cover image The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao

The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao

Ian Johnson. Pantheon, $28.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-101-87005-1

Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has lived in China on and off over 30 years, reports on his six years of research into the reemergence of religion in China. Using a narrative framing of the Chinese year and its associated cultural and religious holidays, Johnson explores China’s geographic, religious, and cultural diversity through stories from disparate traditions such as an underground Protestant church, practitioners of qigong, fortune-tellers, Beijing pilgrims, and rural Taoist priests. Johnson’s writing is compelling and lyrical, and his research strikes a fluid balance between the political implications of a resurgence of spirituality in a society that for so long suppressed any official religious presence, and the implications for daily life and society found in the complex and human details of this new populist cultural development, including funerals, births, marriages, and applications of government propaganda. The book should appeal to anyone interested in China, and to readers interested in how people use religion and spirituality to forge relationships, build cultures, and make sense of their lives. (Apr.)