David Brophy reviews 'The Souls of China: The return of religion after Mao' by Ian Johnson

David Brophy reviews 'The Souls of China: The return of religion after Mao' by Ian Johnson

The Souls of China: The return of religion after Mao

by Ian Johnson

Allen Lane, $55 hb, 480 pp, 9780241305270

In 1989, as the Chinese Communist Party came to terms with the ongoing significance of religion in post-Mao China, they needed a new formula to explain its survival. Religion was, they said, a long-term phenomenon. It had a mass base; it had national dimensions, in that some of China’s nationalities identified strongly with particular religions; but it also had international dimensions – religious ties linked believers to communities outside China. Reaching the end of the list, the bureaucrats seem to have simply thrown up their hands: religion was, they said, complicated.

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Published in December 2017, no. 397
David Brophy

David Brophy

David Brophy studies the social and political history of China’s northwest, particularly the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and its connections with the Islamic and Russian/Soviet worlds. After finishing his PhD in 2011, he spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, at the Australian National University, before coming to the University of Sydney in 2013. His first book, Uyghur Nation (2016), is on the politics of Uyghur nationalism between China and the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century. He currently hold an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellowship, for a project entitled 'Empire and Religion in Early Modern Inner Asia', in which am exploring Inner Asian perspectives on the rise of the Qing in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.