Research Initiatives

Religion and Chinese Society

The revival of religion in the public space and political discourse is a global phenomenon that has captured the attention of the world in recent decades, with far-reaching yet ambiguous implications for the way the new century unfolds. China is no exception to this global trend, albeit with its own twists and nuances. Yet, with a few exceptions, the substance and scale of this burgeoning religious resurgence has yet to be investigated critically and thoroughly by scholars from multi-disciplinary perspectives. This project will involve various academic departments at Rutgers, including religion, history, social work, sociology, women and gender studies, anthropology, and political science. It will help to produce new and deep understanding of Chinese religions that enables us to know much better how Chinese religions function and negotiate their positions and influences under a variety of challenging forces: a predatory capitalist economy, an increasingly philistine culture, the influence of global religious movements, and an ever suspicious and authoritarian state. We will also gain insights about the specific roles and the degree of influence that religions can exert in shaping the social, moral, and cultural fabrics of the emerging superpower China and how they can bring their potential to bear in the improvement of health care, development, and other issues.

This project will investigate key aspects of the unfolding religious revival by focusing on areas such as: (a) Religion, state, and local societies in late imperial and 20th century China; (b) Religious revival, spiritualism, and social spaces and networks in the post-Mao era; (c) New religions and religious movements in contemporary China; (d) Female authority and agency in monastic and lay communities; (e) Monastic revival: Clerical authority, market incentives, and lay social and political networks; (f) Building social and moral capital–monastic philanthropy, voluntary societies, and lay networks and development.