible new truth that will fool some, at least.

One could use the same term for both. And the current industry of “Cherry-Picking” to mystify-and-glorify China deserves much more research, analysis, and exposure.

(In my recent article I took on the longstanding, but fake, narrative that China was always peaceful, never an empire, etc etc.: The Legacy of the Chinese Empires, in: Education About Asia 22.1, (2017), pp. 6-10, download at:

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: China (6/4/18)
A Piece to the Puzzle: Reading China’s Strategic Mindset
By Kelvin Chau

Australia will need to study Chinese cultural knowledge more comprehensively to remain competitive in the ongoing Asian Century. Studying Chinese strategic culture, notably Chinese conflict management principles, is both necessary and the first step to take. To put it simply, the importance of understanding the role of strategy in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) business culture and policy formulation is captured by the title of Professor Xuetong Yan’s book “Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern China’s Power”. Continue reading

The Buddhist Films of Edward A. Burger

Edward A. Burger (of Amongst White Clouds fame), has a new film out, another Buddhist themed documentary, giving unprecedented view into the daily lives of Zen monks at the Zhenru Monastery in Jiangxi. You can read my review below.–Lee Mack <>

Source: White Confucius (1/30/18)
Amongst White Clouds: the Buddhist Films of Edward A. Burger

I was depressed the other day. The kind of feeling where basically everything seems like shit and you don’t have any clue why you still live in China and, as a consequence, you are hateful toward everything. This is nothing to be alarmed about. It happens from time to time. When I fall into this state of mind, I know it is time to go back to basics and put some effort into remembering the good parts of being a foreigner here. In this case, that led me back to Edward A. Burger.

Burger is a documentary filmmaker I met in Beijing in 2006. We were introduced by a mutual friend and shared hot pot on Guijie. I had been told he was a filmmaker, a claim I was skeptical of myself having just come off a year at the Beijing Film Academy. I figured if he were serious about it, he would be there too and know the people I knew. Continue reading

New Wang Meng book on Chinese philosphy

Source: China Daily (12/15/17)
New work lifts cultural confidence
By Li Yingxue | China Daily

Traditional Chinese culture is as extensive as it is profound, but it has often proved a difficult subject matter to encapsulate in print. Chinese author Wang Meng uses vivid stories drawn from his understanding of traditional Chinese culture to help interpret its essence for younger generations.

Born in 1934, Wang is a former culture minister who also worked as editor-in-chief of People’s Literature and as vice-executive-chairman of the Chinese Writers’ Association. He is also a prolific author of literary works, including novels, essays and poems.

Wang’s book Zhongguo Tianji [中国天机] (God Knows China) was published five years ago. The work demonstrated his profound understanding of Chinese history. Now Wang is bringing his audience a companion piece – Zhonghua Xuanji [中华玄机] (“Chinese recondite principle”) – which provides a deeper insight into Chinese philosophy and traditional culture. Continue reading

Guiyang honors Wang Yangming

Source: NYT (10/19/17)
Forget Marx and Mao. Chinese City Honors Once-Banned Confucian.
查看简体中文版 查看繁體中文版

The city of Guiyang has led a Chinese revival of interest in Wang Yangming, a 16th-century Confucian scholar, with attractions including a park devoted to him. CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

GUIYANG, China — Nearly 500 years after he died, the Chinese philosopher Wang Yangming once again wielded a calligraphy brush, carefully daubed it into a tray of black ink and elegantly wrote out his most famous phrase: “the unity of knowledge and action.”

A crowd murmured its approval as his assistant held up the paper for all to see.

“I respect Wang Yangming from the bottom of my heart!” blurted Cao Lin, 69, a retiree.

Watching the scene unfold was Zhou Ying, who manages Wang — or at least a very realistic robot that not only looks like Wang but is able to imitate his calligraphy and repeat more than 1,000 of his aphorisms.

“This is exactly what we’re hoping to achieve with the robot,” Ms. Zhou said as Wang began writing another saying. “We feel this is a way to get people interested in these old ideas.”

Promoting these old ideas has been a priority for President Xi Jinping, who has rekindled enthusiasm for traditional culture as part of a broader push to fill what many Chinese see as their country’s biggest problem: a spiritual void caused by its headlong pursuit of prosperity. Continue reading

UC Irvine Buddhist Studies position


Open September 6th, 2017 through October 31st, 2017


East Asian Buddhist Studies Position 2018-19: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE, Irvine, CA 92697-6000. The Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures invites applications for an assistant professor tenure track position in East Asian Buddhist Studies, to begin teaching in Fall 2018. Teaching responsibilities will include lectures and seminars at the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as courses offered through the Program in Religious Studies. Candidates should also expect to advise graduate students in their area of expertise. The department values interdisciplinary approaches to research and teaching: we prefer a scholar whose research intersects with departmental research interests in gender, environmental studies, visual studies, theater and ritual performance, colonial studies, or translation; and who can teach materials from the Buddhist traditions of at least two regions in East Asia (i.e., China and Japan, Japan and Korea, or China and Korea). Qualifications: Ph.D. in Religion or East Asian Studies or related field with a specialization in Buddhism. Continue reading

Eastern Lightning cult back in the news (1)

Apropos of this topic, List members who translate should be warned that EL church in the US, which goes by several names but is usually based in New York, frequently solicits translation services from our community. They offer very high fees, but the material is anti-science, anti-intellectual, and very much a product of the ideology the group is known for. Cooperating with them would, in my opinion, endanger one’s ethical integrity as well as one’s relationship with China.

Canaan Morse <>

Eastern Lightning cult back in news

Source: Sup China (7/28/17)
Eastern Lightning cult back in the news
By Jeremy Goldkorn

On May 28, 2014, five people attacked and killed a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in a small city in Shandong Province. A bystander filmed the murder on a mobile phone and the footage spread rapidly on the internet.

  • The killers turned out to be members of the Church of Almighty God (全能神 quánnéng shén), also known as Eastern Lightning (东方闪电 dōngfāng shǎndiàn). The organisation is a doomsday cult founded in 1990 by a physics teacher named Zhao Weishan 赵维山 who claimed to have found the female Christ in the form of young woman from northwestern Shaanxi province.
  • The Chinese government banned the church as a cult in 1995; Zhao and his female Chinese Jesus are apparently in exile in the U.S.
  • During the trial of the five McDonald’s murderers, one of the accused said that his group had wanted to convert the victim but they killed her after she refused to tell them her phone number.

Eastern Lightning are in the news again: reports (in Chinese) on the detention of 18 members of the group in eastern Zhejiang Province, the shutdown of two of their “lairs” (窝点 wōdiǎn), and confiscation of computers and propaganda pamphlets. Sixth Tone has a good summary of the news in English. The cult’s own website is here.

Religious revival fuels environmental activism

Source: NYT (7/12/17)
China’s Religious Revival Fuels Environmental Activism

MAO MOUNTAIN, China — Far from the smog-belching power plants of nearby cities, on a hillside covered in solar panels and blossoming magnolias, Yang Shihua speaks of the need for a revolution.

Mr. Yang, the abbot of Mao Mountain, a sacred Taoist site in eastern China, has grown frustrated by indifference to a crippling pollution crisis that has left the land barren and the sky a haunting gray. So he has set out to spur action through religion, building a $17.7 million eco-friendly temple and citing 2,000-year-old texts to rail against waste and pollution.

“China doesn’t lack money — it lacks a reverence for the environment,” Abbot Yang said. “Our morals are in decline and our beliefs have been lost.”

Hundreds of millions of people in China have in recent years turned to religions like Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, seeking a sense of purpose and an escape from China’s consumerist culture.

Continue reading

Dams threaten homes and sacred mountains

Source: SCMP (6/26/17)
China’s drive to build dams for green power threatens homes and sacred mountains
A huge dam in southwestern Sichuan province will force people from their homes and monasteries to be relocated, and has stirred anxiety among locals over the impact on their traditions and beliefs
By Agence France-Presse

A woman stands next to the debris of demolished houses and her makeshift hut near Lianghekou in Sichuan province, the site of the latest huge dam to be built in China’s drive for greener sources of power. Photo: AFP

Towering walls of concrete entomb lush forests on mountainsides in southwest China as workers toil on the dry riverbed below to build the country’s latest massive dam.

The colossal construction site in Sichuan province swallows three rivers, providing another display of China’s engineering prowess but also of the trauma it inflicts on people and nature along the way.

Once completed in 2023, the 295-metre construction will be the world’s third-tallest dam, producing 3,000 megawatts of energy. Continue reading

Fo Guang Shan in China

Source: NYT (6/24/17)
Is a Buddhist Group Changing China? Or Is China Changing It?

A statue of the Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the leader of the Buddhist organization Fo Guang Shan, in Yixing. CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

YIXING, China — For most of her life, Shen Ying was disappointed by the world she saw around her. She watched China’s economic rise in this small city in the Yangtze River Valley, and she found a foothold in the new middle class, running a convenience store in a strip mall. Yet prosperity felt hollow.

She worried about losing her shop if she didn’t wine and dine and pay off the right officials. Recurring scandals about unsafe food or tainted infant formula made by once-reputable companies upset her. She recalled the values her father had tried to instill in her — honesty, thrift, righteousness — but she said there seemed no way to live by them in China today. Continue reading

Drug addicts call for divine intervention

Source: Sixth Tone (5/22/17)
China’s Drug Addicts Call for Divine Intervention
As illegal drugs continue to infiltrate the villages of Yunnan province, users are turning to a Christian rehab center to overcome addiction.
By Denise Hruby

Residents close their eyes while praying at the Gospel Rehabilitation Center in Baoshan, Yunnan province, March 18, 2017. Thomas Cristofoletti for Sixth Tone.

YUNNAN, Southwest China — Minus a handful of Bibles and a poster of Jesus, the dark, stuffy room where a group of men hold mass every Sunday looks nothing like a church.

“A long night covers the road ahead. This is the road I must walk, but you are my lamp, my light on the road,” they sing piously, most of their tenors and deep baritones off-key. The lyrics resonate with the group, who have voluntarily come to this Christian-run rehabilitation center with hopes of leaving behind drug addiction, with God as their guide. Continue reading

Monument to Jesus in Changsha

Source: NYT (5/7/17)
A Monument to Jesus in the City of Mao

CHANGSHA, China — Sweeping heavenward like an enormous glass-and-metal ski jump, a new Protestant church dominates the crumbled earth, freshly planted trees and unfinished water features of a suburban park under construction in Changsha.

About 260 feet tall and topped by a cross, the Xingsha Church is bigger even than the biggest statue of Mao Zedong in China, less than 10 miles west of here. Continue reading