In This Review

Chinese Religious Life
Chinese Religious Life
Edited by David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive, and Philip L. Wicker
Oxford University Press, USA, 2011, 296 pp

Religious life is flourishing in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. People practice various forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism and even Bahaism, Mormonism, and Russian Orthodoxy -- sometimes in combination with one another and alongside folk religions and homegrown faiths such as Falun Gong. The religious revival is driven by a hunger for moral meaning arising from rapid social change and the decay of official ideology. This lucid, accessible survey by a collection of academic experts describes the religious practices of the new urban middle class, the Buddhist revival in Taiwan, religious philanthropy, and a host of other topics. In the villages, everyday life is infused with a mix of feng shui, ancestor veneration, worship of local deities, propitiation of ghosts, and divination. In the cities, people evince a growing sense of religious individualism, maintaining, as one informant puts it, that “what I believe is nobody’s business but my own.” Religious activity helps mend the tattered fabric of social trust, and in that way, it contributes to the government’s goal of social harmony. But it also challenges the state’s policy of constraining religious practice, creating the threat of independent social action.