I have selected papers of five persons around 40—50 years of age, writing on different topics but with a distinct Christian perspective, whether socio-theological, political, or more faith centred. In trying to grasp the intellectual scene in contemporary China, it is necessary to find also those writing from a faith perspective, with religious conviction. The five writers in this issue represent only themselves, but are also part of the core of Christian intellectuals in contemporary China. The texts presented here show some of their commitment to apply Christian thought to contemporary Chinese society, but are still only part of their larger work.
None of these five persons has a Christian family background, but they have become Christians as adults. Some are elders and pastors in their congregations, but they are also Chinese public intellectuals, speaking out on social issues as university professors, authors, and activists. Their voices are heard as much as those with no religious conviction but rarely reach a Western audience.
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Not primarily grounding themselves in Chinese tradition, they may be seen as of less interest when assessing the overall intellectual landscape. Attacks on churches in Zhejiang province from and onward have cast doubts on the situation for religion in China, especially Christianity, but it is hard to tell if it will have any lasting impact.
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View all notes The intellectuals presented here, however, are promising signs that religious faith is a possible and positive force in Chinese society also today. One cannot exactly assess the impact of their writings, but it is safe to say that they have a following among students at many leading Chinese universities, and in wider intellectual and cultural circles, attested by the wide circulation of their publications, in print and especially online.
Besides the impact of their writings and the mere curiosity of what they actually write, it is highly relevant for Western academia and the wider economic—political sphere to see their inspirations and conclusions from a perspective formed by their Christian faith and also their Chinese intellectual identity, with all that it may hold. He has been rather outspoken about his Christian faith from the beginning and in literary contexts.
Today, after three years, I can witness and say that He is the only truly living God in the Cosmos.
Freedom of religion in China
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. View all notes and is quite unknown outside China. In China he became well known in the s as an avant-garde writer experimenting with form, but after his conversion to Christianity he became a bestselling writer and claimed new fame for his dedicated style. It is shorter, and also not written in an academic style but as a reflective essay. However, the themes resonate well with the other articles. The essay is theological, discussing sin, authority, and resurrection; but it is also spiritually political, discussing how the Chinese people should choose its future path and what is true authority.
Issues of authority recur in several of the other articles, as does the plight of the Chinese people. The latter places these Christian intellectuals in the long tradition of Chinese intellectuals striving to make their country better and speaking out at a moment of crisis. Wang Yi has promoted liberalism as his preferred political ideology, while linking both liberalism and constitutionalism to Christian faith and the relation between human beings and God.
From previously merely promoting constitutionalism and the rule of law, with his Christian interpretation, Wang has expanded the scope of his political vision and set it into a context of human—God relations.
Besides his academic teaching and research, Wang Yi has also been writing columns, essays, and blogs, and made an impact writing about film, literature, law, and social issues. Wang Yi has also been a high profile Weibo microblog user, resulting in his Weibo account being shut down on a number of occasions, but always reappearing. Among the fifty was also Wang Yi. Wang Yi stood out on the list as the youngest in his category, most likely added because of his online impact in the forums he managed.
Calvinism has provided an answer to issues of all kinds, both personal and sociopolitical. Recently it has even opened its own unauthorized school. View all notes Wang Yi is still publishing online and commenting on sociopolitical issues, but in recent years always from a Christian and Reformed perspective. Liu Ping is perhaps most directly political in his article here, discussing loaded issues such as patriotism, nationalism, and the role of the prophetic voice in Chinese society. Liu Ping rather speaks through his academic works, in conferences, in teaching, but also in the church to which he belongs.
I had a firsthand experience of this method when I was a visiting scholar at one of the major universities in Beijing in I listened in on some classes of a professor teaching philosophy at that university, and it was very interesting to see how this person made not always so subtle references to Christian thought throughout the lectures.
They argue that art can bridge areas or spheres within societies, and assist in expressing ideas and emotions otherwise difficult to formulate. Xia Kejun b. Xia Kejun has long cultivated an interest in comparative perspectives, especially focusing on Daoism, particularly Zhuangzi, as well as German—French contemporary philosophy, studying with the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy in France in the early s. Besides his academic career, Xia Kejun has developed a strong interest in contemporary art, and regularly curates exhibitions in Beijing. He has also been writing on art, and here his interest in spiritual issues is clearly visible.
In the fascinating and beautiful volume Infra-Mince Duchamp and Chuang Tzu from Xia discusses possible Daoist interpretations of modern conceptual art, and also introduces contemporary Chinese artists in an academically analytical way, yet with a clear spiritual intention.
Zha Changping b.
The Battle for China’s Spirit
His first academic degree was a BA in Japanese, and he also worked as an interpreter. He continued to study on the side, and graduated with a PhD in religious studies from Renmin University in View all notes Here Zha links the topics of religion, aesthetics, metaphysics, and art to discuss the logic behind humanistic studies and thought. View all notes when the elites of the time discussed the fundamental issues of life from distinctly opposite perspectives, with or without the possibility of a religious or metaphysical aspect in life.
Few journals, in China and elsewhere, focus on contemporary art, display art in every issue, and complement with scholarly articles on art and faith. Zha Changping has also commented on the many difficulties related to publication efforts, occasionally even carrying boxes by hand and storing copies in his own flat. It is possibly an act of confidence that most of the material is in Chinese and by Chinese, both text and art, with a minor selection of Western material as a complement and possibly an inspiration.
Zha Changping takes inspiration from Western theories in his article, and applies them in a contemporary Chinese context. Xia Kejun goes even further by applying Greek terms in his reasoning, still landing his conclusion in a Chinese context. The five articles are diverse, even if coming from Christian intellectuals, but they share a common will to change China, and they all relate to the contemporary Chinese context, whether politically, aesthetically, morally, or soteriologically.
Zha Changping is a systematic scholar, not a charismatic preacher, but one who tries to combine fascination, appreciation, and recognition of art, with faith as an agent of change. It is impossible to give accurate figures for the total number of Christians in China, and the official organizations acknowledge the lack of reliable statistics. Wu Leichuan had passed the jinshi degree and was a member of the Hanlin academy, and became a Christian in his forties. Dott effectively explores the multiple perspectives that flourish at this venerable sacred site, as well as recent developments such as the advent of new rituals for young couples p.
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