Tomorrow Ian Johnson begins an impressive tour into the new Heart of Darkness, as well as China, to Spread the Glad Tidings about his new book The souls of China. Do check out his website, including links to some great video clips.
The author astutely discusses a range of religious and spiritual practices in modern China, linking the present to the past, and the personal to the political. Our very own Li family Daoists play a considerable role (see here), besides pilgrimage groups and qigong cults around Beijing, and Christians in Chengdu—alternate chapters on each building up a fascinating picture of modern Chinese society. We meet a diverse supporting cast of mystics, outlaws, reformers, hustlers, peasants, and bigwigs.
While academic studies of religion in modern China have flourished recently (in both Chinese and Western languages), this book is well researched but reader-friendly, at once more humane and critical than some pious or detached treatments. Benefitting from the author’s long-term residency in China, it will make a valuable resource.