Mega-church ignites firestorm

Source: Sixth Tone (2/21/17)
Noah’s Ark-Inspired Mega-Church Ignites Firestorm
Giant Christian house of prayer in central China elicits curiosity, disdain, hope.
By Colum Murphy and Lin Qiqing

A view of the new Xingsha mega-church in Changsha County, Hunan province, Feb. 12, 2017. Wu Yue/Sixth Tone.

They came for a glimpse of a new mammoth, multimillion-dollar church and a stroll through its surrounding parkland. But visitors found their path blocked by a tall corrugated-iron barrier on a recent Sunday morning, forcing them to turn around and leave.

Some were casual tourists making the most of the sunny day in central China’s Hunan province. Others, like 56-year-old Huang Zhenlin, had deeper convictions. Through an opening in the barrier, Huang pleaded in vain with a construction worker inside the site: “Let me in,” he said. “I came here to worship.” Continue reading

Dating guide for party members

Source: China Real Time, WSJ (1/25/17)
Dating Guide for Communist Party Member
Chinese officials weigh in on the do’s and don’ts on arranging blind dates
By Pei Li

A group wedding for soldiers in Dongguan City, China.

A group wedding for soldiers in Dongguan City, China. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

Everyone in China looks forward to the Lunar New Year — except perhaps those unwed young adults returning home who face that inevitable question from their parents: Why are you still single?

To help speed things along, helpful elders have been known to arrange blind dates for their progeny. That has led to many avid discussions on blind date do’s and don’ts, and now even Chinese officialdom has weighed in. Continue reading

Millennials in the mountains

Some of you might be interested in this short film–Kirk.

Why some Chinese millennials are taking up the hermit’s life in the mountains

Over the past several decades, China has transformed from a largely poor and rural farming nation to a world power with massive economic heft and a rapidly growing urban middle class. While access to the global economy offers the emerging generation of young adults unprecedented access to material goods and a wide range of lifestyles, consumerism has come at a cost for some Chinese millennials who are seeking something beyond money. With a contemplative style that evokes its subject, the Beijing-based filmmaker Ellen Xu’s Summoning the Recluse introduces several young Chinese urbanites who are embarking on spiritual quests. Through a hermit’s lifestyle that draws on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian traditions – either for a brief respite from modern life, or for the long haul – they focus on studying religion, meditation and connecting with nature, seeking meaning in what they describe as an ‘ancient way of life’.

Producer: Ellen Xu
Director of Photography: Max Duncan

Chinese religion and environmental protection

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (10/17/16)
On the Role of Chinese Religion in Environmental Protection
点击查看本文中文版 Read in Chinese


A view of Maoshan, a sacred mountain in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. Credit Visual China Group, via Getty Images

Prasenjit Duara is one of the most original thinkers on culture and religion in Asia.

A 66-year-old historian of China, he was born in Assam, India, and educated at the University of Delhi, the University of Chicago and Harvard. He later taught at the University of Chicago, Stanford and the National University of Singapore and now teaches at Duke.

Professor Duara began his career with a pioneering study of Chinese religion: “Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942.” This work, published in 1988, helped redefine how many people thought of Chinese religion, showing it to be one of the most powerful forces in traditional Chinese society. His subsequent books reflect a broadening of interests to include topics such as nationalism and imperialism. His latest work, “The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future,” brings many of these strands together, along with issues such as climate change. Continue reading

Tighter grip in wake of religious revival

Source: NYT (10/7/16)
China Seeks Tighter Grip in Wake of a Religious Revival

BEIJING — The finances of religious groups will come under greater scrutiny. Theology students who go overseas could be monitored more closely. And people who rent or provide space to illegal churches may face heavy fines.

These are among the measures expected to be adopted when the Chinese government enacts regulations tightening its oversight of religion in the coming days, the latest move by President Xi Jinping to strengthen the Communist Party’s control over society and combat foreign influences it considers subversive. Continue reading

Turn to Buddhism

Source: NYT (9/7/16)
China’s Tech-Savvy, Burned-Out and Spiritually Adrift, Turn to Buddhism


A view of Longquan Monastery, in the hinterlands of Beijing. In success-driven China, many people marvel at the decision of the temple’s monks to leave behind lucrative careers in the tech sector to devote themselves to Buddhist study. Credit: Giulia Marchi for NYT

BEIJING — For centuries, Buddhists seeking enlightenment made the journey to Longquan Monastery, a lonesome temple on a hilltop in the hinterlands of northwest Beijing. Under the ginkgo and cypress trees, they meditated, chanted and pored over ancient texts.

Now a new generation has arrived. They wear hoodies, watch television shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and use chat apps to trade mantras. Many, with jobs at some of China’s hottest and most demanding companies, feel burned-out and spiritually adrift, and are looking for change. Continue reading

Shariah with Chinese characteristics

Source: NYT (9/6/16)
Shariah With Chinese Characteristics: A Scholar Looks at the Muslim Hui

Matthew S. Erie, a trained lawyer and ethnographer who teaches at Oxford University, lived for two years in Linxia, a small city in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu. Known as China’s Mecca, it is a center of religious life for the Hui, an ethnic minority numbering 10 million who practice Islam. Along with the Turkic Uighurs, they are one of 10 officially recognized ethnic groups that practice Islam, making the total population of Muslims in China around 23 million, according to the 2010 government census. Continue reading

Reconstructing Taoism’s transformations (1)

It is worth noting that in subsequent dynasties, revolts had been based on the Taoist idea of equality and had strong religious flavour. This is true especially with uprisings led by religious women such as the White Lotus Sect. In the Ming dynasty, a woman named Tang Sai’er of the White Lotus Society led an army strong enough to threaten the capital Beijing. (See Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Tang through Ming, Sharpe, 2014.)

Professor Kleeman says,”The only “Buddhists” were Buddhist monks and the only “Taoists” were Taoist priests. “ Is he including Buddhists nuns in “Buddhist monks”? And including Taoist priestesses in ‘”Taoist priests”? If not, he is ignoring a sizeable number of Buddhists and Taoists in  China.

Lily Lee <>

Reconstructing Taoism’s transformation

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (8/8/16)
Reconstructing Taoism’s Transformation in China

A Taoist nun at the Beichan Temple in Xining, in the Chinese province of Qinghai. CreditChina Photos/Getty Images

Terry F. Kleeman is a leading scholar of the early texts and history ofChina’s only indigenous religion, Taoism. A professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he is the author of the recently published “Celestial Masters: History and Ritual in Early Daoist Communities.” This is the first work in any Western language on the founding of Taoism as a formal religious movement, rooted in earlier philosophical teachings like the Tao Te Ching, also known as the Daodejing and sometimes translated as “The Way and Its Power.”

In an interview, Professor Kleeman discussed how Taoism provided an alternative political model to the Confucian-based imperial order, how Taoist texts can help deepen our understanding of early Chinese history and why today’s Communist government seeks to control Taoist practices.

What is Taoism?

The word Taoism is horribly vexed because it has to translate two Chinese terms: “daojiao” and “daojia.” “Daojiao” is the religion Taoism, while “daojia” refers to philosophical works associated with Laozi and Zhuangzi, such as the Daodejing. Continue reading

Decapitated churches

Source: NYT (5/21/16)
Decapitated Churches in China’s Christian Heartland
点击查看本文中文版 / Read in Chinese

A cross that had been torn down by Chinese government workers at a Protestant church in the village of Taitou in Zhejiang Province last year. CreditMark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

SHUITOU, China — Along the valleys and mountains hugging the East China Sea, a Chinese government campaign to remove crosses from church spires has left the countryside looking as if a typhoon had raged down the coast, decapitating buildings at random.

In the town of Shuitou, workers used blowtorches to cut a 10-foot-high cross off the 120-foot steeple of the Salvation Church. It now lies in the churchyard, wrapped in a red shroud. Continue reading

China Hui Culture Park

Source: China File (5/5/16)
If China Builds It, Will the Arab World Come?
by Kyle Haddad-Fonda

A Hui staffer chants prayers in Arabic as she walks through the main hall of the Golden Palace at the Hui Culture Park outside of Yinchuan, in the autonomous region of Ningxia.

In May 2016, the Emirates airline inaugurated its new direct service to the Chinese city of Yinchuan. Yinchuan joins Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as destinations served by Emirates, meaning that a passenger who boards a plane in Dubai is now able to fly nonstop to China’s first, second, third, or 71st most populous urban area.

Yinchuan, situated on the loess-covered floodplain of the Yellow River in the autonomous region of Ningxia, nearly 600 miles west of Beijing and far from China’s booming coastal cities, is a peculiar destination for international tourists. But that remoteness has not deterred Chinese officials from pouring resources into a quixotic plan to turn the city into a “cultural tourism destination” for wealthy Arabs. Continue reading

Hui religious freedom

Source: China Change (5/13/16)
Is China Moving to Restrict Religious Freedom for the Hui Muslims?
By Wai Ling Yeung

Hui Muslim1


Recently a video of a 5-year-old Hui Muslim kindergarten pupil from Gansu province reciting verses from the Qur’an went viral on China’s social media, attracting almost unanimous condemnation from presumably Han Chinese netizens. At a discussion forum, for example, several comments labelled the preaching of religion to children as “evil cult” behavior. They called for netizens to “say no to evil cults and to stop evil cults from invading schools.” Others questioned why schools allowed children to “wear black head scarves and black robes as if they’re adults.” They also expressed support for legislation that “set an age limit to religious freedom.” One comment went as far as asking all Hui Muslims to move to the Middle East. “In my opinion, their religion has no part in Chinese civilization. It belongs somewhere else. I hope they will all leave.” Continue reading

Jewish troubles in Kaifeng

Source: The Times of Israel (4/28/16)
Jewish troubles in Kaifeng, China
By Anson Laytner

Last April, about 50 members of the renascent Jewish community of Kaifeng, China gathered in a hotel banquet room for a Passover seder. Barnaby Yeh, a Jewish Chinese American, led the seder in Hebrew and Chinese. Even a local city official attended. The unique event received worldwide attention after it was covered by The New York Times (6 April 2015).

But by this April, Barnaby Yeh is persona non grata in Kaifeng; the Jewish center has been shuttered; foreign Jewish tour groups are not permitted there; the Sino-Judaic Institute’s educational program has been suspended; security forces are keeping a vigilant eye on community members; and rumors have reached our ears that the authorities have removed all commemorative signage regarding the old Jewish neighborhood.

What has led to this drastic turn of events? Continue reading

In the Land of the Eastern Queendom review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Timothy Thurston’s review of In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border (University of Washington Press, 2014), by Tenzin Jinba. The review appears below, but is best read online at:

My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.


Kirk A. Denton, Editor

In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of
Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border

By Tenzin Jinba

Reviewed by Timothy Thurston
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2016)

Tenzin Jinba. In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. ix + 170. ISBN: 978-0295993065 (hardcover) $90.00; ISBN: 978-0295993072 (paperback) $30.00

Tenzin Jinba. In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. ix + 170. ISBN: 978-0295993065 (hardcover) $90.00; ISBN: 978-0295993072 (paperback) $30.00

What makes a cultural site “authentic” in the People’s Republic of China? More important, what is the role of grassroots actors in interacting with the government to affirm or dispute this authenticity? How does this debate become central to a community’s identity on China’s culturally diverse margins? Finally, how do China’s policies related to Tibetan populations influence cultural expression on the Tibetan Plateau? Tenzin Jinba’s In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border wrestles with these important questions by examining a high stakes debate over the “true” location of the “Eastern Queendom” in Sichuan Province.

The dispute over the location of the Queendom began in May 2005, when a provocative newspaper article in a local newspaper shook Danba County.[1] The Danba County government had previously identified Zhonglu Township as the “Ancient Capital of the Eastern Queendom” (东女古都). In the article, a local cadre, identified as Uncle Pema, took umbrage with this assessment. Citing local lore, geographic features, and perceptions of Suopo’s positive valuation of women, Uncle Pema argued that Suopo Township was the Queendom’s true location. And yet, despite this stunning exposé and the support of some high profile cadres and scholars, little changed. The people of Suopo (called Suopowas) continue to harbor ill-will toward the county government for insufficiently supporting their claims, which they felt the newspaper article had substantiated. The high economic stakes involved in the designation of a cultural heritage site, set within the complex politics of the Tibetan Plateau, form the backdrop for a fascinating study of culture, identity, and politics in western China. Continue reading

Religion and Gender in China symposium

Rutgers Center for Chinese Studies presents:
Religion and Gender in 20th Century China: An International Symposium

Organized by Kang Xiaofei, George Washington University
Elena Valussi, Loyola University, Chicago
Xun Liu, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Dates: Fri and Sat, Oct 9-10, 2015
Venue: 301 Van Dyck Hall, College Ave Campus, Rutgers University

Conference schedule:

Friday 10/9, 2015: 

9:30-11:30 AM:   Panel 1: Women, Gender and Religious Practices in Republican Era

Beata Grant, East Asian Studies, Washington University Continue reading

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