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The Souls of China

The Return of Religion After Mao
Narrated by: Ian Johnson
Length: 17 hrs and 6 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (42 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a revelatory portrait of religion in China today - its history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which it is influencing China's future.

The Souls of China tells the story of one of the world's great spiritual revivals. Following a century of violent antireligious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches, and mosques - as well as cults, sects, and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty - over what it means to be Chinese and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is searching for new guideposts.

Ian Johnson first visited China in 1984; in the 1990s he helped run a charity to rebuild Daoist temples, and in 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. While researching this book, he lived for extended periods with underground church members, rural Daoists, and Buddhist pilgrims. Along the way he learned esoteric meditation techniques, visited a nonagenarian Confucian sage, and befriended government propagandists as they fashioned a remarkable embrace of traditional values. He has distilled these experiences into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle - a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world's newest superpower.

©2017 Ian Johnson (P)2017 Gildan Media LLC

What members say

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

expository but boring

I was hoping for this book to have a story arc rather than being a collection of experiences.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Magnificent

Ian Johnson is a marvelous scholar, compassionate and insightful storyteller, and a genuine and decent human being. This is a stellar piece of work and I'm proud to have gotten to know Johnson's work. Check this out if you are intrigued by the culture or religious practices of China.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Engaging and informative

Ian Johnson provides a well laid out overview of the current state of religion in China by following a Daoist, Protestant, and Buddhist group. He did not touch on the state of Islam so much, but maybe he is saving that for another time. I can only hope!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • io
  • 05-03-17

something about the recording made it stutter

there were stutters at the beginning of sentences. like as if the recording was sensitive to speech recognition so yo uhh miss the beginning of words occasionally

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brings to life modern Chinese spiritual traditions

The Souls of China brings the reader face-to-face with the practitioners of a variety of spiritual traditions in China. Ian Johnson describes in vivid detail such experiences as Buddhist temple pilgrimages and festivals on the outskirts of Beijing, Daoist and folk religion practices in Shanxi Province, and the politics of protestant Christian house churches in Chengdu, Sichuan. Not all of religion and spirituality in China is covered here, but enough of it is, and the description and context given is so illuminating that the book, taken as a whole, communicates a compelling message about the direction of China’s national “soul” today. In short, although the lines of religion, spiritual practice, and “culture” are blurred — sometimes intentionally by the state — the Chinese people are responding to a genuine spiritual and moral vacuum created by many decades of state-led destruction and economic dislocation.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Important and thorough book on Religion in China

This is a thorough and well written book about how religion have developed in China including Protestantism, Buddhism, Taoism, Traditional Chinese Religion and Catholicism the timespan from 1949?up until 2016. It has high academic standard yet is also very readable or easy to listen to. I recommend it strongly to anyone interested in China and religion. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the author included Taoism and Traditional Religion and both facts and analysis of the situation.