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The Souls of China

Best Seller
The Souls of China by Ian Johnson
Apr 11, 2017 | 480 Pages
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    Mar 06, 2018 | 480 Pages

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    Apr 11, 2017 | 480 Pages

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“Wonderful. . . . A masterpiece of observation and empathy.” —The New York Review of Books 

“Chinese society is not religious. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. . . . Ian Johnson brilliantly demonstrates that the conventional wisdom is wrong.” —The Washington Post

“Moving. . . . A nuanced group portrait of Chinese citizens striving for non-material answers in an era of frenetic materialism.” —The Guardian
“A fascinating panorama.” —The Economist

“Compelling. . . . A seminal piece of work taking the reader well beyond the prejudices and clichés that so often mark writing about religion in East Asia.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“With a subtlety born of years spent in China, Johnson explains how traditional rituals help people overcome urban anomie and answer the ‘pragmatic but profound issue of how to behave’. . . . He sees believers’ recurrent invocation of ‘heaven’ as an aspiration for justice and respect, couched as an appeal to a power higher than the government.” —The New Yorker 

“Produces deep insight into China’s multifaceted religious revival. . . . Distill[s] the results of broad scholarly research with gentle humor and quiet emotion.” —Foreign Affairs

“Absorbing and often surprising.” —Financial Times

“A deeply knowledgeable, eminently readable and important book that reveals a side of China that foreigners rarely explore.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“[Johnson] is at his best, showcasing his mastery of immersive reporting as he travels with Buddhist pilgrims and lives with Chinese Christians.” —Foreign Policy

“Takes us on an extraordinarily rich and intimate journey. . . . Johnson shows us what is really in Chinese souls and hearts. This vividly written, deeply researched book will be the primary work about religious faith in China for years to come.” Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls

“A rich, informative, and timely book. . . . A tremendous accomplishment.” Ha Jin, National Book Award–winning author of Waiting

“This entrancing and engaging book challenges the modern assumption that religion is a thing of the past; on the contrary, the dramatic resurgence of spirituality in China, after a century of violent persecution, suggests that it is an irrepressible force that may in some sense be essential to humanity.” Karen Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood

“In Ian Johnson . . . the faithful have found an ideal chronicler. With the patience of the ethnographer, and the precision of a journalist, Johnson has produced an enduring account of China’s inner life at a time of disorienting social and economic change.” —Asian Review of Books

“Remarkable. . . . Recounts extraordinary tales of courage and heartbreak.” —The Irish Times

“Captivating. . . . The Souls of China is written like top-flight journalism—it is driven by the stories of real people, and the analysis flows out of their lives. At the same time, a reader who knows the literature (and who reads the endnotes) will see just how thoroughly grounded Johnson is in the broader range of scholarship.” —Current History 

“In touching, descriptive prose, Johnson brings his subjects to life amid a colorful backdrop. . . . Engaging, timely, and humane.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Johnson’s writing is compelling and lyrical, and his research strikes a fluid balance between the political implications . . . and the implications for daily life.” —Publishers Weekly
“Unique in the wide scope of culture and history of China that is woven into the gripping personal narratives.” —Healing Tao

“For anyone interested in looking beyond the headlines to understand the complexity of religious life in China today, The Souls of China is a must-read.” —Gospel Coalition

Table Of Contents

Cast of Characters ix

PART I  The Moon Year 1
1 Beijing: The Tolling Bell 5 
2 Ritual: The Lost Middle 16
3 Shanxi: First Night 33 
4 Chengdu: Long Live Auntie Wei 52

PART II  Awakening of the Insects 69
5 Ritual: Awakening the Past 71
6 Beijing: You Can’t Explain It 83
7 Ritual: The Caged Master 94
8 Practice: Learning to Breathe 106

PART III  Clear and Bright 121
9 Ritual: Martyrs 125
10 Shanxi: The Buried Books 134.
11 Chengdu: Good Friday 152
12 Beijing: Ascending the Mountain 170

PART IV  Summer Harvest 191
13 Chengdu: Recitation 195
14 Practice: Learning to Walk 207
15 Ritual: New Star 216
16 Beijing: The Flower Lady 226
17 Shanxi: Source of the Divine 235

PART V  Mid-autumn 249
18 Practice: Learning to Sit 253
19 Beijing: The Sacred Slum 269
20 Ritual: The New Leader 276
21 Chengdu: The New Calvinists 282

PART VI  Winter Solstice 297
22 Practice: Following the Moon 301
23 Shanxi: City People 304
24 Beijing: The Great Hermit 318
25 Ritual: Eastern Lightning 325
26 Chengdu: Searching for Jesus 333

PART VII  Leap Year 345
27 Ritual: The Fragrant Dream 349
28 Chengdu: Entering the City 360
29 Shanxi: Ghost Burial 369
30 Beijing: The Wondrous Peak 380

Afterword: The Search for Heaven 396
Acknowledgments 401
Notes 405
Bibliography 421
Index 431

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