To be Religious in China

In last thirty years China has been successful in overcoming global isolation, alienation and misunderstanding created after to the Cold War. The communist state of China now adopts a more open strategy in its political, cultural and economic affairs. This change effects religious life; to some extent the Chinese people now enjoy more religious freedom compared to the situation the period of Cultural Revolution. However, religious life in China is a complex issue. It cannot be explained in a single way. This view is raised by the Director of the Hong Kong – America Center (HKAC), at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dr. Glenn Shive In his CRCS-ICRS WedForum talk (12/10/2011).


Dr. Shive wrote a chapter in Chinese Religious Life (2011) that covers various forms of religious life in Chine written by international scholars under the grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Dr. Shive found a spiritual vacuum in the contemporary China, especially after the Cultural Revolution. Urban people have to struggle to maintain religious institutions. The is contrast to the situation in rural areas where people experience more forms of spirituality. On the other hand the state faces political problem related to the religious-ethnic minority groups and this leads the state to put all the religious-related institution under the radar. Despite this stance, the state shows more nuance attitude toward religious as appears in its support for the centers of Confucian studies in countries outside China.


An audience asked about the form of Islam in China because it is believed that among first propagators of Islam in Indonesia were Chinese Muslims. There was also a question about Christianity in China with reference to the fact that even though there were not many Baptist churches but there is a growing interest in spiritual advices from priests in the Church. With regard to the role of Chinese in bringing Islam to Indonesia, Dr. Shive who earned his PH.D. in Chinese history from Temple University, explained that Chinese Muslims in Indonesia were the merchants who had travelling desire. At present the Hui Muslims in the contemporary China however seem to live a diferrent worlds. They often live under government repression .


Christianity is diffusing among the Chinese people. Pastoral institutions are seen as having good care in the social and ethic problems. For the non- Christian Chinese, it is not Christian theology which is attracting but the virtue of the Christians. For this reason people see the importance of religious institution even though they may not believe in the teaching of Christianity.


Dr. Shive also addresses a question related to the system of government monitoring on the religious life in Chine Chinese. He stated that Chinese goverrnment give more focus on monitoring religious leaders and institutions than religious life at the individual level. This is because the goveremnt has the interest to make sure that key religious institution and leaders do not threaten the legitimacy of the state. This can be seen now in the fact that in the last ten years the state implements stricter regulation on cyber media. [MoU]

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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